[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 128 (Tuesday, July 3, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 39388-39389]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-16280]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

14 CFR Part 1

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


Removal of Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc Definitions; 
Confirmation of Effective Date and Response to Public Comments

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Direct final rule; confirmation of effective date and response 
to public comments.

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SUMMARY: This action confirms the effective date of the direct final 
rule published on February 16, 2012 (77 FR 9163), and responds to the 
comments received on that direct final rule. In that document, the FAA 
proposed to remove the definitions of Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc 
operations because the definitions are outdated and no longer used for 
aircraft certification or operational authorization.

DATES: The direct final rule becomes effective on June 12, 2012.

ADDRESSES: For information on where to obtain copies of rulemaking 
documents and other information related to this action, see ``How To 
Obtain Additional Information'' in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION 
section of this document.

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:

Background

    On February 7, 2012, the FAA issued Amendment No. 1-67, entitled 
``Removal of Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc Definitions'' (77 FR 9163). 
The direct final rule removes 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 The definitions are outdated because they are no 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. 
The FAA requested that comments on that rule be received on or before 
March 19, 2012.
    By letter dated March 16, 2012, the International Civil Aviation 
Organization (ICAO) requested that the FAA consider postponing the 
effective date of the rule until the rule is reviewed through an 
international process. ICAO stated that due to the short time frame, it 
was not in the position to understand the full implications of removing 
the Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions. ICAO further stated that 
additional time was necessary to adequately assess the impact of the 
Direct Final Rule and prepare comments.
    On April 13, 2012, the FAA reopened the comment period for the 
Direct Final Rule until May 14, 2012, and delayed the effective date 
from April 16, 2012 to June 12, 2012. A direct final rule takes effect 
on the specified date unless the FAA receives an adverse comment or 
notice of intent to file an adverse comment within the comment period. 
If adverse comments are received, the FAA will advise the public by 
publishing a document in the Federal Register before the effective date 
of the direct final rule. An adverse comment explains why a rule would 
be inappropriate or would be ineffective or unacceptable without a 
change, or may challenge the rule's underlying premise or approach. The 
FAA received eight comments on this rule. The FAA does not consider 
these comments to be adverse and is therefore publishing this 
Confirmation of Effective Date and Response to Public Comments in 
response to those comments.

Discussion of Comments

    The FAA received eight comments on this rule. Six of those comments 
were received during the original comment period, and two comments were 
received after the comment period reopened. ICAO, Boeing, and five 
individuals commented on this rule.
    On March 16, 2012, ICAO requested that the FAA delay the effective 
date of the rule so that it may conduct further review of this 
rulemaking. By letter dated May 14, 2012, ICAO submitted a follow up 
comment, stating that it has been clarified that ``removal of the 
Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions from 14 CFR part 1 will not 
impact relevant operational documents such as advisory circulars.'' 
Additionally, ICAO further stated that ``this initiative would have no 
impact on the recognition of any CAT III a, b, or c operational 
approval for international operators or United States-issued 
operational approvals which conform to Annex 6--Operation of Aircraft. 
On this basis, the International Civil Aviation Organization has no 
objection to the change * * *''
    Two individual commenters expressed support for this rulemaking. 
Boeing and three individual commenters expressed concern about various 
aspects of this rulemaking. Boeing submitted a comment during the 
original comment period. It stated that ``[w]ithout additional 
guidance, the removal of these categories' definitions will create 
confusion and inconsistencies in the establishment of operational 
authorizations, and leave subject to individual interpretation the low 
weather minima capabilities of the combined ground, space, and airborne 
systems.'' Boeing also noted that this rulemaking will require 
corresponding changes to other FAA regulations, orders and advisory 
circulars and will have substantial international ramifications. 
Additionally, Boeing suggested that ``the public be given the 
opportunity to review the proposed changes in their entirety and 
comment via the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) process.'' Boeing 
did not submit an additional comment during the reopened comment 
period.
    Several individual commenters expressed similar concerns. One 
commenter stated that ``[a] unilateral change of these standards by the 
United

[[Page 39389]]

