81 FR 47009 - Changes to the Application Requirements for Authorization To Operate in Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum Airspace

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Aviation Administration

Federal Register Volume 81, Issue 139 (July 20, 2016)

Page Range47009-47017
FR Document2016-17155

This action revises the FAA's requirements for an application to operate in Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) airspace and eliminates the burden and expense of developing, processing, and approving RVSM maintenance programs. As a result of this revision, an applicant to operate in RVSM airspace will no longer be required to develop and submit an RVSM maintenance program solely for the purpose of obtaining an RVSM authorization. Because of other, independent FAA airworthiness regulations, all aircraft operators remain required to maintain RVSM equipment in an airworthy condition.

Federal Register, Volume 81 Issue 139 (Wednesday, July 20, 2016)
[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 139 (Wednesday, July 20, 2016)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 47009-47017]
From the Federal Register Online  [www.thefederalregister.org]
[FR Doc No: 2016-17155]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Aviation Administration

14 CFR Part 91

[Docket No.: FAA-2015-1746; Amdt. No. 91-342]
RIN 2120-AK54


Changes to the Application Requirements for Authorization To 
Operate in Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum Airspace

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: This action revises the FAA's requirements for an application 
to operate in Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) airspace and 
eliminates the burden and expense of developing, processing, and 
approving RVSM maintenance programs. As a result of this revision, an 
applicant to operate in RVSM airspace will no longer be required to 
develop and submit an RVSM maintenance program solely for the purpose 
of obtaining an RVSM authorization. Because of other, independent FAA 
airworthiness regulations, all aircraft operators remain required to 
maintain RVSM equipment in an airworthy condition.

DATES: Effective August 19, 2016.

ADDRESSES: For information on where to obtain copies of rulemaking 
documents and other information related to this final rule, see ``How 
To Obtain Additional Information'' in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION 
section of this document.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For technical questions concerning 
this action, contact Charles Fellows, Aviation Safety Inspector, 
Avionics Branch, Aircraft Maintenance Division, Flight Standards 
Services, AFS-360, Federal Aviation Administration, 950 L'Enfant Plaza 
North SW., Washington, DC 20024; telephone (202) 267-1706; email 
[email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Authority for This Rulemaking

    The FAA's authority to issue rules regarding aviation safety is 
found in Title 49 of the United States Code. Sections 106(f), 40113, 
and 44701 authorize the Administrator to prescribe regulations 
necessary for aviation safety. Section 40103 authorizes the 
Administrator to prescribe regulations to enhance the efficiency of the 
national airspace. This rulemaking is within the scope of these 
authorities because it removes an existing safety and airspace-related 
regulation that the FAA no longer finds necessary for aviation safety.

I. Overview of Final Rule

    This action amends Appendix G of part 91 of Title 14 of the Code of 
Federal Regulations (14 CFR) by removing the requirement that any 
applicant for a Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) 
authorization must submit an RVSM maintenance program to the FAA for 
approval.

II. Background

    The FAA's vertical separation standards establish the vertical 
distance that must separate aircraft routes in the national airspace 
system. In the early 1970's, rising air-traffic volume and fuel costs 
sparked an interest in reducing vertical separation standards for 
aircraft operating above flight level (FL) 290 (above 18,000 ft., 
flight levels are assigned in 500-ft. increments; FL290 represents an 
pressure altitude of 29,000 ft. referenced to a barometric pressure of 
29.92 inches at sea level). At the time, the FAA required aircraft 
operating above FL290 to maintain a minimum of 2,000 ft. of vertical 
separation. Use of high-altitude routes was desirable, however, because 
the diminished atmospheric drag at these altitudes results in enhanced 
aircraft efficiency and a corresponding decrease in fuel consumption. 
Operators, therefore, sought and continue to seek not only the most 
direct routes, but also the most efficient altitudes for operation of 
their aircraft. Higher demand for these high-altitude routes has 
resulted in greater congestion.
    In 1981, the FAA initiated the Vertical Studies Program. This 
program, in conjunction with the RTCA (formerly Radio Technical 
Commission for Aeronautics) Special Committee (SC)-150 and the 
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Review of General 
Concept of Separation Panel (RGCSP), determined:
     RVSM is ``technically feasible without imposing 
unreasonably demanding technical requirements on the equipment;''
     RVSM could provide ``significant benefits in terms of 
economy and en-route airspace capacity;'' and
     Implementation of RVSM would require ``sound operational 
judgment supported by an assessment of system performance based on: 
Aircraft altitude-keeping capability, operational considerations, 
system performance monitoring, and risk assessment.''
    In response to the findings made by the Vertical Separation 
Program, the FAA began a two-phase implementation of RVSM operations 
for aircraft registered in the United States (U.S.). In 1997, and as 
the first phase, the FAA published two amendments to part 91 of Title 
14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR). The first amendment 
established Sec.  91.706 (Operations within airspace designed as 
Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum Airspace), which, among other 
things, allows operators of U.S.-registered aircraft to fly in RVSM 
airspace outside of the U.S. Appendix G (Operations in Reduced Vertical 
Separation Minimum (RVSM) Airspace), was added which contained a set of 
operational, aircraft design, and other standards applicable to those 
seeking to operate in RVSM airspace. See Reduced Vertical Separation 
Minimum Operations, (62 FR 17480; Apr. 9, 1997). Appendix G includes 
the requirement that all applicants for RVSM authorization must submit 
an approved RVSM maintenance program to the FAA.
    The second phase of RVSM implementation occurred in October 2003, 
with the publication of a second RVSM-related FAA rulemaking. Reduced 
Vertical Separation Minimum in Domestic Airspace, (68 FR 61304; Oct. 
27, 2003 and 68 FR 70132; Dec. 17, 2003). The 2003 rule introduced RVSM 
airspace over the U.S. and, like the 1997 rulemaking, required all 
U.S.-registered RVSM operators to comply with the application, 
operations, and aircraft design requirements of part 91, appendix G. 
The FAA's RVSM program allows for 1,000 ft. of vertical separation for 
aircraft between FL290 and FL410 in U.S. airspace. Before the 2003 
rule, air traffic controllers could only assign Instrument Flight Rules 
(IFR) aircraft flying at FL290 and above to FL290, 310, 330, 350, 370, 
390, and 410 since the existing vertical separation standard was 2,000 
ft. After the rule changes, IFR aircraft could also fly at FL300, 320, 
340, 360, 380, and 400--nearly doubling capacity within this particular 
segment of airspace, mitigating the fuel penalties attributed to flying 
at sub-optimum altitudes, and increasing the flexibility of air traffic 
control.
    In 2008, the FAA reviewed its RVSM authorizations, which applied to 
more than 15,000 U.S.-registered aircraft. The FAA's evaluation found 
that the existing

