COVID-19 changes some FAA regulations for maintenance personnel to work from home
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing pretty much everything we do right now, and aviation maintenance is no exception. A friend of mine is a mechanic for an air medical operator and they, of course, are deemed an essential service, so he continues to go to work. However, now other mechanics may have a “work from home” option.
FAA regulations haven’t changed, but a long-awaited policy PS-AIR-21-1901 update will make social distancing possible while keeping pilots and passengers just as safe as always. This policy, created to help ensure that the FAA can maintain oversight throughout the COVID-19 pandemic allows some maintenance personnel may use video links and other remote technology to accomplish certain inspection and testing tasks, and to validate regulatory compliance.
Tasks that are authorized to be performed remotely under the policy conditions include:
- Prototype conformity inspections
- Engineering and ground tests
- Engineering compliance inspections
- Production conformity inspections
- Inspections for the issuance of an Authorized Release Certificate, FAA Form 8180-3, Airworthiness Approval Tag
The policy also provides extensive guidance on factors to consider when facilities are developing a process for the use of remote technology.
Applicants who want to use remote technology should work with their local ACO and include details specific to plans for certification, engineering tests or conformity inspections. In addition, Production Approval holders must have procedures in their quality systems if they are going to use remote technology for 8180-3 inspections. It is also possible for Organization Designation Authorization holders to include remote inspections in their programs.
The Aeronautical Repair Station Association is part of a group of industry stakeholders that has been urging the FAA to allow inspectors to use remote technology for many years. They believe that this policy is finally steering their industry in the right direction for the future. FAA Regulations may not be changing, but methods to ensure compliance are, and that’s progress.