[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 230 (Thursday, November 29, 2012)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 71089-71096]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-28845]



Federal Aviation Administration

14 CFR Part 43

[Docket No. FAA-2011-0763; Amendment No. 43-45]
RIN 2120-AJ91

Pilot Loading of Aeronautical Database Updates

AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: This action amends the maintenance regulations by removing 
from the preventive maintenance category the task of updating databases 
used in self-contained, front-panel or pedestal-mounted navigation 
equipment. Further, we are adding text to the maintenance regulations 
that describes which equipment and, under which conditions, may have 
aeronautical databases updated by pilots as a non-maintenance function. 
Equipment which does not meet the criteria outlined in the new 
regulation will continue to be updated as a maintenance function. This 
revision will ensure that pilots using specified avionics equipment 
have the most current and accurate data and thereby increase aviation 

DATES: This rule becomes effective January 28, 2013.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For technical questions about this 
rulemaking action, contact Chris Parfitt, Flight Standards Service, 
Aircraft Maintenance Division--Avionics Maintenance Branch, AFS-360, 
Federal Aviation Administration, 950 L'Enfant Plaza SW., Washington, DC 
20024; telephone (202) 385-6398; facsimile (202) 385-6474; email 
[email protected].
    For legal questions about this action, contact Viola M. Pando, 
Office of the Chief Counsel, International Law, Legislation, and 
Regulations Division--Policy and Adjudication Branch, AGC-210, Federal 
Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Ave. SW., Washington DC 
20591; telephone (202) 493-5293; email [email protected].


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 
Subtitle VII, Part A, Subpart III, section 44701(a)(1), section 
44703(b)(1)(D), and section 44711(a)(2). In section 44701(a)(1), the 
FAA is charged with prescribing regulations and minimum standards in 
the interest of safety for the manner of servicing of aircraft 
appliances. In section 44703(b)(1)(D), the FAA is charged with 
specifying the capacity in which the holder of a certificate may serve 
as an airman with respect to an aircraft. Section 44711(a)(2) prohibits 
any person from serving in any capacity as an airman with respect to a 
civil aircraft or aircraft appliance used, or intended for use, in air 
commerce without an airman certificate authorizing the airman to serve 
in the capacity for which the certificate was issued. This regulation 
is within the scope of the cited authority.

I. Overview of the Final Rule

    This final rule allows all pilots operating aircraft equipped with 
certificated avionics equipment as described herein to perform updates 
of aeronautical databases. In 1996, the FAA updated the regulations 
defining preventive maintenance to include updating the navigation 
database of self-contained, front-panel or pedestal-mounted navigation 
equipment. This allowed the holder of a pilot certificate issued under 
part 61 to perform the database upload on any aircraft owned or 
operated by that pilot not used under parts 121, 129, or 135 (hereafter 
refered to as ``restricted operations''). The safety

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record established by pilots performing those database updates, the 
evolution of installed avionics equipment, and the expansion of 
database use in avionics equipment installed in all classes of 
certificated aircraft have prompted changes put into effect by this 
final rule.
    In both the 1996 final rule and the NPRM issued for this final 
rule, the term ``navigation database'' was used. To create 
harmonization with existing guidance (i.e., Advisory Circular AC 20-
153, Paragraph 7--Definitions), the term ``navigation database'' is 
changed to ``aeronautical database'' in the discussion of this final 
    This final rule recognizes the installed avionics equipment, the 
media upon which databases are stored, and the means by which databases 
are uploaded to the avionics equipment have evolved, and they will 
continue to do so. Accordingly, language such as ``* * * self-
contained, front-panel or pedestal-mounted navigation equipment * * *'' 
used in the 1996 final rule has been eliminated and replaced by 
conditions which will enable a pilot or operator to determine which 
equipment may have aeronautical databases updated by a pilot.

