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Fri, Aug 11, 2006

NATA Demands Postponement Of FAA Landing Performance Notice

In a letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, NATA has requested that the agency delay implementation of the recent notice announcing a new policy requiring landing performance assessments prior to landing for all turbojet aircraft.

According to the notice, all Part 121, 135 and 91(K) operators will be issued a new Operation Specification (OpSpec) or Management Specification (MSpec), as appropriate, requiring completion of a new en-route landing distance assessment for all turbojet aircraft. This calculation must take into consideration current runway conditions and allow a full stop landing with at least a 15% safety margin beyond the actual landing distance. The calculation must also occur as close to the time of arrival as practicable.

Currently, regulations only mandate that such calculations occur prior to departure of the aircraft. NATA’s letter states, “The policy change detailed in the notice is, at best, ambiguous and confusing. At worst, it is rulemaking by Guidance and OpSpec/MSpec. The association has, both through comments attached to this letter and through personal meetings with FAA staff, outlined several concerns with the content of this notice that have yet to be answered.

“On a basic level, NATA is opposed to the issuance of this “policy” because it establishes a new requirement with which operators must comply without having gone through the formal rulemaking process. Currently, the conduct of a separate landing assessment, particularly when coupled with a mandatory 15% margin, is not required by regulation. To impose such a specific and detailed new process on operators without following the mandates of the Administrative Procedures Act is unacceptable to the association.”

NATA also points to the Part 121 origination of this new policy, and the agency’s blatant disregard for the unique characteristics of 135 and 91(K) operations. The letter cites several examples of FAA oversight in developing the policy, including operations at uncontrolled airports (or airports where the tower has closed), unreliable or unavailable braking action reports, and lack of friction measuring equipment at many airports frequented by on-demand charter and fractional operators. The FAA policy notice does not provide clear guidance to operators and flight crews as to how to determine braking action under these circumstances and whether a landing is permissible given these facts.

The association closed its letter by requesting that the FAA postpone distribution of the OpSpec/MSpec and related guidance for a minimum of 60 days to allow the agency to address these concerns and encouraging the agency to form a joint industry/FAA working group to discuss the notice.

“Although the FAA’s goal of increased aviation safety through a standardized landing margin is laudable, this Part 121-driven and oriented notice could actually diminish aviation safety for Parts 135, 125, and 91(K) operators. The FAA appears to have developed a case of “tunnel vision” and can only see the perceived benefits of this new policy, and appears to have not considered the possible unintended safety consequences of their actions. Ultimately, the flying public could be the ones who suffer,” explained NATA President James K. Coyne (pictured above).



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