[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 32 (Thursday, February 16, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 9163-9166]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-3692]



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Rules and Regulations
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Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 32 / Thursday, February 16, 2012 / 
Rules and Regulations

[[Page 9163]]



DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Aviation Administration

14 CFR Part 1

[Docket No. FAA-2012-0019; Amdt. No. 1-67]
RIN 2120-AK03


Removal of Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc Definitions

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Direct final rule; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The FAA is removing the definitions of Category IIIa, IIIb, 
and IIIc operations. The definitions are outdated because they are no 
longer used for aircraft certification or operational authorization. 
Removing the definitions will aid in international harmonization 
efforts, future landing minima reductions, and airspace system capacity 
improvements due to the implementation of performance based operations.

DATES: Effective April 16, 2012.
    Submit comments on or before March 19, 2012. If adverse comment is 
received, the FAA will publish a timely withdrawal in the Federal 
Register.

ADDRESSES: You may send comments identified by docket number FAA-2012-
0019 using any of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for sending your 
comments electronically.
     Mail: Send comments to Docket Operations, M-30; U.S. 
Department of Transportation (DOT), 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Room 
W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
     Hand Delivery or Courier: Take comments to Docket 
Operations in Room W12-140 of the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 
New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., 
Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
     Fax: Fax comments to Docket Operations at 202-493-2251.
    Privacy: The FAA will post all comments it receives, without 
change, to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal 
information the commenter provides. Using the search function of the 
docket web site, anyone can find and read the electronic form of all 
comments received into any FAA docket, including the name of the 
individual sending the comment (or signing the comment for an 
association, business, labor union, etc.). DOT's complete Privacy Act 
Statement can be found in the Federal Register published on April 11, 
2000 (65 FR 19477-19478), as well as at http://DocketsInfo.dot.gov.
    Docket: Background documents or comments received may be read at 
http://www.regulations.gov at any time. Follow the online instructions 
for accessing the docket or go to Docket Operations in Room W12-140 of 
the West Building Ground Floor at 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., 
Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, 
except Federal holidays.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For technical questions concerning 
this action, contact Bryant Welch, Flight Technologies and Procedures 
Division, Flight Operations Branch, AFS-410, Federal Aviation 
Administration, 470 L'Enfant Plaza, Suite 4102, Washington, DC 20024; 
telephone (202) 385-4539; email bryant.welch@faa.gov.
    For legal questions concerning this action, contact Nancy Sanchez, 
Office of the Chief Counsel, Regulations Division, AGC-200, Federal 
Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 
20591; telephone (202) 267-3073; email nancy.sanchez@faa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Authority for This Rulemaking

    The FAA's authority to issue rules on aviation safety is found in 
Title 49 of the United States Code. Subtitle I, Section 106 describes 
the authority of the FAA Administrator. Subtitle VII, Aviation 
Programs, describes in more detail the scope of the agency's authority.
    This rulemaking is promulgated under the authority described in 49 
U.S.C. 40103, which vests the Administrator with broad authority to 
prescribe regulations to assign the use of airspace necessary to ensure 
the safety of aircraft and the efficient use of airspace, and 49 U.S.C. 
44701(a)(5), which requires the Administrator to promulgate regulations 
and minimum standards for other practices, methods, and procedures 
necessary for safety in air commerce and national security.