II. Background

    The navigation equipment most prevalent in 1996 can, for the sake 
of discussion, be divided into two categories.
    Large transport category aircraft were typically equipped with 
Flight Management Systems that were comprised of a Control Display Unit 
on the flight deck and a Flight Management Computer in the electronics 
bay. These systems were typically updated using a portable dataloader 
which was connected to the system via a remote connector. These systems 
required the trained skills and knowledge of authorized maintenance 
personnel to perform the update.
    Some avionics manufacturers had also been manufacturing systems 
that performed similar functions as those installed on the large 
transport aircraft, but those systems were small, self-contained units 
typically installed on the front panel or pedestal in the flight deck 
of smaller transport category and general aviation aircraft. These 
systems stored their database on removable media, such as a Secure 
Digital (SD) card, rather than in resident memory. The database update 
was accomplished by removing the SD card with the old database and 
replacing it with the SD card containing the new database.
    On May 1, 1996, the FAA issued regulations (61 FR 19498) 
categorizing pilot-performed updates of navigation databases as 
preventive maintenance. Pilots operating aircraft under parts 121, 129, 
and 135 by regulation are not permitted to perform preventive 
maintenance, and therefore, those pilots could not update navigation 
databases. The FAA determined at that time that navigation database 
updates presented some risk when performed by a pilot on a part 121, 
129, or 135 aircraft because they were typically equipped with more 
sophisticated equipment that required special tools (a portable 
dataloader) and skills to update. However, as a result of pilot-
performed updates, pilots of aircraft used in non-restricted operations 
received the benefit of having the most current aeronautical data 
available at all times. Much like this final rule, the 1996 final rule 
was the FAA's first step toward bringing the regulations up to date 
with technology.
    Since implementation of the 1996 final rule, the FAA regularly 
receives petitions for exemption from parts 121, 129, and 135 operators 
requesting relief from the requirement for authorized personnel to 
perform database updates. The FAA has considered the history of 
successful and easily-performed, incident-free pilot updates of 
databases established on aircraft used in non-restricted operations. As 
a result, the FAA has determined that safety-based reasons no longer 
exist to justify the requirements for authorized maintenance personnel 
to perform database updates on aircraft based upon a regulatory 
operating part rather than by the design of the installed avionics 

A. Statement of the Problem

    Since implementation of the 1996 final rule, installed avionics 
equipment has continued to evolve. Manufacturers developed systems for 
large transport category aircraft that make use of a permanently-
installed dataloader as part of the certificated system. These systems 
eliminate the need for use of special tools (portable dataloaders) to 
initiate a database update.
    Similar systems, and the self-contained systems discussed above, 
have come into prevalent use on smaller aircraft, from general aviation 
aircraft to business jets. Under current regulations, a pilot operating 
such an aircraft under part 91 may update databases, while a pilot of 
the same type of aircraft with the same installed avionics equipment 
operated under parts 121, 129, or 135 cannot update databases.
    At this time, newly-manufactured aircraft--such as the Boeing 787, 
Airbus A380, and others--are equipped with technology such as the 
Gatelink system which enables wireless updating of systems and 
databases. The current regulation does not accommodate such advances in 
technology; this final rule does. While the FAA recognizes the need to 
allow for future technologies, the FAA also recognizes its inability at 
this time to predict what those technologies may be. As such, 
certification of future systems must include evaluation of the methods, 
means, and materials required for performing aeronautical database 
updates. Such equipment must be designed and certified in a manner that 
allows clear determination by a pilot or operator of whether or not the 
system can be updated by a pilot under this final rule, or must be 
updated by authorized maintenance personnel.
    The current requirement for authorized personnel to perform 
updates, as it applies to avionics equipment described in this final 
rule, can no longer be justified based on safety concerns. It imposes 
unnecessary operating costs and operational inefficiencies on 
certificate holders conducting operations under parts 121, 129, and 
135. To comply with operating regulations, such as those under part 
91.503, these operators must ensure the required database is current. 
Updates are performed within a prescribed cycle to ensure currency, 
which is not always possible if the database expires when the aircraft 
is away from the home base or at a station where authorized maintenance 
personnel are not available. Operational costs are increased for the 
certificate holder whenever an aeronautical database expires while the 
aircraft is en route. If the aircraft is en route and located where 
authorized personnel are not available to perform the update, the 
operator has three options: (1) Operate the aircraft with an expired 
database, (2) reroute the aircraft to an authorized repair station, or 
(3) transport an authorized mechanic to the aircraft's location. Each 
of these options imposes additional operational costs in terms of 
operational restrictions, manpower and fuel consumption.
    If the aircraft is operated with an expired database, the pilot 
must adhere to operational restrictions, which automatically prohibits 
the use of certain routes within the National Airspace System, 
resulting in the use of a less direct route to the destination. If the 
aircraft is rerouted to a repair station, or authorized personnel are 
transported to the aircraft's location, the operator must absorb the 
costs of additional fuel consumption, and valuable time can be lost 
locating mechanics and transporting them to the aircraft. This is 
particularly true for

