Regulations: Making The Rules

A look at the rulemaking process


By Karen Sullivan

How many times have you questioned the reasoning behind one of the Federal Aviation Regulations? Or wondered exactly how to adhere to a regulation? It only makes sense that you should. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that the regulation you were reading was thought of and written by you or one of your peer mechanics? For those of us whose livelihoods depend on not breaking one of these regulations, it should be comforting to know how we can be a part of making them.

The process
According to the Administration Procedure Act (APA), every rule that is issued by the Federal Aviation Administration has to go through the Federal Rulemaking Process. This is the process of formulating, amending or repealing regulations. Among other things, the APA also requires that the public be informed of and allowed to participate in this process. The end result is the issuance of a final rule and eventually its codification into the Code of Federal Regulations.

New rules, amendments to existing rules and even exemptions from existing rules can come from a couple of different sources.  14 CFR Part 11 includes instructions for individuals who wish to accomplish one of these. In order to request the addition of a new rule, an individual must submit a petition for rulemaking to the FAA. This can either be done by paper submission through the mail or electronically via the internet. The address for paper submission is given in 14 CFR Part 11.63. A portal to the Federal Docket Management System, www.regulations.gov, offers the ability for submitting a petition electronically. However, finding where to actually enter your information for the petition is nearly impossible. Directions for finding the correct window can be found in an MS Word document at the FAA’s web site on its Rulemaking page.

What information is needed?
So what information needs to be in a petition for rulemaking? Of course, obvious information such as your name and contact information. Most importantly though, is a detailed explanation of the proposal and it’s purpose. Not only must you include how it would benefit you, but how it would benefit the public as well. If you have already gone so far as to write out actual text that could be used in the rule, go ahead and include that also. Supporting arguments, technical information and circumstances or events should be included. In return, the FAA may ask you for additional items that could be an effect of the proposal, such as; costs and benefits, any anticipated burdens and their accompanying records, or any possible environmental impacts.

After submission, the FAA will decide if the petition is a justified reason for action. If there is already an action occurring that addresses the subject, the petition will be considered a comment on that action. However, if there is no current action, and the FAA still feels the petition is warranted, a notice could be issued on the subject. In the case that the FAA does not have an interest in the proposal, it will simply be dismissed. Another choice for the FAA to make is to send the petition to the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC).

ARAC exists under the will of the FAA and is a working group comprised of aviation industry organizational members. The purpose of this committee is to provide suggestions and advice to the FAA on its rulemaking. The committee only convenes when tasked to do so by the FAA. Not only does ARAC offer comments on petitions received by the FAA from individuals but ARAC can suggest its own ideas for formulating, amending and repealing regulations as well. But again, ARAC only offers these suggestions when asked to do so by the FAA. When the FAA chooses to involve the ARAC, it will be announced in the Federal Register and it will also invite public participation in ARAC’s working groups. ARAC meetings are open to the public, which offers another route for A&P’s to stay informed. Be aware though, that if you wish to directly address the committee during one of these meetings, prior notice is necessary.

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