The Direct Final Rule Procedure

    The FAA is adopting this direct final rule without prior notice and 
prior public comment because this rule is not controversial, is not 
expected to result in the receipt of an adverse comment, and a notice 
of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) is not necessary. The Category IIIa, 
IIIb, and IIIc operations definitions are outdated, unnecessary, and 
overly restrictive. The FAA does not believe we will receive an adverse 
comment because this rule will not affect any existing operator's 
aircraft certification or operational approval. The Regulatory Policies 
and Procedures of the Department of Transportation (DOT) (44 FR 1134) 
provide that to the maximum extent possible, operating administrations 
for the DOT should provide an opportunity for public comment on 
regulations issued without prior notice. Accordingly, the FAA invites 
interested persons to participate in this rulemaking by submitting 
written comments, data, or views. The agency also invites comments 
relating to the economic, environmental, energy, or federalism impacts 
that might result from adopting this final rule.
    Unless a written adverse or negative comment or a written notice of 
intent to submit an adverse or negative comment is received within the 
comment period, the regulation will become effective on the date 
specified above. After the close of the comment period, the FAA will 
publish a document in the Federal Register indicating that no adverse 
or negative comments were received and confirming the date on which the 
final rule will become effective. If the FAA does receive, within the 
comment period, an adverse or negative comment, or written notice of 
intent to submit such a comment, a document withdrawing the direct 
final rule will be published in the Federal Register, and

[[Page 9164]]

an NPRM may be published with a new comment period.
    See the ``Additional Information'' section for information on how 
to comment on this direct final rule and how the FAA will handle 
comments received. In addition, there is information on obtaining 
copies of rulemaking documents.

I. Overview of Final Rule

    The FAA is removing the definitions of Category IIIa, IIIb, and 
IIIc operations. Category III aircraft operations are precision 
approach and landing operations using an Instrument Landing System 
(ILS) conducted in very low visibility conditions. Currently, any 
approach and landing with a runway visual range (RVR) below 1000 feet 
is considered a Category III operation.\1\ The Category IIIa, IIIb, and 
IIIc operations definitions divide the general regime of Category III 
operations into specific RVR (visibility) bands. The definitions are 
outdated because they are no longer used for aircraft certification or 
operational authorization. Removing the Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc 
operations definitions will have no effect on existing Category III 
operators. The general Category III operation definition remains in 
effect, and is fully described in FAA orders and advisory circulars.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ Category III operational approvals and instrument procedures 
are described in terms of RVR. RVR is an instrumentally derived 
value, given in feet, that reflects seeing conditions on a runway, 
and is dependent on the use of high intensity runway lighting.
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II. Discussion of the Direct Final Rule

History

    The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) established 
the general concepts and definition of Category III operations in 1966 
in ICAO Annex 10, Aeronautical Communications and then added the 
definitions of Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc operations in 1967. These 
did not correspond exactly with current definitions, but the required 
RVR values are the same. The FAA issued the initial U.S. CAT IIIa 
criteria (Advisory Circular (AC) 120-28, Criteria for Approval of 
Category III Weather Minima for Takeoff, Landing, and Rollout) on 
September 5, 1969, to assist industry in developing a CAT IIIa (minimum 
RVR 700 feet) approach capability. These criteria included the basic 
concepts and minimum airborne equipment design requirements necessary 
for Category III operations, including the Fail Operational and Fail 
Passive control system concepts.\2\ The first U.S. aircraft 
certification for CAT IIIa occurred in 1971. This approval was based on 
the use of Fail Operational automatic landing systems.
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    \2\ Fail Operational means an airborne system with redundant 
operational capability down to touchdown and, if applicable, through 
rollout. Fail Passive means an automatic flight control system, 
which, upon occurrence of any single failure, should not cause: 
Significant displacement from the approach path, altitude loss, or 
significant out of trim condition.
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    In December 1971, the FAA revised the CAT IIIa criteria (AC 120-
28A) by establishing initial operational approval criteria. These 
criteria were based on a conservative approach for reducing operating 
minima. However, as industry gained operational experience, the FAA 
determined that the AC 120-28A criteria were unnecessarily stringent. 
In December 1976, the U.S. certificated the first airplane for Fail 
Passive CAT IIIa operations. This and following certifications were 
based on the use of Fail Operational or Fail Passive flight control 
systems, but some Aircraft Flight Manuals specified that the aircraft 
were suitable for Category IIIa operations.
    As operational experience and the capabilities of airborne 
equipment increased in CAT IIIa operations, the FAA and industry 
realized the need for CAT IIIb (RVR lower than 700 feet but no lower 
than 150 feet) criteria. The FAA issued the initial U.S. CAT IIIb 
criteria for RVR 600 operations in March 1984 (AC 120-28C). Aircraft 
certifications and operational approvals continued to be based on the 
capabilities of the aircraft's Fail Operational or Fail Passive flight 
control systems, but also continued to tie the certifications and 
approvals to the Category IIIa and IIIb definitions. CAT IIIc 
operations are conducted with RVR below 150 feet. The FAA has not 
developed the criteria for aircraft certification and operational 
approval for Category IIIc operations. Therefore, Category IIIc 
operations have not been authorized.
    The FAA codified the definitions of Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc 
operations in 1996. ICAO adopted the same definitions in ICAO Annex 6, 
Operation of Aircraft, in 1998. These definitions described the 
operational concepts in use at that time, and reflected existing 
technological capabilities and operational requirements. The 
definitions were used in certification and authorization documents. 
However, advances in aircraft technology and changes in the framework 
of operational approval have rendered the definitions obsolete for 
those purposes. While still used for discussion and as a shorthand way 
to describe different levels of Category III operations, the Category 
IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions are no longer used as a basis for 
aircraft certification or for issuance of operational authorizations.