[[Page 47010]]

processes ensured compliance with RVSM operating requirements. At the 
same time, FAA representatives began meeting with the National Business 
Aviation Association (NBAA) to develop ways to streamline the RVSM 
application process to lower the burden for operators obtaining 
authorizations and reduce the FAA's workload associated with processing 
and granting these authorizations. The parties formed the RVSM Process 
Enhancement Team (PET) to focus on changes that could be accomplished 
without rulemaking. The PET completed its tasks in 2013. Among other 
things, it revised existing policies and guidance to facilitate more 
efficient processing of operator requests to change existing 
authorizations, and created a job aid to assist inspectors and 
standardize their review of operator applications. In a separate 
initiative, the FAA with input from industry determined that 
eliminating the redundant maintenance program component of the RVSM 
application would improve efficiency and reduce costs for both the 
agency and operators while maintaining the same high level of safety.
    The requirement for an applicant to submit a maintenance program 
with the application for an RVSM authorization was promulgated in 1997 
when most aircraft required significant design changes or inspections 
to qualify for RVSM operation. RVSM operations have become much more 
common since then. RVSM systems are now incorporated into aircraft type 
designs or have been incorporated through modifications performed using 
supplemental type designs or amended type designs. Operators must 
properly maintain those systems as part of their airworthiness 
obligations, making a separate RVSM maintenance program redundant and 
unnecessary.

A. Summary of the NPRM

    In May 2015, the FAA issued an NPRM, (15 FR 30394; May 28, 2015) 
that proposed to amend the requirements for an application to operate 
in RVSM airspace. The FAA proposed to remove and reserve paragraph 
(b)(1), of section 3 of Appendix G of part 91, to eliminate the 
requirement that any operator seeking RVSM authorization under Sec.  
91.180 and Sec.  91.706 had to develop and submit an RVSM maintenance 
program for FAA approval.

B. General Overview of Comments

    The comment period for the NPRM closed on July 27, 2015. The FAA 
received 38 comments. The commenters included the National Air 
Transportation Association (NATA) and the National Business Aviation 
Association (NBAA). Twenty commenters supported the rule change in its 
entirety, twelve commenters provisionally supported the change while 
supplying additional comments, and eight commenters opposed the rule 
change. The FAA divided the issues raised in the comments into three 
categories addressing: (1) Safety concerns; (2) further enhancements to 
the RVSM authorization process; and (3) miscellaneous comments or 
recommendations.