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operations conducted in remote areas where traveling greater distances 
to repair stations would be required. Exercising any one of the above-
noted options increases the pilot's workload by requiring the selection 
of alternate routes appropriate for an expired database. Air traffic 
controller workloads are also increased when the aircraft is re-routed 
because certain routes are only available to aircraft using the current 
database for any given period. At a minimum, the operator must 
facilitate the transport of authorized personnel to the location of the 
aircraft. Eliminating the requirement for approved personnel will 
increase operational efficiency for certificate holders and contribute 
to reduced air traffic control and pilot workloads.
    The stated problem is that the regulations have fallen behind 
technology and fail to address the pervasive use of installed avionics 
dependent upon aeronautical databases. This final rule acknowledges the 
evolution of technology by removing the task of pilot-performed updates 
of databases in certain installed avionics from the preventive 
maintenance regulations and by allowing pilot-performed updates of 
databases in accordance with new regulatory requirements. Differences 
between this final rule and its NPRM are the result of the 
recommendations made by commenters in response to the NPRM, which are 
discussed in greater detail below.
    A benefit from the final rule will be a reduction in the FAA's 
issuance of grants of exemption to parts 121, 129, and 135 certificate 
holders seeking relief from the requirement for authorized maintenance 
personnel to perform the updating task. The FAA's workload has been 
impacted by the regular receipt of petitions for exemption requesting 
that pilots be allowed to perform updates. The increased workload has 
impacted the FAA's ability to more efficiently process petitions for 
exemption. Delaying the issuance of a justified exemption, where safety 
is not compromised, forces eligible certificate holders to continue 
paying for unnecessary services by authorized personnel and bear the 
resulting operational inefficiencies and increased costs. This final 
rule resolves these issues by eliminating the requirement for parts 
121, 129, and 135 operators to use authorized personnel to update 
databases in the avionics equipment described herein.

B. Summary of the NPRM

    The FAA proposed to amend the part 43 maintenance regulations in 
the NPRM (76 FR 64859, October 19, 2011), by removing the task of 
updating databases used in self-contained, front-panel or pedestal-
mounted navigational equipment from the preventive maintenance 
category. The primary intended effect of the proposal was to enable 
regular use of the most current and accurate navigational data by 
allowing pilots using navigation units to perform database updates as 
they became due. Specific regulatory text was included to restrict the 
type of equipment eligible for pilot-performed updates, including 
requirements for the pilot to receive appropriate training and to 
verify the upload status to determine if minimum equipment list (MEL) 
restrictions need to be followed.

C. Differences Between NPRM and Final Rule

    The final rule represents a departure from the NPRM in terms of the 
description of the equipment eligible for pilot-performed updates. In 
addition, the regulatory text has been modified from the originally-
proposed text to permit pilot-performed updates on all certificated 
aircraft upon compliance with the certificate holder's procedures or 
the manufacturer's instructions. The changes from those proposed in the 
NPRM arose directly from suggestions made by commenters in response to 
the NPRM.

D. Overview of Comments Received

    The comment period for the NPRM closed on December 19, 2011. We 
received comments from 52 commenters raising a total of seven 
substantive issues. Commenters to the NPRM represented aviation 
associations, manufacturers of avionics equipment, aircraft operators, 
owners, and other individuals. The commenters, in general, expressed 
support for the proposed rule change. Some commenters supplied 
alternative recommendations, as discussed more fully in the 
``Discussion of the Final Rule'' below.
    The FAA received comments regarding the following proposals:
     Relocation of the requirement from 14 CFR part 43 to other 
CFR parts (since performing the updates would no longer be preventive 
     Recordkeeping requirements;
     Training for pilots;
     Technological advancements in data-transfer mechanisms and 
     Limitation on types of media that could be used for 
storing data;
     Inconsistent references to terrain databases; and
     Possible labor-management issues.

