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Industry Efforts to Improve Airworthiness Directive Implementation and Compliance
Industry Efforts to Improve Airworthiness Directive Implementation and Compliance

The Airworthiness Directive (AD) Implementation Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) was chartered by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to implement recommendations resulting from an investigation into the grounding of numerous airplanes because of AD noncompliance.

The Aviation Rulemaking Committee is changing how airworthiness directives are developed and implemented.

The purpose of the AD ARC was to develop and implement solutions that would improve airline compliance with FAA ADs. Improvements include clearly identifying the critical steps required for AD compliance, adding flexibility and standard practices to reduce the need for alternative methods of compliance (AMOCs), providing FAA inspectors with better tools to determine compliance, and communicating best practices for operators when planning and performing inspections and modifications mandated by an AD. In all, the committee is implementing more than 30 changes to processes and procedures affecting the FAA, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), operators, and maintenance providers.

This article highlights these changes and how the success of the AD ARC is expected to improve the current process for developing and implementing ADs.


During March and April 2008, two cases of potential noncompliance to ADs resulted in hundreds of airplanes being grounded, inconveniencing thousands of passengers. This prompted the U.S. Department of Transportation to establish an Independent Review Team (IRT) to examine the FAA’s safety culture and its implementation of safety management. The IRT consisted of five aviation and safety experts who were tasked with evaluating and making recommendations to improve the FAA’s implementation of the aviation safety system and its culture of safety. The IRT issued its final report in September 2008, identifying recommendations related to ADs, the voluntary disclosure program, the culture of the FAA, safety management systems, the air transportation oversight system, and the role of FAA inspectors.

Soon after the IRT was formed, the FAA also established an AD Compliance Review Team (CRT) to review the events that caused the major disruption to some airlines’ schedules. This team consisted of eight FAA and industry subject matter experts. The team first reviewed compliance issues related to a model-specific AD and then reviewed the general process for developing and implementing ADs. The team’s findings show that the AD processes within the FAA and within the manufacturing and air carrier industry have worked well over the years. However, during this review the team uncovered areas where improvements can be made. The team created two reports (see fig. 1) with findings and recommendations for improvements. These recommendations focus on the areas of service instructions, the FAA Aircraft Evaluation Groups (AEGs), lead airline process (i.e., Air Transportation Association Specification 111), AD process and implementation, mandatory continuing airworthiness information, AMOCs, crisis communication, and Part 39 regulations.

Figure 1: AD ARC process
The U.S. Department of Transportation established an Independent Review Team (IRT) followed by an Airworthiness Directive (AD) Compliance Review Team (CRT) that was established by the FAA. Findings and recommendations for improvements from these two teams were sent to the AD Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which was tasked with implementing the recommendations.

Figure 1

AD Implementation ARC

In August 2009, the FAA chartered the AD ARC to evaluate and address the recommendations of the AD CRT and IRT relating to airworthiness directives. The AD ARC had its first meeting in December 2009 with members including the FAA, various airplane manufacturers, airlines, and industry associations. It was tasked with implementing the recommendations by June 30, 2011.

Working groups. The ARC divided the recommendations into four categories and created four associated working groups: service information, AD development, AD implementation, and FAA organization/procedures. Working group members included people from various airlines, design approval holders, the FAA, and industry associations. The objectives of the working groups were:

Service Information Working Group

The Service Information Working Group was co-led by Boeing and a major U.S. airline. This group’s efforts will result in significant changes to the way Boeing SBs are written, especially those associated with ADs. These changes and best practices are being written into an FAA advisory circular (AC) with strong encouragement for all design approval holders to make similar changes. These changes include:

AD Development Working Group

This working group was led by the FAA and was tasked with making the AD process more effective and efficient. Changes that either already have been completed or are being implemented include:

The Service Information and AD Development Working Groups are working jointly to document in the AD what is necessary after accomplishment of the AD to either maintain the exact configuration defined by the AD or whether standard maintenance practices can be used. This effort was an add-on from the IRT and CRT recommendations and may take additional time to work through the details of the implementation.

AD Implementation Working Group

A major U.S. airline headed up this working group. It took the best practices from all the groups’ participants and is including them into an FAA AC so that all operators can adopt them. The AC will include the following guidance related to best practices for air carrier AD compliance planning, implementation, and monitoring:

Incorporation of these best practices will help to improve the overall process for AD implementation and reduce noncompliance findings and the need for AMOCs.

FAA Organization/Procedures Working Group

This team was led by the FAA and focused on making changes to the way the FAA manages ADs. This team’s functions included:


Formed by the FAA following an investigation into the grounding of hundreds of airplanes owing to AD noncompliance, the AD ARC is implementing a number of recommendations to more clearly identify the steps airlines and maintenance, repair, and overhaul organizations must take to ensure compliance with ADs and making numerous changes to the way the FAA manages ADs. The AD ARC has proven that when the FAA and industry come together to work on a common cause, many good things can happen. The changes that are being implemented, along with the collaborative attitude that has formed between all those involved in this effort, will result in a significant reduction in the number of AMOCs needed, a much better understanding of the steps that are required to correct the unsafe condition identified by ADs, and fewer instances of grounded airplanes.

For more information, please contact Dale Johnson.

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