III. Discussion of Public Comments and Final Rule

Safety Concerns

    Although there were slight variations, many of the comments 
submitted in opposition to the proposal claimed that reducing the 
regulatory requirements for an RVSM authorization would reduce aviation 
safety.
    The FAA reiterates that this final rule eliminates an application 
requirement, and leaves intact FAA requirements to maintain RVSM 
equipment and operate RVSM authorized aircraft in an airworthy 
condition. As described in the NPRM, the requirement to submit a 
maintenance program as part of an RVSM application was promulgated in 
an environment where RVSM technology was not firmly established and 
RVSM maintenance procedures were unproven. As RVSM equipment was 
installed on more aircraft, and confidence in established maintenance 
procedures increased, the requirement for each applicant to develop its 
own RVSM-specific maintenance procedures ceased to produce any 
appreciable safety benefit.
    Sections 91.180 and 91.706 will continue to require operators to 
meet the equipment and performance standards specified in Appendix G to 
part 91. These performance standards were developed by the RTCA SC-150 
and the ICAO RGCSP as the minimum performance standard for aircraft to 
conduct RVSM operation, and adopted by the FAA. In addition, Sec. Sec.  
91.405 and 91.407 continue to require operators to have their aircraft 
inspected and approved for return to service by authorized persons and 
otherwise maintained in accordance with part 43. Moreover, each person 
performing maintenance and preventive maintenance is required to do so 
using the methods, techniques, and practices prescribed in the 
manufacturer's maintenance manual, Instructions for Continued 
Airworthiness (ICA), or other means acceptable to the Administrator. 
The primary effect of this final rule is to remove the requirement for 
an applicant to submit an RVSM-specific maintenance program to the FAA 
as part of its application for an RVSM authorization.
    One commenter stated that the requirement to maintain an aircraft 
in a condition for safe flight, as codified in Sec.  91.7, applies only 
to a pilot, as opposed to an operator. The commenter stated that an 
operator is only required to maintain RVSM equipment because of its 
maintenance program obligations.
    The FAA disagrees. As previously described, although this final 
rule eliminates an operator's obligation to submit a maintenance 
program as part of an RVSM application, operators will nevertheless 
continue to be required to maintain their RVSM equipment in accordance 
with applicable airworthiness standards. In particular, Sec. Sec.  
43.13, 91.405, and 91.407 continue to require aircraft to be inspected 
and approved for return to service in accordance with manufacturers' 
maintenance information or other material acceptable to the 
Administrator. Operators with maintenance programs, such as air 
carriers conducting operations under part 121, will continue to be 
required to maintain RVSM equipment in accordance with those programs.
    Two commenters raised the issue of identifying required maintenance 
information. One commenter stated that most RVSM applicants do not have 
the latest RVSM maintenance information until they acquire that 
information in the course of preparing to apply for an RVSM 
authorization. Another commenter stated that ICA may not be available 
for all RVSM designs. As an example, the commenter referred to aircraft 
modified to meet RVSM performance standards under a supplemental type 
certificate (STC), rather than with equipment installed under a type 
certificate (TC), and also to aircraft modifications classified as 
minor changes to type design.
    To the extent that these commenters assert that the requirement to 
submit a maintenance program as part of an RVSM application is 
necessary for operators to access or determine the appropriate 
maintenance instructions, the FAA disagrees. For many newer aircraft, 
RVSM capability is incorporated into the original type design. For 
other aircraft, incorporating alterations to meet RVSM performance 
requirements is classified as a major change to type design, and as 
such must be incorporated through an STC or an amended type 
certificate. In either case, Sec.  21.50(b) requires, among other 
things,

[[Page 47011]]

a TC or STC holder to make ICA available to any person required to 
comply with those ICA, including owners and operators. Each owner or 
operator should, therefore, have access to all required maintenance and 
preventive maintenance information.
    One commenter stated that he services aircraft that have been 
upgraded to RVSM capability by way of STCs, and removing the RVSM 
maintenance program requirement would remove the information from the 
aircraft records that identifies which STC is installed. The FAA 
disagrees. When STCs are incorporated into aircraft they constitute 
major changes to the aircraft type design. Identification of the design 
change and associated ICA are recorded in the appropriate aircraft 
records. Section 21.50 requires design approval holders to make ICA 
available to any owner, operator, or other person required to comply 
with their terms.
    Another commenter stated that submission of an RVSM maintenance 
program is necessary to identify necessary repairs to RVSM and other 
aviation data equipment and that the FAA has a statutory obligation, 
under 49 U.S.C. 44701, to promote the safe flight of civil aircraft. 
The FAA disagrees that submission of an RVSM maintenance program with 
an RVSM application for authorization is necessary to identify repairs 
for the reasons previously stated. Removal of the requirement will not 
negatively impact the safe flight of civil aircraft or conflict with 
the FAA's obligations under 49 U.S.C. 44701.
    Among the commenters who raised safety concerns, several 
recommended alternatives. One commenter recommended that the FAA 
require operators to ``identify practices'' for the maintenance of RVSM 
equipment (alternative 2 considered in the proposal), but without 
requiring that these practices be submitted as part of an application. 
The same commenter also recommended that the FAA modify the alternative 
to specifically require each operator to identify the TC or STC 
holder's ICA and ensure each is listed in the operator's maintenance 
tracking system.
    The FAA believes that adopting the proposed alternative would 
provide no greater safety benefit and would do less to reduce the 
unnecessary burden on industry than eliminating the requirement to 
submit an RVSM maintenance program for approval. The commenter's 
recommendation would continue to require operators to provide redundant 
paperwork as part of each RVSM application. The FAA also believes that 
requiring an applicant to identify maintenance practices, in addition 
to the existing requirements to follow those practices, would not 
meaningfully contribute to aviation safety. As stated previously, Sec.  
21.50 requires design approval holders to make ICA available to any 
owner, operator, or other person required to comply with the terms of 
those ICA.
    With respect to the recommendation to require operators to track 
RVSM-specific information in a maintenance tracking system, the FAA 
agrees that any operator using a maintenance tracking system should use 
that system to track the maintenance of RVSM equipment as identified in 
the appropriate ICA. However, some operators--such as part 91 
operators--are not required to develop maintenance tracking systems. To 
the extent that the commenter is recommending that the FAA require part 
91 operators to implement maintenance tracking systems, the 
recommendation is outside the scope of this rulemaking.
    One commenter observed that the FAA often rejects, for various 
reasons, maintenance programs that accompany operators' applications 
for RVSM authorizations. The commenter stated that the existence of 
these rejections is evidence that continued FAA oversight is necessary 
to maintain safety. The FAA disagrees. The FAA often rejects a program 
submission or requests that additional revisions be made to an 
application for reasons related to an operator's lack of familiarity 
with the process for developing a program and submitting an 
application. These issues may be unrelated to the adequacy of a 
particular maintenance program. Moreover, many part 91 operators 
applying for RVSM authorizations do not perform maintenance 
themselves--RVSM or otherwise--and are reproducing plans developed by 
an original equipment manufacturer. Regardless of who performs the 
maintenance, Sec. Sec.  91.405 and 91.407 require each aircraft owner 
or operator to have the aircraft inspected and approved for return to 
service by an individual or entity authorized by Sec.  43.7.
    One commenter stated that the expense and effort required to create 
an RVSM maintenance program helps to ensure each operator's commitment 
to safety. Another commenter stated that the requirement to develop and 
submit a maintenance program encourages operators to adhere to the 
appropriate maintenance information. The FAA believes that imposing a 
requirement on operators to submit a maintenance program for approval 
imposes a significant cost on operators that is not an effective or 
appropriate means of obtaining an operators' commitment to safety. As 
previously described, operators will continue to be required to 
maintain their aircraft in an airworthy condition in accordance with 
existing regulations.