III. Discussion of the Final Rule

    The final rule is consistent with the NPRM to the extent that they 
both authorize pilot-performed updates on all certificated aircraft 
operating under parts 121, 129, and 135.
    Performing database updates on avionics systems that require tools 
or special equipment to accomplish the data transfer continues to be 
maintenance and requires that approved personnel perform the update.
    Upon issuance of this rule, all pilots operating appropriately-
equipped aircraft will be permitted to perform database updates in 
accordance with the certificate holder's or manufacturer's 
instructions. To comply with the requirements of 14 CFR 43.3(k)(iv) and 
(v), the certificate holder will be required to revise the existing 
procedures for updating the database in its manual. This information 
will replace or augment the operator's existing database updating 
procedures. Pilot-owners of general aviation aircraft will be required 
to include the manufacturer's instructions in their pilot's handbook or 
flight manual.
    Requirements and procedures for performing database updates are 
established by the aircraft or avionics manufacturer in coordination 
with the FAA at the time of certification for its use on the aircraft. 
If a manufacturer designs a system that an aircraft owner or operator 
would determine meets the criteria for pilot-performed updates of 
databases under the conditions of the rule but, due to system 
criticality or other factors, that system should only be updated by 
authorized maintenance personnel, the manufacturer must specify that 
requirement in its instructions for continued airworthiness (ICA). The 
ICAs that include these procedures will be accepted by the FAA.
    Under the final rule, if performing an update would require special 
access to installed equipment, or use of tools or special equipment, 
then the task must still be performed by authorized personnel under the 
provisions of part 43 as maintenance, and all pertinent maintenance 
regulations would apply. Operators may continue to use authorized 
maintenance personnel or facilities to perform the database updates 
even if the avionics meet the criteria of this rule.
    Commenters, including Garmin International (``Garmin'') and the 
Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA), stated that the proposal to 
remove database updates from the preventive maintenance category, 
without placing them in another category, would have

[[Page 71092]]

