FAA reverses stance on maintenance duty time limitations

In a victory for the aviation industry, the FAA recently withdrew its legal interpretation of maintenance duty time limitations.

The agency reversed course on its May 18, 2010, legal interpretation meant to clarify the application of rest provisions and equivalency standards under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) section 121.377. That interpretation concluded that the rule rigidly required one day off out of every seven days.

A December 2010 complaint from the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) prompted the agency’s reevaluation. ARSA noted that the agency’s interpretation overlooked the plain language of the rule and presented a deviation from longstanding FAA construction and application. The rule clearly states the period of required rest is “24 consecutive hours during any seven consecutive days, or the equivalent thereof within any one calendar month,” ARSA officials noted.

In response to ARSA’s complaint, the FAA published a notice in the Federal Register on April 15, 2011, requesting comments on its interpretation. On June 14, 2011, ARSA’s comments reiterated its assertion that the interpretation changed the plain language of the regulation without following the Administrative Procedure Act and must therefore be rescinded.

After two years, the agency agreed with ARSA’s position. In a Dec. 26, 2012, response to ARSA, the FAA acknowledged its error and stated that, “The requirement for equivalency lies in the amount of rest given, not in the way the schedule itself operates or is developed.”

The initial ruling imposed serious consequences on the industry, according to ARSA officials, who noted that maintenance providers rewrote schedules “at significant cost in order to accommodate a wrongheaded bureaucratic action.”

Joining ARSA in commenting on the issue were other groups, including Airlines for America, the Transport Workers Union of America, and the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association.

“This victory clearly establishes the value of actively engaging with the FAA when it strays from its regulatory perimeters,” ARSA officials concluded.

ARSA is a trade association that represents aviation maintenance and manufacturing companies.

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