Further Enhancements to the RVSM Authorization Process

    Three comments were received that the proposal ``did not go far 
enough,'' and recommended that the FAA eliminate RVSM approvals 
entirely. For example, one commenter stated that the industry's 
experience in safely installing, maintaining, and operating RVSM 
equipment demonstrates that there is no longer a need for RVSM 
approvals. The FAA proposed only to remove the requirement to submit a 
maintenance program from the application for RVSM approval. The FAA did 
not propose to eliminate RVSM approvals entirely. The commenter's 
recommendation is outside the scope of this rulemaking.
    One individual commenter recommended that, in cases where an 
operator was applying to operate an aircraft which was previously 
listed on an authorization, the FAA should issue a temporary, interim 
RVSM approval. The commenter stated that the NPRM underestimated the 
costs of compliance with the FAA's RVSM approval program, because an 
operator awaiting RVSM authorization consumes significant additional 
funds flying below optimal altitudes. Operators are required to apply 
for a new authorization whenever an aircraft changes ownership or 
registration, regardless of whether the underlying aircraft is 
modified. The FAA did not propose to introduce interim RVSM 
authorizations. The commenters' recommendation is, therefore, outside 
the scope of this rulemaking.

Miscellaneous Comments or Recommendations

    One commenter stated that a reduction to the FAA's workload is not 
a legitimate rationale for FAA rulemaking and that the FAA's goal and 
statutory obligation is to promote safe flight of civil aircraft. The 
FAA notes that this final rule eliminates a requirement that is no 
longer necessary to provide the level of safety required for these 
operations. The FAA is required by numerous statutes and executive 
orders to consider both the costs and benefits of its regulations and 
to adopt proposals that are cost justified. Costs incurred by the FAA 
are a legitimate factor to be considered in accomplishing this 
analysis. See, e.g., 5 U.S.C. 601-612 (Regulatory Flexibility

[[Page 47012]]

