By S.L. Fuller | September 21, 2017
The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, in part, specified that in consultation with the industry, the FAA should determine the causes of inconsistent interpretation of regulations by Flight Standards Service (AFS) and Aircraft Certification Service (AIR). So in July, AIR announced some changes. And the next month, AFS announced a set of changes of its own. Jorge Castillo, manager of regulations and policy section for the FAA’s Rotorcraft Standards Branch, and Wayne Fry, division manager for the FAA’s Flight Standards Division, furthered detailed these transformations during R&WI’s Rotorcraft Business and Technology Summit in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I’m going to say something here that you probably won’t believe: We weren’t consistent from office to office. I know, I know,” Frye joked to a laughing audience. “Our goal, though, is to be consistent, to be smart, to think about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. What we’re trying to do is have a cultural change where we reach out to one another, we work with one another and we give you consistent answers. Part of the way to do that is to change ourselves structurally. It supports us being better at what we do.”
According to FAA documents, Flight Standards’ eight regional offices and 100 or so local ones were to be replaced by offices organized under four divisions. The divisions will be the Air Carrier Safety Assurance Office, the General Aviation Safety Assurance Office, the Safety Standards Office and the Foundational Business Office.
Those divisions will be led by directors, who will report to the executive director of the Flight Standards Service. Each division will have two deputy directors. Twenty-eight divisional offices will be divided among the four divisions.
Fry explained that this reorganization would allow for better use of resources, as well as more efficient communication and the consistency between offices. The cultural changes include developments for the agency in leadership, change management, mutual learning, interdependency and more.
“Instead of having to go to a regional office in Fort Worth or Seattle or New York or Atlanta, we are now spread across the country with responsibilities across the country,” Fry said. “And we are talking all the time.”
Effective July 23, the FAA AIR was to adopt a new alignment. A significant result of that alignment is that the FAA’s Transport, Small Airplane, Engine and Propeller and Rotorcraft directorates are disbanded. The FAA changed to a functionally aligned organization, and the agency said the new approach would improve consistency and standardization of certification, standards and system oversight and greater promotion of innovation through early engagement of applicants and the industry. The FAA said other benefits include streamlined certification and improved agility to adapt to challenges and other changes.
Taking the place of the directorates would be the new Compliance & Airworthiness Division (bearing the organizational designator AIR-700). That division was to be headed by Lance Gant, formerly the manager of the Rotorcraft Directorate. However, that division will not inherit the former directorates’ manufacturing oversight responsibilities.
When can the industry expect to start seeing changes due to AIR and AFS transformation?
“It’s a multi-year project. We flipped the switch Aug. 20 on the structural change. The cultural change, we’re thinking a minimum for two to three years before we really get the hang of it,” Frye said of the Flight Standards branch. “As most of you know, changing culture in an organization is not something that happens quickly.”
As for AIR, Castillo said changes are already happening.
“Some of the concepts and principles that we’re trying to promote, we’re already applying them. One of those is early engagement in certification,” he said. “FAA tends to only engage when an application gets made for a TC, STC, PMA, TSO. We have applicants who are looking to do some very innovative things where we have already started that engagement and dedicated resources to address the gaps with the regulation so when they make application, we already have the means of compliance, policies and maybe even special conditions. So that’s happening in bits and pieces.”