The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a National Policy aimed at reducing the years long backlog affecting applicants for Part 135 certificates. The Policy, which took effect on June 23, 2023, directs Aviation Safety Inspectors (ASIs) and Principal Inspectors (PIs) to reduce documentation requirements for certain Part 135 Air Operator certificate applicants, specifically in the Design Assessment phase of the certification process.
Highlights of the new policy are as follows:
Who is eligible for reduced documentation processing?
The Policy states that the FAA is targeting applicants whose proposed operations are limited in scope and complexity and are not required to maintain an FAA approved operations manual or pilot training manual. Practically, this means that the Policy applies to Part 135 certificate applicants proposing to conduct single-pilot operations under Operations Specification A040.
What does reduced documentation processing entail?
Under the Policy, once eligible applicants have submitted their Comprehensive Assessment Plan, the FAA’s Safety Assurance System (an oversight tool used to assess risk and to implement policy and guidance) will auto populate two (2) Element Design Assessments, one for Airworthiness and the other for Operations. Each Assessment will prompt the ASIs to confirm that the application meets all applicable regulatory requirements. This is a departure from the prior process, which required more extensive documentation from the ASIs reviewing the file in the Element Design Assessment phase.
The Policy permits ASIs to reallocate time savings gained in the expedited Design Assessment phase to a more robust review under the Performance Assessment Phase. It therefore remains to be seen whether implementation of the Policy will result in any actual time savings from submission of an application to issuance of a certificate.
The Policy also directs the FAA to apply this new process to eligible applications currently in process, though the specific process used in these instances will depend on which phase of certification the application has reached.
This Policy is a positive step in the FAA resolving the massive certification backlog that has plagued the agency and its stakeholders for years.
The House version of the draft FAA Reauthorization Bill has proposed that the FAA take concrete steps to reduce the backlog. For example, the House draft specifically orders the FAA to maintain an average certificate decision time of less than 60 days within one (1) year of the bill’s passage and 30 days within two (2) years of the bill’s passage. Appropriate measures to reduce the backlog include assigning additional FAA staff to the effort, expanding applicant resources, and consideration of 3rdparty assistance in preparing an application.
Time will tell whether the final FAA Reauthorization Bill will require the FAA to take subsequent steps to improve processing times for Part 135 applicants, but the Policy is a step in the right direction to providing more certainty to new Part 135 operators.
For further information, please contact:
Mary-Caitlin Ray, Crowell & Moring