Act); Executive Order 13563; Executive Order 12866.
    One individual commenter stated that the industry assumes this rule 
change would allow an operator to obtain RVSM approval by submitting no 
more than a letter to the FAA. The FAA disagrees. The requirement to 
submit an RVSM maintenance program, a requirement eliminated by this 
rule, was only one of three components of an RVSM application. Under 
Sec. Sec.  91.180, 91.706, and Appendix G to part 91, the FAA continues 
to require an applicant to submit documentation establishing that its 
aircraft is RVSM compliant, and that the applicant's crew has adequate 
knowledge of RVSM requirements, policies, and procedures as set forth 
in Sec.  3(c)(2) of Appendix G. For part 121 and part 135 operators, 
this requires initial and recurring pilot training as specified in 
Sec.  3(b)(2) of Appendix G.
    One individual commenter recommended that the FAA eliminate the 
requirement for maintenance program approval only with respect to 
aircraft that are RVSM capable ``under a TC.'' The commenter 
recommended that the FAA continue to require maintenance program 
approval for any aircraft that is RVSM capable as a result of an 
alteration performed in accordance with an STC because an STC indicates 
a major deviation from the aircraft's original type design and 
maintenance procedures would not be listed in the manufacturer's 
recommended procedures.
    The FAA disagrees that aircraft with RVSM equipment installed 
pursuant to an STC should be treated differently from aircraft with 
RVSM equipment installed as part of an original or amended type design. 
Both TC and STC holders must develop ICA, and Sec.  43.13 continues to 
require maintenance and preventive maintenance to be performed in 
accordance with the current manufacturer's maintenance manual, ICA, or 
other methods, techniques, and practices acceptable to the 
Administrator. Because ICA are available regardless of whether RVSM 
equipment is installed under a TC or an STC, and because all operators 
are equally obligated to maintain their equipment in accordance with 
this maintenance information, the FAA finds no reason to differentiate 
between these two kinds of operators.
    One individual commenter stated that avionics technology has 
undergone a major transformation in the last 15 years, moving away from 
discrete components and towards more fully integrated systems. The 
commenter recommended that authorizations should similarly be analyzed 
and approved in a more unified manner, to reduce the number of 
individual performance-based approvals. The commenter's recommendation 
that the FAA review all performance-based approvals in a single 
application is outside the scope of this rulemaking.
    Several individual commenters, both supporting and opposing the 
proposal, stated that the burden on operators to obtain approval of an 
RVSM maintenance program could be reduced substantially by 
standardizing what is required by FAA inspectors in an RVSM 
application. The FAA has published and continues to provide guidance to 
its inspectors on the requirements for the issuance of an RVSM 
authorization. In addition to the guidance, the FAA has developed job 
aids to assist in the development of an RVSM program manual. The agency 
believes these ongoing efforts will continue to increase 
standardization in the application process.

IV. Regulatory Notices and Analyses

A. Regulatory Evaluation

    Changes to Federal regulations must undergo several economic 
analyses. First, Executive Order 12866 and Executive Order 13563 direct 
that each Federal agency shall propose or adopt a regulation only upon 
a reasoned determination that the benefits of the intended regulation 
justify its costs. Second, the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (Pub. 
L. 96-354) requires agencies to analyze the economic impact of 
regulatory changes on small entities. Third, the Trade Agreements Act 
(Pub. L. 96-39) prohibits agencies from setting standards that create 
unnecessary obstacles to the foreign commerce of the United States. In 
developing U.S. standards, the Trade Act requires agencies to consider 
international standards and, where appropriate, that they be the basis 
of U.S. standards. Fourth, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 
(Pub. L. 104-4) requires agencies to prepare a written assessment of 
the costs, benefits, and other effects of proposed or final rules that 
include a Federal mandate likely to result in the expenditure by State, 
local, or tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private 
sector, of $100 million or more annually (adjusted for inflation with 
base year of 1995). This portion of the preamble summarizes the FAA's 
analysis of the economic impacts of this final rule.
    Department of Transportation Order DOT 2100.5 prescribes policies 
and procedures for simplification, analysis, and review of regulations. 
Because this rulemaking is a retrospective regulatory review, the 
expected outcome would be a cost savings with positive net benefits. 
The FAA has, therefore, determined that this final rule is not a 
``significant regulatory action'' as defined in section 3(f) of 
Executive Order 12866, and is not ``significant'' as defined in DOT's 
Regulatory Policies and procedures. Such a determination has been made 
for this final rule. The reasoning for this determination follows:
    This rulemaking responds to requests from industry and FAA program 
offices. The rule removes the requirement that operators seeking RVSM 
authorization must submit an RVSM maintenance program for FAA approval. 
It eliminates the considerable burden and expense to operators and FAA 
safety inspectors of developing, processing, and approving RVSM 
maintenance programs.
    When the former requirement was established, RVSM systems were yet 
to be incorporated into initial aircraft type designs. This is no 
longer the case. RVSM systems are now incorporated into initial 
aircraft type designs, and operators must properly maintain these 
systems as part of their airworthiness obligation. In light of these 
developments, the requirement for RVSM applicants to submit specialized 
maintenance programs is redundant. Removing this redundancy has no 
effect on aviation safety.
    One commenter stated the NPRM underestimated the cost of 
compliance, because an operator awaiting RVSM authorization incurs cost 
flying below optimal altitudes. As the operators are already required 
to incur this cost, this rule does not change this cost. The FAA did 
not propose to introduce interim RVSM authorization, therefore no new 
cost are required. The FAA notes that no other comments were received 
on our NPRM cost-savings determination or methodology. While the same 
methodology is used here, the FAA has updated the number of maintenance 
programs expected to be submitted and the wage for the safety inspector 
to 2015 dollars.
    The relief to part 91 operators and FAA safety inspectors from the 
streamlining of regulations equals the number of RVSM maintenance 
programs approved (including growth) multiplied by the costs per 
operator of submitting an RVSM maintenance program for FAA approval. To 
that result, the FAA added the number of RVSM maintenance programs 
approved multiplied by the cost of an FAA safety inspector to review 
and approve an RVSM maintenance program multiplied by the average 
number of hours FAA safety inspectors expend reviewing and approving 
each RVSM maintenance