Domestic Practice

    While AC 120-28D, issued in October 1999, references the 
definitions of Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc operations, the aircraft 
certification and operational approval documentation no longer uses 
these definitions. Under AC 120-28D, aircraft certifications are based 
solely on the demonstrated capabilities of the aircraft to land and 
rollout on the runway. For example, an aircraft with Fail Operational 
systems may be demonstrated to automatically land and rollout at RVR 
150 feet, and this capability is stated in the Aircraft Flight Manual. 
The operational approvals will be based on that Manual without 
reference to the Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions.

International Practice

    An effort is underway to rationalize and standardize Category III 
approach minima internationally. Aircraft certification standards are 
essentially the same worldwide with regard to the use of Fail 
Operational or Fail Passive system criteria to describe landing 
capabilities. Operational approval criteria are also based on the 
aircraft system capabilities, as in the United States. However, the 
publication of Category III landing minima for use on the approach are 
still tied to the Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions, both 
internationally and in the United States. The FAA is removing the CAT 
IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions as a first step toward the universal 
description of Category III operations and certification in terms 
currently used. The FAA presented a Working Paper to the ICAO 
Operations Council in October, 2011 requesting the deletion of the 
Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions from the ICAO Annexes. The 
FAA also presented a similar paper to the European Aviation Safety 
Agency (EASA)/FAA All Weather Operations Harmonization Working Group in 
October, 2011.

Landing Minima

    Category III approach charts depicting landing minima in terms of 
the Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions are now unnecessary. The 
Category III landing minima at a particular runway are based on the 
demonstrated qualities and capabilities of the ILS installed on that 
runway. The FAA tests every installed ILS in accordance with ICAO 
criteria,

[[Page 9165]]

and the results are classified and published to define the allowable 
landing minima. These ILS classifications are used directly in the 
determination of landing minima.
    Once this rule is effective, the FAA will amend FAA Orders defining 
publication of Category III minima by removing references to Category 
IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc operations. The amended Orders will directly 
relate the ILS system classification to the allowable published minima. 
The approach charts will show only the lowest possible Category III 
landing minima on a runway. For example, the approach chart for a 
landing at an airport would only state that the RVR is 600 and will not 
make any reference to the CAT IIIb operations definition. Operators 
will use the published minima in conjunction with their Operations 
Specifications to determine the lowest landing minima allowed to them, 
as is currently done.

Impact on Future Operations

    Future Category III operations may derive from new low visibility 
approach and landing technologies. The type of operations, landing 
minima and aircraft certification criteria for these future systems 
will not follow the Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions. Thus, 
removing the Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions will eliminate 
the need for future systems to comply with these outdated definitions.

