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PLANE TALK


WORKING WITH THE FAA- ONE CANADIAN’S VIEW


BY ROGER BEEBE


I have always wanted to sit down and write about some of the essential cross-border work that goes on behind the scenes – the technical scenes, not the political scenes that is. When I was young it never occurred to me to think about the overall system or the infrastructure involved in any modern system of transportation. Past societies had their bureaucratic systems as well, but obviously not as extensive as in today’s world. My enduring love of history instilled in me by my mother, along with a remarkable high school history teacher, led me to question the origins of such matters. It was most interesting to learn that ship inspections and cargo inspections are thousands of years old, as is negligence and sometimes corruption. Modern explorers have found sunken ships intact on the seabed where the cargo does not match the load manifests. Some time ago I was scheduled to attend a union/management grievance meeting. Before the meeting I researched the history of grievances. I found an example from the Roman army dating back some two thousand years. That surprised me and my union colleagues, who thought that grievance issues might have been around for the past two hundred years or so. Other than technology there is not much new in human performance. The RCAF had its own inspection systems and I never gave much thought to their origins. I was an enlisted man and at a junior rank.


My interests then were getting the work done and then it was off to the airmen’s club. However, there was the occasional HQ inspection and tactical evaluations from which one could glean something about the bigger system we worked in. Once I arrived in civilian employ I soon learned that there were certifi cations of the operators and the licencing of various occupations. Occasionally I saw federal inspectors walking around the hangar. I was never interviewed by any of these inspectors; something that to this day still intrigues me. Once I was employed doing regulatory inspections and audits we routinely interviewed junior staff back as early as 1975. When I was in the air carrier


world I understood there were rules and that those rules were applied by all states. The fi rst indication was the diff erent aircraft registrations. Working on international airports, I was involved with many European and American registered aircraft. While I was employed at the Edmonton, Alberta hangar we had an American registered DC-8 in for some maintenance issues, which introduced me to the FARs. We also had Boeing and Pratt and Whitney fi eld representatives based along with us accomplishing the same thing. One quickly noticed the large numbers of American tagged parts, tagged with FAA tags that we consumed. It was a transformation for me to see a world outside of the self-contained military system.


FIRST CONTACTS My very fi rst cross-border work with FAA was in the early days of the ELTs. I was assigned to the avionics section in the Toronto-based headquarters of the Ontario Region of the Ministry of Transport – the federal regulator of civil aviation in Canada. The Ministry of Transport department later became Transport Canada. There was a problem with lithium batteries exploding in the units, some of which were in cockpits – not a good situation for the pilot. I crossed over to Syracuse, New York and met the FAA avionics inspector. We proceeded to an ELT manufacturer and did some work on the environmental testing and looked at the technical problems. I was very impressed by the inspector and his knowledge, which gave me a good ‘fi rst’ impression of the FAA. On the social side, the gentleman warned me not to take a government car to the liquor store as someone will note that and inform the powers that be. I heeded his excellent advice. On my next trip, I went into New York state and visited some American avionics shops approved by the FAA as repair stations. This gave me a good understanding of the US repair station approval system. Later, I began attending aviation conferences in the USA, listened to FAA presentations and met more of its personnel. I was always impressed by their multiple credentials, professionalism and helpfulness.


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