[[Page 47013]]

program. The value for these variables is shown below.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                      Average annual
                                                    growth (2010-2015)                        Hours expended by
                                                     in the number of    Operator cost for        FAA safety
                                                       maintenance          submitting a          inspectors
CY 2015--Number of maintenance programs submitted   programs submitted  maintenance program       reviewing
             to FAA for approval \1\               to FAA for approval     to the FAA for        maintenance
                                                    (used as forecast       approval \2\         programs for
                                                       of 2016-2020                              approval \3\
                                                         growth)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2,437............................................               4.46%           \4\ $5,000                   12
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Applying these estimates, the FAA anticipates that operators would 
experience cost savings of approximate $12.7 million in year one of 
implementation. The FAA calculated this figure by multiplying the 
estimated number of maintenance programs expected to be submitted to 
the FAA for approval during CY 2016 (2,546 approvals) by each 
operator's cost for submitting a RVSM maintenance program to the FAA 
for approval ($5,000).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ FAA National Program Tracking and Reporting Subsystem 
(NPTRS).
    \2\ National Business Aviation Association--Part 91 Operator 
Cost for Submitting an RVSM Approval.
    \3\ FAA Safety Inspectors involved in RVSM authorization 
processing at FAA Flight Standards District Offices (FSDO).
    \4\ This amount consists of $3,123 in operator costs for 
submitting an application form and supporting documentation to a 
RVSM manual preparation service, and then reading, understanding, 
signing, and submitting the completed RVSM maintenance program 
manual to the FAA for approval. The remaining $1,977 is an 
approximation of the amount paid by an operator for RVSM manual 
preparation services. The estimate of $1,977 is an average of quotes 
provided on the Internet by seven companies providing this service. 
These seven quotes ranged from $795 to $3,850.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In addition to the cost savings realized by operators, eliminating 
the requirement would free 30,552 hours for FAA safety inspectors to 
perform alternative tasks during year one of implementation. The hours 
are calculated by multiplying the average number of hours FAA safety 
inspectors expend reviewing and approving each RVSM maintenance program 
submitted (12 hours) by the number of RVSM maintenance program 
approvals estimated for CY 2016 (2,546 approvals). The annual cost 
savings of $1.4 million to the FAA equals the 30,552 hours multiplied 
by the FAA fully-burdened wage of $45.96.\5\ As per Department of 
Transportation (DOT) guidance, the FAA assumes that there will be a 1.2 
percent projected annual increase in real wages.\6\
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    \5\ Source: 2015 General Schedule Salary Table as published by 
the U. S. Office of Personnel Management. The salary used for 
calculating costs savings is the fully-burdened hourly wage for a GS 
12 Step 5, which is the mid-range salary for this position.
    \6\ Office of the Secretary of Transportation Memorandum, 
``Revised Departmental Guidance on Valuation of Travel Time in 
Economic Analysis'', July 2014.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Based on these calculations, the cost savings to operators and the 
FAA during the first five years of the rule's implementation will be 
approximately $77.5 million ($67.6 million present value). The results 
are presented below:
BILLING CODE 4910-13-P

[[Page 47014]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TR20JY16.002


[[Page 47015]]