resulted in database updates becoming maintenance tasks. The commenters 
asserted that doing so would place more burdens on operators.
    We considered the commenters' concerns and determined that the 
problem they identify can be resolved by drafting Sec.  43.3(k) 
differently. We have removed paragraph (c)(32) of Appendix A to part 
43, which pertains to updating navigation databases of certain 
equipment installed on aircraft operated under non-restricted operating 
regulations. Updating aeronautical databases will not be regulated as 
maintenance on specified equipment in accordance with the requirements 
set forth under the new paragraph (k) in Sec.  43.3. Updating databases 
of other installed avionics has been, and will continue to be, 
conducted as maintenance under part 43.
    An anonymous commenter recommended that regulations relating to 
updating databases should be placed under the applicable operating 
parts (i.e., parts 121, 129, and 135) as preflight duties and should 
also require pilot training. In general, we rejected these 
recommendations because specified avionics systems are approved for use 
on all certificated aircraft regardless of the regulations under which 
the aircraft is operated. The intended effect of this rule change is to 
regulate pilot-performed database updates by installed avionics 
equipment type, rather than by the operating regulations under which 
flights are conducted.
    Several commenters, including Garmin, the Aircraft Electronics 
Association (AEA), NetJets, and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots 
Association (AOPA), stated that a definition for databases approved for 
pilot-performed updates would, in effect, create a barrier to the use 
of newer technology and would restrict the selection of databases 
approved for use during pilot-performed updates to those approved under 
the 1996 final rule, namely navigation and communication. AOPA 
suggested that the FAA should write the rule to accommodate later 
developments in database capabilities. These commenters recommended we 
adopt the definition of ``aeronautical database'' contained in AC 20-
153A. Along the same lines, one commenter recommended that the FAA 
should define ``[air traffic control] ATC navigational software data'' 
because today many databases include active terrain and obstacle 
    We agree. To address this concern, aeronautical information service 
databases will be authorized for use at the time of certification in 
accordance with guidance provided in AC 20-153A. The rule will not 
limit database use based on subject-matter descriptions, unlike the 
1996 final rule, which specifically addressed ATC navigational 
software, thereby limiting database use to that single subject matter.
    Universal Avionics, Honeywell International, Inc. (``Honeywell''), 
and Garmin stated that the description used in the NPRM for approved 
nav-systems would exclude the use of newer systems and data-transfer 
mechanisms such as those employing wireless technology. In the NPRM, we 
used the term ``nav-systems'' to describe aeronautical information 
avionics devices that are self-contained, front instrument panel-
mounted ATC navigational software database systems.
    The FAA agrees with these commenters. It is our intention for this 
rule to be equipment based and allow accommodation of emerging 
technology. Therefore, we have changed the description of the avionics 
devices that will be eligible for pilot-performed updates. The NPRM 
used the same description provided in the 1996 final rule, basically, 
``self-contained, front instrument panel-mounted and pedestal-mounted 
ATC navigational system databases--excluding those of automatic flight 
control systems, transponders, and microwave frequency distance 
measuring equipment (DME), and any updates that affect system operating 
software--that require no disassembly.'' In this final rule, we are 
approving pilot-performed updates of installed avionics if the 
equipment is approved by the Administrator and does not require the use 
of tools or special equipment. Data-transfer mechanisms, database 
storage media, and usable subject databases will be determined by the 
FAA and manufacturer at the time the device is certificated for use on 
the aircraft.
    These same commenters and some other commenters, expressed concern 
about system integrity in terms of how data would be protected with the 
newer avionics. This rule does not address the manufacture of avionics 
equipment or the development of usable databases, and, as such, 
protection of data integrity goes beyond the scope of this rule. 
Nonetheless, we note that new technologies approved for use on aircraft 
will be developed with attention to data integrity. Current technology 
uses databases which are developed in accordance with standards 
developed by Aeronautical Radio, Inc. (ARINC), which has been the world 
standard since 1975. These standards have proven effective in 
preserving data integrity. Moreover, protection for the integrity of 
the system and data will continue to be addressed under existing 
regulations by applicable design, production, installation, and 
certification approvals. In all cases, the FAA will work with the 
manufacturer to ensure the highest level of integrity for aeronautical 
data and data-transfer mechanisms.
    Another individual commenter stated that the phrase used in the 
NPRM ``files that are `non-corruptible' upon loading,'' is very 
confusing. We agree, the phrase ``files that are non-corruptible, upon 
loading'' is confusing and we have omitted this language from the final 
rule. To address the same issue with greater clarity, the final rule 
requires that to be eligible for pilot-performed updating, written 
procedures must be provided to the pilot performing the updates. Those 
procedures will identify the status verification function as defined by 
the system manufacturer.
    One individual commenter asked when updates can be installed and/or 
used. The commenter stated that whether disks are mailed to the user or 
downloaded, they are available about 10 days before the due dates. In 
this matter, the pilot-operator performs the update in accordance with 
the manufacturer's instructions, which should address any limitations, 
or contact the manufacturer if the instructions do not address the 
point to inquire whether loading the updated database prior to the 
effective date would negatively impact system performance.
    Several commenters, including AOPA and NetJets, were concerned 
about the requirement for the pilot to record each update in a 
maintenance logbook. AOPA expressed concern that the NPRM proposed a 
requirement that would create a second recordkeeping requirement and 
that the return to service maintenance entry required by Sec.  43.7 
would need to be completed by ``qualified personnel.'' NetJets 
recommended that the FAA specifically state in the final rule preamble 
that no aircraft maintenance entries or signatures are required when 
pilots perform aeronautical database updates. We have considered the 
comments and agree that it is unnecessary for the pilot to make a 
record of the update. Recordkeeping requirements for the pilot have 
been eliminated. The current regulations do not require pilot-owners to 
record each update in a maintenance logbook, and the absence of such a 
requirement has not been problematic.
    Honeywell and NetJets suggested that the FAA focus on the device 
used to provide aeronautical information services instead of how the 
device is installed (i.e., ``self-contained, front-

