Oct. 15, 2015

The FAA has issued new guidance to agency inspectors that should provide relief from pilot-checking challenges faced by Part 135 operators due to a shortage of check airmen. The new guidance is found in FAA policy notice: “Flight Standards Inspector Resource Program (FSIRP) Policy Updates and Job Qualification Matrix.”

NBAA worked for many months to increase the FAA’s awareness of this issue, lobbying for additional resources and recommending policy changes to meet Part 135 operators’ testing and checking needs.

“In the past, a major issue when requesting national resources was that local [Flight Standards District Offices] FSDO managers would not let inspectors in the national resource program travel to another region to do checks since the inspector was part of that local FSDO’s budget,” said W. Ashley Smith Jr., CAM, and president of Jet Logistics Inc. “This notice addresses those budget concerns and also requires FSDOs with a requested national resource inspector to respond to the requesting FSDO within five business days. Overall, this notice is a positive step.”

The problem arose in recent years when changes to FAA policies and processes significantly reduced the number of in-company FAA check airman authorized for specific Part 135 certificate holders, resulting in Part 135 operators relying on FAA “national resources” to complete required Part 135 checking events.

The FSIRP maintains a cadre of national resource inspectors (NRI) – often referred to within the industry as “national resources” – throughout the country, who are appropriately trained and qualified on specific aircraft types. These inspectors are responsible for completing testing and checking functions in the aircraft for which they are type rated.

However, long response times due to insufficient numbers of qualified NRIs, plus local FSDOs’ funding concerns and scheduling issues, often led to substantial delays in testing and checking. These delays caused operational and financial concerns for Part 135 operators.

This new policy notice is significant in that it clarifies the process for inspectors to respond to testing and checking requests, addresses local FAA offices’ funding worries and establishes national resource testing and checking as a priority for qualified inspectors.

However, the new policy requires operators to provide at least a 30-day notice when requesting a test or check through an NRI. This could present a challenge to operators when requesting initial testing or checking for a new-hire pilot, for example, as the lead time for a new pilot is often far less than 30 days.

If an operator does not receive options for the requested test or check in a timely manner, the operator should consider discussing it with their principal operations inspector or elevating the request, if necessary. NBAA hopes that individual inspectors will recognize this challenge with new-hire pilots and work with operators to complete initial checks as quickly as possible.

“This policy notice is the result of months of collaboration between the FAA and industry,” said Brian Koester, NBAA project manager of operations. “We appreciate the attention the FAA has given this matter and believe this recent policy notice will alleviate many testing and checking concerns of the Part 135 industry.”