BILLING CODE 4910-13-C

B. Regulatory Flexibility Determination

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (Pub. L. 96-354) (RFA) 
establishes ``as a principle of regulatory issuance that agencies shall 
endeavor, consistent with the objectives of the rule and of applicable 
statutes, to fit regulatory and informational requirements to the scale 
of the businesses, organizations, and governmental jurisdictions 
subject to regulation.'' To achieve this principle, agencies are 
required to solicit and consider flexible regulatory proposals and to 
explain the rationale for their actions to assure that such proposals 
are given serious consideration.'' The RFA covers a wide-range of small 
entities, including small businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and 
small governmental jurisdictions.
    Agencies must perform a review to determine whether a rule will 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. If the agency determines that it will, the agency must 
prepare a regulatory flexibility analysis as described in the RFA.
    However, if an agency determines that a rule is not expected to 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities, section 605(b) of the RFA provides that the head of the 
agency may so certify and a regulatory flexibility analysis is not 
required. The certification must include a statement providing the 
factual basis for this determination, and the reasoning should be 
clear.
    Under the RFA, the FAA must determine whether a rule significantly 
affects a substantial number of small entities. This determination is 
typically based on small entity size and revenue thresholds that vary 
depending on the affected industry.\7\ In most cases, the FAA cannot 
determine the size of part 91 operators because financial and 
employment data for privately held entities is sparse. Nevertheless, 
the FAA believes the number of small business entities is substantial. 
The FAA estimates that this rulemaking will save each affected small 
entity $5,000 per RVSM authorization.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \7\ Thresholds are based on the North American Industry 
Classification System (NAICS). The NAICS is the standard used by 
Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments 
for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical 
data related to the U.S. business economy.
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    Based on the criteria used in the initial regulatory flexibility 
analysis and used again here, this rule will impact a substantial 
number of part 91 operators. Accordingly, the FAA prepared a final 
regulatory flexibility analysis for part 91 operators, as described in 
the next section. The FAA received no comments to the initial 
regulatory flexibility analysis for this rule.
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
    Under section 603(b) of the RFA (as amended), each regulatory 
flexibility analysis is required to address the following points: (1) 
Reasons the agency considered the rule, (2) the objectives and legal 
basis for the rule, (3) the kind and number of small entities to which 
the rule will apply, (4) the reporting, recordkeeping, and other 
compliance requirements of the rule, and (5) all Federal rules that may 
duplicate, overlap, or conflict with the rule.
Reasons the FAA Considered the Rule
    All part 91 operator RVSM-related obligations are required by FAA 
airworthiness regulations to maintain RVSM equipment in an airworthy 
condition. Thus, the requirement that operators seeking RVSM 
authorization to develop and submit an RVSM maintenance program for FAA 
approval, is redundant.
The Objectives and Legal Basis for the Rule
    The FAA's authority to issue rules regarding aviation safety is 
found in Sec. Sec.  106, 40113, and 44701 of 49 U.S.C., which authorize 
the FAA Administrator to prescribe regulations necessary for aviation 
safety. Section 40103 authorizes the Administrator to prescribe 
regulations to enhance the efficiency of the national airspace. This 
rulemaking is within the scope of these authorities because it removes 
existing safety and airspace-related regulations that the FAA no longer 
finds necessary to protect aviation safety.
The Kind and Number of Small Entities to Which the Rule Will Apply
    This final rule will affect a substantial number of part 91 
operators. The FAA estimates that this proposed rulemaking would save 
each affected small entity $5,000 per RVSM authorization.
The Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance Requirements of the 
Rule
    The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3507(d)) requires 
that the FAA consider the impact of paperwork and other information 
collection burdens imposed on the public. The FAA has determined that 
there is no new requirement for information collection associated with 
this final rule.
All Federal Rules That May Duplicate, Overlap, or Conflict With the 
Rule
    This final rule eliminates an application requirement for 
submission of an RVSM maintenance program and leaves intact current 
requirements to maintain RVSM equipment and operate RVSM authorized 
aircraft in an airworthy condition. Sections 43.13, 91.405, and 91.407 
continue to require aircraft to be inspected and approved for return to 
service in accordance with manufacturers' maintenance information or 
other material acceptable to the Administrator. Operators with approved 
maintenance programs will continue to be required to maintain RVSM 
equipment in accordance with their approved programs.
Other Considerations
Alternatives
    Alternative 1: Retain the current requirement for submission of an 
RVSM maintenance program for approval.
    Analysis: Without changes to Appendix G of part 91, any operator 
seeking RVSM authorization would continue to be required to submit an 
RVSM maintenance program. A non-commercial operator with no requirement 
to hold a maintenance program for any other performance-based 
authorization would nevertheless be required to submit an RVSM 
maintenance program for approval--despite the fact that the operator is 
already required by FAA regulations to maintain RVSM equipment in 
accordance with its type design and in a condition for safe operation. 
Furthermore, the review and approval of this information would continue 
to consume FAA resources.
    Alternative 2: Replace the current Appendix G requirement that 
operators include an ``approved RVSM maintenance program'' with a 
requirement that operators ``identify practices'' for the maintenance 
of RVSM equipment.
    Analysis: Relaxing Appendix G application requirements to allow 
operators to ``identify practices'' for the maintenance of RVSM 
equipment would allow a non-commercial operator to cite the applicable 
manufacturer's maintenance manual or ICA. This alternative would likely 
reduce the time and resources spent by operators and the FAA in 
compiling and reviewing RVSM applications. This alternative is 
undesirable, however, because it fails to address the absence of any 
safety benefits associated with continuing to require an RVSM 
maintenance program as a component of an RVSM application.

[[Page 47016]]

    The FAA expects this rule will save each affected small entity 
$5,000 per RVSM authorization. Over a 5-year period, the number exceeds 
$10,000 per RVSM authorization. While the rule may not have a 
significant economic impact, it would have a positive impact on a 
substantial number of small entities.

C. International Trade Impact Assessment

    The Trade Agreements Act of 1979 (Pub. L. 96-39), as amended by the 
Uruguay Round Agreements Act (Pub. L. 103-465), prohibits Federal 
agencies from establishing standards or engaging in related activities 
that create unnecessary obstacles to the foreign commerce of the United 
States. Pursuant to these Acts, the establishment of standards is not 
considered an unnecessary obstacle to the foreign commerce of the 
United States, so long as the standard has a legitimate domestic 
objective, such as the protection of safety, and does not operate in a 
manner that excludes imports that meet this objective. The statute also 
requires consideration of international standards and, where 
appropriate, that they be the basis for U.S. standards. The FAA has 
assessed the potential effect of this final rule and determined that it 
will have only a domestic impact and, therefore, no effect on 
international trade.

D. Unfunded Mandates Assessment

    Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (Pub. L. 104-
4) requires each Federal agency to prepare a written statement 
assessing the effects of any Federal mandate in a proposed or final 
agency rule that may result in an expenditure of $100 million or more 
(in 1995 dollars) in any one year by State, local, and tribal 
governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector; such a mandate 
is deemed to be a ``significant regulatory action.'' The FAA currently 
uses an inflation-adjusted value of $155 million in lieu of $100 
million. This final rule does not contain such a mandate; therefore, 
the requirements of Title II of the Act do not apply.

