First and foremost, we hope each of you, your employees, your colleagues, and families are safe and healthy during this challenging time as we all do our part to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Given these uncertain times, we are reaching out to provide an update on operational status as we understand it from FAA and EASA and some of the activities GAMA is tracking in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage keeping us informed of significant issues and difficulties for which we may be able to help facilitate possible solutions or relief. It goes without saying that this global crisis is impacting all businesses and individuals and that the entire transportation network including the aviation sector is significantly negatively impacted. The following reflects our understanding of the current activities related to GAMA member company activities.
Industry/FAA Operational Status Update Telecoms
GAMA, in coordination with AIA and several other aviation industry trade associations, will participate in a regular operational status update telecom with FAA leadership of AVS, AIR and AFS. This is designed to facilitate communication of any changes in operations and awareness of significant safety, operational and impact issues for which we may be able to identify possible solutions or relief. Please review the status of operations below and if there are any additional significant AVS operational or policy issues which warrant clarification or business impacts in which a proposed mitigation or relief from FAA may be helpful, please submit comments to [email protected] by Friday 20 March.
U.S. Federal Government Operating Status
The nationwide operating status of U.S. Federal Government Agencies is ‘Open with Maximum Telework’ pursuant to direction from each Agency. The FAA has broad telework policies in place for years so this should be somewhat seamless for most personnel. So there is not a separate operating status or policy issued by DOT or FAA.
FAA Aircraft Certification Service (AIR) Activities
In discussions with AIR leadership at HQ and each of the Divisions, the expectation at the national level is that ACOs and Standards staff offices will operate as ‘normally’ as possible in supporting ongoing certification project and oversight activities. Of course, each office manager will make appropriate decisions regarding activities of local employees based on local conditions and community health directives and ordinances. We strongly recommend that companies are in clear and active communication with the appropriate FAA office/personnel to confirm work plans and specific needs and priorities.
FAA ACOs and certification project managers are working hard to minimize impacts in light of the current situation. Routine certification project activities such as processing applications, certification basis, issue papers, document review & comments and approvals/acceptance should generally continue as usual. The following reflects our understanding of operations, recommended practices and restrictions:
- Maximum telework – A majority of AIR engineers & inspectors are able to conduct most routine office activities via telework. Those activities that can only be conducted from an office location and are considered essential will continue to be supported by staff in the office subject to local conditions.
- Maximum use of available delegated and certificated organizations and personnel to perform activities that fall within the scope of their authorization in lieu of travel or company visits.
- Company visits for necessary certification project and oversight activities – subject to recommended safety guidelines for small gatherings and social distancing and reasonable company practices.
- Domestic travel on a case-by-case basis for essential activities – i.e. those required to be conducted by FAA personnel for which local resources are not available. This includes retained certification project activities that can not be delegated and can not be reasonably rescheduled without significant impact or hardship.
- Suspension of all international travel.
The most direct and greatest impact is that FAA can not support any international travel and that domestic travel is limited to essential activities. But, there should be consideration of whether direct involvement is necessary and if so, of alternative means of supporting the project to the maximum extent possible such as video conferencing, relying on bilateral partner or delegated resources.
We recommend each company to be in clear and active communication with your respective project managers or OMT leads for all upcoming scheduled activities to confirm work plans and specific needs and priorities. This is essential not only to support your company planning for certification project activities, but for FAA resource planning for potential on-site visits to support project activity or conduct scheduled or routine oversight and audits. Please be sure to communicate changes in operational status and any safety/security issues related to entry and visitation to your facilities in the context of COVID-19 restrictions. It is important that your company plan to support or mutually reschedule any audit or oversight required to maintain production approval, delegation authorization or repair station certificate.
FAA Fight Standards Service (AFS) Activities
GAMA has requested that the Flight Standards leadership consider granting deviations to for any certifications, authorizations, or qualifications that are expiring due to the FAA’s inability to conduct required oversight. The FAA has responded that the agency is “…working multiple scenarios” and the way forward is informed by the experience from the 2019 partial U.S. government shutdown. GAMA will distribute an update about how the FAA will manage the impact of the current situation when available.
FAA Aircraft and Airmen Registry Office is reportedly open and processing documents normally. The registry processes documents in the order received, and is currently processing documents received on February 14, 2020. This date is updated on a regular basis at https://www.faa.gov/licenses_certificates/aircraft_certification/aircraft_registry/.
U.S. Congressional Activities
Forwarded below for your information is a memo from GAMA President Pete Bunce to the Board of Directors providing an update on the current situation including EU and US government actions to provide targeted economic relief to businesses impacted by the pandemic. Also, U.S. Congressional consideration of aviation specific relief measures and ongoing aviation safety measures related to the various investigations and reports on certification.
EASA Update on Impact of CoVid-19 on its Operations
In response to the CoViD-19 situation, EASA has taken measures to protect the health of its staff and limit the spread of the disease. This includes the cancellation of all travel and external meetings, which means that scheduled site visits and audits, for example, cannot take place as planned. The relevant staff are in contact with their counterparts in our stakeholder organisations to work together to manage this situation and ensure that no additional risks to aviation safety arise in these difficult times.
EASA is also working on guidance to be issued by the end of this week for NAAs to deal with the extension of the validity of Airworthiness Review Certificates (ARCs) for EU-registered aircraft.
Europe Operational and Flight Standards Considerations
The following information has been provided by different regulators on how they are managing approvals and authorizations that are expiring:
European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA): EASA has communicated to its advisory committees that the continued validity of certificates issued to aviation personnel, organisations, and products (e.g., training, checking, and oversight) is something the agency is monitoring. The Agency has shared with the Competent Authorities on 17 March 2020 a first exemption template in accordance with Article 71(1) of Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 to support EU Member States in a collective adoption of exemption measures. The template proposes to extend the validity period of ratings, certificates and medical reports, as applicable, for flight crews, cabin crews, instructors and examiners, maintenance staff, air traffic controllers, and aeromedical examiners. EASA states that it “…is proposed to extend the validity period of ratings, certificates and medical reports with a view to the continuity of and return to operation. The template includes mitigating measures proportionate to the relevance of the exempted requirements.” Companies that are impacted by operational and training validity issues should coordinate directly with the relevant competent authority.
United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA): The UK CAA’s specific guidance to address the continued validity is available online. As an example, guidance for operator’s proficiency checks as required by Commission Regulation (EU) No 965/2012 (No. 1351; 16 March) and for Licensing Proficiency checks (No. 1350; 16 March).
Cross Border Issues
The situation for aircraft crossing borders remains dynamic. The following are known status:
US-Canada border - According to the White House a mutual decision has been made to close the border to non-essential traffic, but trade will not be affected. GAMA has engaged U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) about how air traffic will be conducted. Feedback from CBP today is that they are in the process of providing more detailed information.
US- UK/Ireland (Schengen Area) travel by persons is restricted after announcements on March 13 and March 16. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) on Tuesday reviewed whether this restriction includes business and general aviation operations, including ferry flight. Feedback from CDC and CBP is that these operations are also subject to the restrictions
EU - The Council of the European Union has also agreed to impose a coordinated 30-day ban on non-essential travel by non-EU citizens into the EU for 30 days from 17th March, although flight crew and cargo flights should be exempt. However, this policy will be implemented independently by each Member State so it is recommended to seek guidance from the appropriate foreign ministry and customs/immigration services in each country.