New Aircraft Technician Ratings Proposed

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The FAA is proposing changes to the ratings of aircraft technicians under Part 145 by all but eliminating the so-called "class" structure of ratings and replacing it with more comprehensive and encompassing general ratings. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which has been under construction for about five years, was published last week and appears to fundamentally restructure the qualifications standards for technicians to reflect modern aircraft construction. For example, the airframe rating has four subclasses (small composite construction, large composite, small all-metal and large all-metal) but in those ratings, which were drafted in 1962, the term composite refers to aircraft that have a mix of metal, wood and fabric in their construction and not to the modern definition of carbon fiber and resin. The new rating doesn't make a distinction between the size and construction of aircraft and effectively means that a certificate holder will be qualified to work on anything from a Piper Cub to a Boeing 787. The FAA said its research showed that the maintenance capabilities didn't vary with the type of construction and that weight is no longer an accurate measure of the airplane's intended use or its complexity. The new ratings do away with horsepower limitations on reciprocating engines but they continue to distinguish between piston and turbines. The old "radio" rating would be replaced with a more general "avionics" rating that would allow the certificate holder to work on a variety of communications, navigation and radar gear.