Thu, Aug 31, 2006
Says NTSB Judge's Ruling Confused Issue
The FAA has spoken: Service
bulletins (SBs) are not —- we'll repeat that, not --
mandatory for most Part 91 aircraft operators. That's good news for
private pilots -- and is exactly the decision the Aircraft Owners
and Pilots Association had encouraged and expected.
After all... up until an NTSB administrative law judge
clouded the issue two months ago, that was everyone's
understanding -- that a service bulletin was the
recommendation from the manufacturer on how best to keep
planes flying safely, but wasn't a mandatory rule.
But that was before the NTSB judge ruled against an aircraft
mechanic, stating that by not using the manufacturer's prescribed
inspection technique while rebuilding an engine, the mechanic had
violated regulations -- implying that any manufacturer SB or
instruction for doing something required by regulation took on the
force of law itself.
Not so, said the FAA's Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations
Rebecca MacPherson. In an "interpretation" of the regulations to
answer a question raised by the Cessna Pilot Association's Mike
Busch almost a year ago, McPherson says .that while properly
heeding the bulletins is certainly encouraged, manufacturers may
not make them mandatory.
"A contrary result would lead to serious legal objections,"
wrote MacPherson. "It would mean that our regulations effectively
authorize manufacturers to issue "substantive rules," as that term
is used in the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), i.e., it would
enable them to impose legal requirements on the public."
In essence, the FAA ruled, making SBs mandatory would give
manufacturers regulatory control -- essentially bypassing the FAA,
and circumventing its entire airworthiness directive process. You
can imagine what the agency thought about that.
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