The Part 139 Revision

Aug. 8, 2000

The part 139 revision

FAA's David Bennett explains key components; calls for industry input on financial impact

By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director

August 2000

In June, the Federal Aviation Administration issued its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on 14CFR139 - Certification of Airports, which had previously been the focus of an Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC). David Bennett, director of the Office of Airport Safety and Standards for the agency, recently discussed the NPRM with AIRPORT BUSINESS.

AIRPORT BUSINESS: What type of response have you had since releasing the proposal?

Bennett: Typically we don't get much early on. We've had some expressions of concern from the smallest communities affected by it.

AB: There was an ARAC committee that had looked at this issue extensively. How did its recommendations fit into what you've actually created here?

Bennett: Certainly, we took into account everything they did. They did not reach a single consensus; we really had two sets of recommendations, two opinions, from the working group. And I think that we really drew on the majority and the minority opinions there.

Primarily, the issue there was aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF). There really was consensus on a lot of the other requirements. Most of the things in 139 apply with equal force to commuter and other airports.

There were two fire safety issues, which the majority recommended be done on a voluntary basis because they thought airports are doing it anyway. And the minority wanted it to be required as it currently is under 139.

AB: In talking with airport managers, the greatest concern as you said seems to be related to ARFF - not so much getting the necessary equipment as much as being able to afford the ongoing maintenance and personnel costs related to providing those services. Do you see that as a major obstacle for some airports to comply with the new 139?

Bennett: I think we'll be looking to see what the comments say. We have attached an economic evaluation of the projected costs that went out with the proposal in the docket. If any commenters disagree with that, and think the cost will be different than we projected, and those costs might cause a problem in their particular community, then we would expect to see that in the comments and we would take it into account in the final rule.

A lot of the costs of Part 139 are eligible for federal assistance - capital costs, including equipment such as fire trucks and changes on the airfield. It's the operating costs that would not be assisted by the Airport Improvement Program; that includes salaries and training.

AB: Is there any way that something can be done to get small airports financial assistance to cover those ongoing costs?

Bennett: It couldn't come from the FAA; it would take a change in legislation. I don't know of any movement to do that now.

AB: It seems as though this is going to increase your workload, and adding personnel appears to be an obstacle at FAA right now. Do you foresee any problems, should this be implemented as it is, in terms of making sure you guys can do what you need to do?

Bennett: It will be some workload, but we're talking about 40 additional airports spread across eight regions. I think the most a region gets is the Southwest with eleven. There truly is an additional, initial startup workload, because a number of other airports will need changes to their certificates.

AB: If I'm at a 139 airport today, how will it impact me?

Bennett: There are a few changes in requirements, mainly administrative. Of course, they're going to have to send us an amendment to their certification manual. How they conduct their business will be the same.

We have staggered the implementation dates so there isn't a heavy workload the day it's issued. And we've asked for comments on it, because we may have not added enough time or devoted too much time.

Specific questions? Call Linda Bruce, FAA, (202) 267-8553; or email at [email protected]. For the NPRM:

Revisiting the A.C. on Minimum Standards, Exclusive Rights

FAA continues to seek industry input on the recently issued Minimum Standards and Exclusive Rights Advisory Circular.
"We put it out in draft form and then as a final (A.C.), and since then we've had additional comments on it. I think that there probably will be a further revision of it," says David Bennett, FAA's director of the Office of Airport Safety and Standards.

The National Air Transportation Association has expressed concern (AIRPORT BUSINESS, July, 2000) that verbage in the A.C. implies that an airport sponsor can preclude an existing fixed base operation (FBO) from responding to a request for proposal, based on the sponsor's desire to create competition.

According to Bennett, the A.C. is not intended to discourage expansion of a successful operator on an airport. "In each case it will be different," he says. "We've had a situation in the past where the existing FBO would cheerfully have bid on all of the property and just exclude the competition. If you're trying to get a second FBO in, then there may be circumstances in which it's permissible to exclude the existing FBO from that particular bid. It doesn't mean they won't ever get the chance to expand."