Regulations: Making The Rules

A look at the rulemaking process

An important point to remember, ARAC is not the Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) that also exists under the FAA. The ARC is not required to publish notices of rulemaking in the Federal Register and ARC meetings are only open to the members thereof. However, under the Freedom of Information Act, some documents generated from ARC meetings may be requested by individuals other than ARC members.

FAA notices
Once the FAA decides to take action on a suggestion received from individuals or from the ARAC or ARC, it has a number of different notices that it can issue to the public through the Federal Register.

From slowest to fastest in pace, let’s start with the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM). This notice informs the aviation community that the FAA is considering proposing a rule in a certain area but has no definite rule drawn up yet. The FAA is requesting comments and ideas from the public in order to develop the idea into a rule.

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM): Now the FAA is announcing a specific proposed change and wants to hear comments and reactions from the aviation community. An NPRM usually has a 30-, 60-, or 90-day open comment period.

Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM): With this, the FAA is looking to the public for additional information or comments on an existing proposal or for a new direction to take on an existing proposal. This action can come from within the FAA or can stem from comments that were received on the original notice that brought new ideas to light.

Final Rule with Request for Comments: This type of rule is typically not preceded by an ANPRM or NPRM. It can also be called an immediately adopted final rule. The comment period for this type of rule is usually set to end after the effective date of the rule. The FAA uses this type when it does not expect to receive any adverse comments, only useful comments in response.

Direct Final Rule: Here, the comment period is set to end before the effective date of the rule, in case any helpful or adverse comments are received in response. Typically though, with a direct final rule, no useful comments are expected and therefore no NPRM precedes this type either.

Final rule 
Finally, the end result of the proposals for rulemaking. A final rule is the actual regulation that will end up being codified into the Code of Federal Regulations. Any comments received by the FAA during the notice period of this rule will be addressed when the Final Rule is published in the Federal Register.

The Federal Register is published by the National Archives and Records Administration, Office of the Federal Register and is updated daily. It is accessible many different ways through the Internet but some sites are read only, denying the option of submitting comments. Two of those sites are and’s Regulation Tracker. The Federal Docket Management System can be accessed through and this site offers the ability to submit comments to proposed rules. (This is the same site where petitions for proposed rules can be submitted.) When searching for a specific proposed rule to comment on, look for the small yellow voice bubble next to the title of the proposed rule. Clicking on it allows you to enter your comment.

For A&P mechanics that have to use and follow these rules daily, it cannot be stressed enough the importance of being actively involved in this process. A&Ps bring real-world knowledge and experience to the table. Something that is invaluable to the aviation industry. Along with being aware of how to participate in rulemaking, knowing how to follow the final rules, the FARs, is just as important.

Reading the Federal Aviation Regulations is not exactly like reading a novel. It doesn’t flow, not even a little bit. Good news though, there are publications that include the background and reasoning behind the rule to help clarify things. The FAA’s Regulatory and Guidance Library has a CFR Final Rules Database that includes background information on most FAR’s, offering some good insight into the creation of a regulation. There are paper publications that among other things, includes preambles to regulations and FAA opinions to the public’s comments about the rules like Jeppesen’s most recent FAR’s Explained Part 1,21,43,65,145 and 147 by Lori Edwards and Kent Jackson.

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