IA Renewal 101

The revised latest directive with broad definition of actively engaged

It took awhile, but the FAA finally expanded on its ill-fated initial attempt at “clarifying” the definition and understanding of the term actively engaged, as used in regard to new and renewal inspection authorization in FAR 65. Here we summarize and comment on this latest policy statement.

The problem

Initially, in the opinion of many in the aviation maintenance field, this so-called problem did not even have to be addressed. Some in the FAA however felt they had to add further complexity to an already simple process that has been going on for more than 40 years now. You would think that there are many other important issues that the bureaucrats (as FAA’s Bill O’Brien called them) could spend their time with rather than this one. They said that the issue of actively engaged has caused confusion among ASIs and aircraft maintenance personnel and its definition has varied over time. Most in the business have never heard of any confusion at all … those of us in general aviation certainly haven’t. The confusion issue appears to have been raised simply to address the subject directly for some unexplained other reason.

This alleged confusion developed simply because the renewal section includes an additional requirement to renew, other than the five clear ways cited in the part 65.93 regulation, any one of which for years has been the only one required to renew. They said that the renewal applicant must also comply with the additional requirements of the new applicant.

The language does not seem to recognize that the holder of the inspection authorization already had complied with these requirements when he applied initially for the authority. It seems redundant to many to require a renewal applicant to comply again and again with the initial requirement actively engaged when he has been performing or participating in aircraft maintenance using this authority in most cases for many years.

Of course, it does seem logical to include this in the initial application requirements, but that should be the end of it. Nonetheless, FAA felt compelled, at this late date, to attempt to further define actively engaged and to spell out in detail who can be considered actively engaged. The initial attempt failed completely to include hundreds of people who held the authorization and caused a flood of almost a thousand comments and objections to the proposal as then published in the Federal Register November 2010.

Policy, not regulatory change

We have to keep in mind that the FAA says this is not a regulatory change. It is simply a policy change and technically needs no publication and opportunity to be commented on. However, the fact that FAA felt it was required to publish and solicit comments on the proposal suggests clearly that it expected a loud objection to the change and the reasoning behind it. Some even commented that this was an attempt at regulatory change by the back door … FAA stated it was not.

However, problems can develop when administrative agencies attempt to not only create laws but interpret them as well. Supreme Court Justice Scalia said in a recent case that “… though the adoption of a rule is an exercise of the executive rather than the legislative power, a properly adopted rule has fully the effect of law. It seems contrary to fundamental principles of separation of powers to permit the person who promulgates a law to interpret it as well …” Talk America vs. Michigan Bell, 564 US__(2011). Although it was not the case here, Justice Scalia clearly states his general dislike with agencies attempting to create their own laws and also to interpret them any way they want. This type of analysis was a point of contention with some people who were vocal about the changes proposed.

Generally, maintenance people felt the regulation was already specific enough in requiring that … an individual must be actively engaged, for at least the previous two-year period, in maintaining aircraft, to be eligible to either obtain or renew an IA. The FAA felt that there was a need to further define and expand on just what actively engaged meant and who and what was done by the individual to comply.

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