Avionics News January 2017 - 61
SAFETY ASSURANCE SYSTEM
Continued from page 53
organization, you might discover some additional controls
are needed to meet the intent of SAS.
With all this work ahead, should you even bother with
The FAA originally claimed SAS would only apply to
new certificate applicants and then to current certificate
holders as an oversight system going forward. However,
experience in the field indicates not all inspectors are
approaching SAS the same way. Some inspectors are
requiring existing certificate holders to update or rewrite
manuals to be "SAS compliant." It seems "going forward"
The challenge is in the "compliant" aspect. It's important
to note SAS is not found in any regulation. SAS is
inspector guidance - not meant to be requirements for
In Peri's recent column, he emphasized that the AEA
"fully supports the fundamental safety goals of the FAA's
Safety Assurance System. What concerns the association
is the change in the 'acceptable means of compliance'
without due process."
Peri's point is spot on - ask an inspector which regulation
you are violating by not being "SAS compliant," and you'll
get silence. There is no requirement to comply with SAS.
"Inspectors sometimes don't know, or like to pretend
SAS is a regulatory requirement," said Kent Jackson
founding partner of Jackson & Wade in Kansas City and
Washington, D.C. "There's no regulation requiring a
certificated entity to comply with SAS, but sometimes you
have to pick your battles."
If you're a new certificate applicant or an existing
certificate holder, you might be told you need to "comply
with SAS." In some cases, the inspector might drop a
tome of data collection tool checklists on your desk and
tell you to complete them. In this case, you have a few
options. You can say no. Technically, the DCTs are the
inspector's responsibility, not yours. But it might behoove
you to complete the DCTs for your inspector.
"There's value in completing the DCTs yourself,"
Jackson said. "For one, you get an opportunity to tell
the agency if and how you meet the requirements of the
DCTs. Basically, it's a chance to tell your inspector how
great you are. Just don't lie. Lying to the government
can put you in jail. Second, if you don't meet some of
the requirements, you have an opportunity to do some
homework before returning the DCTs to your inspector."
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete
these checklists though. A week will not be long enough,
unless you stop doing your normal daily activities and
only focus on these. You are doing your inspector's
work at this point, so don't hesitate to tell them you need
several weeks or even longer to go through the entire
stack of paper. After all, you want to do a thorough,
accurate job, not just wing it. Some inspectors are
approaching this more realistically by completing a
DCT checklist or two per visit with a certificate holder.
That approach certainly spreads the workload out, but
it doesn't necessarily decrease your overall energy and
resource output to comply with them.
If you are adamantly opposed to doing the work
necessary for SAS, you could try to push back. As
discussed above, SAS is not required by any regulation
or statute. Like any disagreement with your inspector,
you can raise your concerns with the FSDO manager or
through a consistency and standardization initiative (the
old customer service initiative) report, but you're unlikely
to get a satisfactory response through those avenues. The
bottom line is that this is the FAA's way of overseeing
certificate holders now. Pushing off compliance by
running with the "this isn't regulatory" argument
probably won't work well for you in the long run.
In fact, "complying" voluntarily could be beneficial, as
you might identify and mitigate safety risk and instances
of regulatory noncompliance before a catastrophic or
Peri's recent column pointed to another possible benefit
of SAS: "to reduce bureaucracy for certificate holders
who are at low risk, thereby allowing increased oversight
for those who need it."
Put simply, "SAS-compliant" organizations might be
viewed by the FAA as needing less active oversight so
agency resources can be used elsewhere. This might result
in fewer FAA visits, assuming you continue working
within your "SAS-compliant" policies and procedures.
SAS seems to be here to stay. The concept itself is
a sound one with potential benefits for both the FAA
and industry, but don't allow yourself to be intimidated
into completely rewriting your manuals or immediately
producing new documentation to "comply." If an
inspector claims this is the only way to continue as a
certificated entity, show them how you mitigate risk
now and agree to a realistic path to SAS on a reasonable