III. 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. 
If the expected cost impact is so minimal that a proposed or final rule 
does not warrant a full evaluation, this order permits that a statement 
to that effect and the basis for it be included in the preamble if a 
full regulatory evaluation of the cost and benefits is not prepared. 
Such a determination has been made for this final rule.
    The FAA is removing the definitions of Category IIIa, IIIb, and 
IIIc operations. Since this final rule removes outdated and unnecessary 
definitions, the expected outcome will be a minimal impact with 
positive net benefits, and a regulatory evaluation was not prepared. 
The FAA requests comments with supporting justification about the FAA 
determination of minimal impact.
    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.

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 any agency determines that a rule is not expected to have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of entities, 
section 605(b) of 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.
    As noted above, the changes to Sec.  1.1 are cost relieving because 
the FAA is removing the definitions of Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc 
operations. The definitions are outdated and no longer used for 
aircraft certification or operational authorization. Therefore, as the 
FAA Acting Administrator, I certify that this rule will not have a 
significant economic 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 
is neither considered an unnecessary obstacle nor a promotion to 
international trade and therefore it will have no impact 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 $143.1 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.

[[Page 9166]]

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 direct final rule.

F. International Compatibility

    In keeping with U.S. obligations under the Convention on 
International Civil Aviation, it is FAA policy to conform to ICAO 
Standards and Recommended Practices to the maximum extent practicable. 
The FAA has reviewed the corresponding ICAO Standards and Recommended 
Practices and has identified the following difference. Once this rule 
is effective, the FAA's regulations will no longer include the 
definitions of Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc operations. This differs 
from ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices because ICAO's Annex 6 
and Annex 10 include the Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions. 
Until such time ICAO removes these definitions from its annexes, the 
FAA will be required to file a Difference with ICAO.

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 312f and involves no extraordinary 
circumstances.

IV. 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.

V. Additional Information

A. Comments Invited

    The FAA invites interested persons to participate in this 
rulemaking by submitting written comments, data, or views. The agency 
also invites comments relating to the economic, environmental, energy, 
or federalism impacts that might result from adopting the rulemaking 
action in this document. The most helpful comments reference a specific 
portion of the rulemaking action, explain the reason for any 
recommended change, and include supporting data. To ensure the docket 
does not contain duplicate comments, commenters should send only one 
copy of written comments, or if comments are filed electronically, 
commenters should submit only one time.
    The FAA will file in the docket all comments it receives, as well 
as a report summarizing each substantive public contact with FAA 
personnel concerning this rulemaking. Before acting on this rulemaking 
action, the FAA will consider all comments it receives on or before the 
closing date for comments. The FAA will consider comments filed after 
the comment period has closed if it is possible to do so without 
incurring expense or delay. The agency may change this rulemaking 
action in light of the comments it receives.

B. Availability of Rulemaking Documents

    An electronic copy of rulemaking documents may be obtained from the 
Internet by--
    1. Searching the Federal eRulemaking Portal (http://www.regulations.gov);
    2. Visiting the FAA's Regulations and Policies Web page at http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies; or
    3. Accessing the Government Printing Office's Web page at http://www.fdsys.gov.
    Copies may also be obtained by sending a request to the Federal 
Aviation Administration, Office of Rulemaking, ARM-1, 800 Independence 
Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591, or by calling (202) 267-9680. 
Commenters must identify the docket or amendment number of this 
rulemaking.
    All documents the FAA considered in developing this rulemaking 
action, including economic analyses and technical reports, may be 
accessed from the Internet through the Federal eRulemaking Portal 
referenced in item (1) above.

List of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 1

    Air transportation.

The Amendment

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

PART 1--DEFINITIONS AND ABBREVIATIONS

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

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40113, 44701.


0
2. Amend Sec.  1.1 by removing the definitions of ``Category IIIa 
operations,'' ``Category IIIb operations,'' and ``Category IIIc 
operations.''

    Issued in Washington, DC, on February 7, 2012.
Michael P. Huerta,
Acting Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2012-3692 Filed 2-15-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-13-P