Standardization, Safety And Other "S" Words
A town meeting last month offered solutions for Alaskan operators who'd gained temporary exemption from the FAA's new attempt to standardize field approvals. The FAA's latest policy on the approval of major repairs and non-STC modifications to aircraft was announced Sept. 13, but it only took a few weeks for Alaskan pilots to win temporary exemption -- the problem remained in the word "temporary." Offered at the meeting by the FAA was recognition that the Alaskan aviation environment demanded unique skills/needs and that the increased use of Designated Engineering Representatives (DER) could work to speed approvals. More important, the FAA offered that it would welcome public comment prior to reinstating the changes and stated that more DERs would be needed in Alaska. Public comment offered at the meeting itself stated the need for an expedient approval process, and evidenced strong concern that the FAA's one-size-fits-all proposed approach will disproportionately compromise the safety of operations in the northernmost state as well as increase cost of compliance and prohibit Part 121 operators from obtaining field approvals. If nothing else, this back-and-forth in Alaska may provide other pilot groups an example for reaching compromise with the FAA, provided that's the outcome ... stay tuned.