PFA Contributing editor and A&P/IA Steve Ells, provides guidance for responding to an FAA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) with specific advice for the current SNRPM regarding the Cherokee wing spar concern.
“A notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) is a public notice that is issued by law when an independent agency of the US government wishes to add, remove, or change a rule or regulation as part of the rulemaking process.”
The NPRM process is the norm for new rulemaking—issuing an airworthiness directive—unless the FAA decides that a safety issue is so time-critical that there’s no time for the NPRM process. In instances like this, the new rule, an airworthiness directive (AD) will go direct-to-final-rule.
The Supplemental NPRM (SNPRM) issued on June 3 that relates to Piper PA 28 and PA 32 wing spar center section bolt hole eddy current inspections can be accessed at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/06/03/2020-11343/airworthiness-directives-piper-aircraft-inc-airplanes.
That link will take you to the Federal Register page for this SNPRM. In the upper right corner, in a green box it says, “Submit a Formal Comment.” Below that is a link to take you to the 172 comments that were filed following the initial NPRM.
In the discussion portion of the SNPRM, you’ll see how the FAA responded to comments and its rationale for those responses.
I recommend that you read through past comments. They will give a good idea of what makes an effective comment.
There are guidelines that must be followed if you want your comment to be effective. They are in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Section 11.43 and follow below:
(a) Your written comments must be in English and must contain the following:
(1) The docket number of the rulemaking document you are commenting on, clearly set out at the beginning of your comments.
(2) Your name and mailing address, and, if you wish, other contact information, such as a fax number, telephone number, or e-mail address.
(3) Your information, views, or arguments, following the instructions for participation in the rulemaking document on which you are commenting.
(b) You should also include all material relevant to any statement of fact or argument in your comments, to the extent that the material is available to you and reasonable for you to submit. Include a copy of the title page of the document. Whether or not you submit a copy of the material to which you refer, you should indicate specific places in the material that support your position.
The docket number and identifier for the Cherokee Wing Spar SNPRM are: Docket No. FAA 2018-1046. The Product Identifier is 2018-CE-049-AD.
Here are some rules of thumb for commenting:
• Anger doesn’t work.
• Blaming the FAA doesn’t work.
• Complaining about how much this is going to cost you doesn’t work.
• Explaining that your PA-28/PA-32 was only flown to church on Sundays on severe clear no wind days; or any other reason you shouldn’t be bound by the AD doesn’t work.
What does work is a comment that contributes to a workable solution. In the case of SNPRM 2018-CE-049-AD, a comment that provides solution to the problem of cracks in the bolt holes in the wing spar center section.
After reading the SNPRM, which unlike the original NPRM prohibits the installation of a used spar center section, you might write a comment asking why a used spar center section can’t be used to replace one with existing cracks. Since the SNPRM makes no mention of a need for recurring inspections, you might ask why, if the used parts pass the eddy current inspection, they can’t be used.
You might ask if the proposed AD will give any credit to owners who, after the first NPRM, (issued in December 2018) got their spars inspected and no cracks were found. Will that count as compliance with the AD, even if the AD is not issued until a later date?
You might work with a Designated Engineering Representative (DER) to create what’s called an alternate method of compliance (AMOC) and submit that with the engineering data that supports it. For example, some who commented on the original NPRM said that the only end-all for these spar cracks is something like an external reinforcement with a spar strap or similar.
Finally, if you don’t want to, or are unable to submit your comment electronically, the other methods of responding are listed below:
You may send comments, using the procedures found in 14 CFR 11.43 and 11.45, by any of the following methods:
Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to https://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
Mail: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590.
Hand Delivery: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
Steve Ells has been an A&P/IA for 45 years and is a commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings. Ells also loves utility and bush-style airplanes and operations. He served as associate editor for AOPA Pilot until 2008. Ells is the owner of Ells Aviation (EllsAviation.com) and the proud owner of a 1960 Piper Comanche. He lives in Templeton, California. Send questions and comments to editor [AT] piperflyer [DOT] com.