States will negate the current global harmony of these landing 
definitions, and compel international flight crews to train and operate 
differently in the United States versus the rest of the world.'' This 
commenter further stated that ``* * * these changes should not be 
allowed to become effective until ICAO has changed the internationally 
recognized standard definitions, and all member states have concurred * 
* *'' Two anonymous commenters submitted nearly identical comments and 
stated that ``[t]he proposed definition relaxation will result in 
blending the Cat III operational and system performance distinctions, 
and appears to ignore the potential reduction in safety'' These 
individuals also commented that ``* * * fail-passive systems and flight 
crews trained to the fail-passive minimums and procedures will be 
permitted to fly to fail-operational minimums.''
    In response to Boeing's comment, the FAA notes that the removal of 
the Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions will not affect current 
FAA category III aircraft certifications or operator authorizations and 
will not require changes to other FAA regulations. Category III 
standards used in the United States will be completely unaffected by 
the removal of the Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions. The 
Category III operational concepts represented by the Category IIIa, 
IIIb, and IIIc definitions are used to develop the certification and 
authorization criteria and these criteria are then applied directly to 
individual aircraft certifications and operator authorizations. Thus, 
the certification of Category III aircraft systems under Advisory 
Circular (AC) 120-28D no longer directly refers to the Category IIIa, 
b, and c definitions contained in 14 CFR 1.1, but uses the 
airworthiness criteria in the AC and the certification statements refer 
to those criteria as well. Likewise, Operations Specification (OpSpec) 
C060, the operational authorization for Category III operators, no 
longer specifically uses the Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions, 
but rather ties authorized weather minima to the certification level of 
aircraft, as specified in the AC.
    In response to the individual comments, the FAA notes that AC 120-
28D uses the ICAO Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions in its 
development of Category III operational concepts. Category IIIa, IIIb, 
and IIIc definitions will continue to be used unless changed in the 
normal ICAO process. In its second comment, ICAO stated that this 
rulemaking would have no impact on the recognition of any CAT III a, b, 
or c operational approval for international operators or United States-
issued operational approvals which conform to Annex 6--Operation of 
Aircraft and therefore has no objection to the change. Thus, 
operational authorizations for all operators and aircraft certification 
through AC 120-28D and OpSpec C060 rely only upon the ICAO Category 
IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc definitions and will be completely unaffected by 
removing the definitions of Category IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc in the CFR. 
Additionally, the use of Fail Passive or Fail Operational Category III 
minima is not bound by the Category III definition. Category III minima 
are controlled completely by the operational authorization, OpSpec 
C060, under criteria contained in AC 120-28D. Since, as explained 
above, the AC criteria will be unaffected by removal of the sub-
definitions, CAT III minima authorized through the OpSpec will be 
unchanged.

Conclusion

    After consideration of the comments submitted in response to the 
direct final rule, the FAA has determined that no further rulemaking 
action is necessary. Therefore, Amendment 1-67 remains in effect.

How To Obtain Additional Information

A. Rulemaking Documents

    An electronic copy of a rulemaking document my be obtained by using 
the Internet--
    1. Search the Federal eRulemaking Portal (http://www.regulations.gov);
    2. Visit the FAA's Regulations and Policies Web page at http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/ or
    3. Access the Government Printing Office's Web page at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/index.html.
    Copies may also be obtained by sending a request (identified by 
notice, amendment, or docket number of this rulemaking) to the Federal 
Aviation Administration, Office of Rulemaking, ARM-1, 800 Independence 
Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591, or by calling (202) 267-9680.

B. Comments Submitted to the Docket

    Comments received may be viewed by going to http://www.regulations.gov and following the online instructions to search the 
docket number for this action. Anyone is able to search the electronic 
form of all comments received into any of the FAA's dockets by the name 
of the individual submitting the comment (or signing the comment, if 
submitted on behalf of an association, business, labor union, etc.).

C. Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

    The Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) of 
1996 requires FAA to comply with small entity requests for information 
or advice about compliance with statutes and regulations within its 
jurisdiction. A small entity with questions regarding this document, 
may contact its local FAA official, or the person listed under the FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT heading at the beginning of the preamble. 
To find out more about SBREFA on the Internet, visit http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/rulemaking/sbre_act/.

    Issued in Washington, DC on June 11, 2012.
John M. Allen,
Director, Flight Standards Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-16280 Filed 7-2-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-13-P