E. Paperwork Reduction Act

    The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3507(d)) requires 
that the FAA consider the impact of paperwork and other information 
collection burdens imposed on the public. The FAA has determined that 
there is no new requirement for information collection associated with 
this final rule.

F. International Compatibility and Cooperation

    In keeping with U.S. obligations under the Convention on 
International Civil Aviation, it is FAA policy to conform to 
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Standards and 
Recommended Practices to the maximum extent practicable. The FAA has 
determined that there are no ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices 
that correspond to these proposed regulations.

G. Environmental Analysis

    FAA Order 1050.1E identifies FAA actions that are categorically 
excluded from preparation of an environmental assessment or 
environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy 
Act in the absence of extraordinary circumstances. The FAA has 
determined this rulemaking action qualifies for the categorical 
exclusion identified in paragraph 312d (regulatory documents covering 
administrative or procedural requirements) and involves no 
extraordinary circumstances.

V. Executive Order Determinations

A. Executive Order 13132, Federalism

    The FAA has analyzed this final rule under the principles and 
criteria of Executive Order 13132, Federalism. The agency determined 
that this action will not have a substantial direct effect on the 
States, or the relationship between the Federal Government and the 
States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the 
various levels of government, and, therefore, does not have Federalism 
implications.

B. Executive Order 13211, Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy 
Supply, Distribution, or Use

    The FAA analyzed this final rule under Executive Order 13211, 
Actions Concerning Regulations that Significantly Affect Energy Supply, 
Distribution, or Use (May 18, 2001). The agency has determined that it 
is not a ``significant energy action'' under the executive order and it 
is not likely to have a significant adverse effect on the supply, 
distribution, or use of energy.

VI. How To Obtain Additional Information

A. Rulemaking Documents

    An electronic copy of a rulemaking document may be obtained by 
using the Internet--
    1. Search the Federal eRulemaking Portal (http://www.regulations.gov);
    2. Visit the FAA's Regulations and Policies Web page at http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/ or
    3. Access the Government Printing Office's Web page at http://www.thefederalregister.org/fdsys/.
    Copies may also be obtained by sending a request (identified by 
notice, amendment, or docket number of this rulemaking) to the Federal 
Aviation Administration, Office of Rulemaking, ARM-1, 800 Independence 
Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591, or by calling (202) 267-9680.

B. Comments Submitted to the Docket

    Comments received may be viewed by going to http://www.regulations.gov and following the online instructions to search the 
docket number for this action. Anyone is able to search the electronic 
form of all comments received into any of the FAA's dockets by the name 
of the individual submitting the comment (or signing the comment, if 
submitted on behalf of an association, business, labor union, etc.).

C. Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

    The Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) of 
1996 require the FAA to comply with small entity requests for 
information or advice about compliance with statutes and regulations 
within its jurisdiction. A small entity with questions regarding this 
document, may contact its local FAA official, or the person listed 
under the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT heading at the beginning of 
the preamble. To find out more about SBREFA on the Internet, visit 
http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/rulemaking/sbre_act/.

List of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 91

    Air traffic control, Aircraft, Aviation safety.

The Amendment

    In consideration of the foregoing, the Federal Aviation 
Administration amends chapter I of title 14, Code of Federal 
Regulations as follows:

PART 91--GENERAL OPERATING AND FLIGHT RULES

0
1. The authority citation for part 91 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 106(f), 106(g), 1155, 40103, 40113, 40120, 
44101, 44111, 44701, 44704, 44709, 44711, 44712, 44715, 44716, 
44717, 44722, 46306, 46315, 46316, 46504, 46506-46507, 47122, 47508, 
47528-47531, 47534, articles 12 and 29 of the Convention on 
International Civil Aviation (61 Stat. 1180), (126 Stat. 11).

[[Page 47017]]


0
2. Amend Appendix G, Section 3 by removing and reserving paragraph 
(b)(1).

    Issued under authority provided by 49 U.S.C. 106(f), 40103, 
40113, and 44701(a) in Washington, DC, on July 12, 2016.
Michael Huerta,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2016-17155 Filed 7-19-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4910-13-P


81_FR_47148
Current View
CategoryRegulatory Information
CollectionFederal Register
sudoc ClassAE 2.7:
GS 4.107:
AE 2.106:
PublisherOffice of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration
SectionRules and Regulations
ActionFinal rule.
DatesEffective August 19, 2016.
ContactFor technical questions concerning this action, contact Charles Fellows, Aviation Safety Inspector, Avionics Branch, Aircraft Maintenance Division, Flight Standards Services, AFS-360, Federal Aviation Administration, 950 L'Enfant Plaza North SW., Washington, DC 20024; telephone (202) 267-1706; email [email protected]
FR Citation81 FR 47009 
RIN Number2120-AK54
CFR AssociatedAir Traffic Control; Aircraft and Aviation Safety

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