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instrument panel-mounted and pedestal-mounted''). The commenters were 
not as concerned with how the device was installed as with how the 
device received data uploads. This point was captured by one commenter 
who stated, ``[A]lthough most of the systems have cards that are 
accessible from the `front' of the unit, they [can] also have [a] 
system that updates by accessing data stored on a `medium' read by a 
Data Transfer Unit (DTU), and DTUs can be installed almost anywhere in 
the aircraft [sic].''
    We agree. Data-transfer mechanism designs are constantly evolving. 
In 1996, floppy disks inserted in portable dataloaders externally 
connected to the processor were commonly used to update databases. 
Today, floppy disks are still used in those installed systems that have 
not been replaced, but floppy disks are not used by currently-produced 
systems. Instead, we see the pervasive use of permanently installed 
data-transfer mechanisms. These mechanisms can include a slot for an SD 
card, an installed dataloader, or even wireless technology. Pilots will 
not be permitted to update databases of installed avionics that use 
portable dataloaders such as those used with the older navigational 
systems installed on large transport category aircraft.
    We have extended the rule to allow all certificated data-transfer 
mechanisms, but we specifically exclude means of data transfer that 
require physical connection to installed equipment such as portable 
dataloaders and laptops.
    The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) stated, ``When 
the FAA proposes new regulations affecting air carrier aircraft that 
require actions by authorized maintenance personnel, the agency does 
not consider as a benefit the fact that certificated mechanics and 
repair stations will get more work. Therefore doing the opposite, 
considering, as a cost, the loss of business when the FAA deems a 
requirement is no longer applicable or necessary, should not occur 
    The FAA concurs. The FAA merely noted that the rule could affect 
certain parties. The FAA did not state that such effects are a cost of 
the rule and did not ascribe any such cost to the final rule. It bears 
noting that this rule is permissive; thus, certificate holders are not 
required to approve pilot-performed updates on their operations.
    The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) submitted the only direct 
objection to this rulemaking for labor-management reasons. The 
objections are set forth below followed by our response.
    ALPA stated that because of the high level of safety achieved by 
commercial aviation, airline travel in the U.S. and Canada has been 
accomplished by the use of highly trained professionals and technical 
specialists performing their respective tasks in a coordinated and 
disciplined fashion. ALPA contends that the proposal would make airline 
pilots responsible for certain additional aircraft maintenance and 
maintenance recordation functions that should continue to be properly 
performed by maintenance and ground support personnel.
    We agree that this final rule will give operators the option to 
impose the additional responsibility to perform the update on pilots. 
However, the pilot-performed updates are allowed only on avionics 
equipment where the process of updating is simplified to a point where 
it can be performed quickly and easily. Significantly, database uploads 
that require the special skills or training or the use of tools or 
special equipment will continue to be a maintenance task that 
authorized personnel must perform.
    In addition, as discussed below, we have removed all recordkeeping 
requirements for pilots who perform these updates. We do not agree with 
implicit concern that allowing pilot-performed updates in any way 
diminishes safety. As we discussed earlier, at the certification level 
continuing measures will be taken to ensure that safety will not be 
compromised. Also, as stated earlier, the FAA has not received any 
incident reports stating that a pilot's failure to make a maintenance 
logbook entry for performing the database update has had any impact on 
aviation safety.
    ALPA also contends that the philosophical shift in airline 
operational tasks and definitions of employee roles, which this 
rulemaking represents, would give rise to a number of issues that would 
negatively impact airline pilots and justify rejection. ALPA stated 
airline operations depend on quick turn-arounds for on-time departures. 
Giving pilots an additional task in the form of updating navigational 
systems while they endeavor to achieve an on-time departure would 
create additional time pressure and could result in greater risks of 
errors in all cockpit duties.
    We note the final rule is permissive in nature. Operators have the 
option to require that maintenance personnel perform the database 
updates. However, we again emphasize that pilot-performed updates on 
applicable avionics equipment is a very simple task that will take only 
a couple minutes to perform, as the system is largely automated.
    ALPA also states that pilots would assume a new and additional 
responsibility for which no training is approved, including: (1) 
Obtaining the storage media from someone within the company in a timely 
fashion, (2) safeguarding the media while in their possession so that 
it is not lost, stolen, or damaged, (3) properly loading the updates 
into the nav-system, (4) recording the updates in maintenance logs and/
or other documents, and (5) returning the storage media to the 
appropriate individual within the company when the update is completed, 
as required.
    Whether training is required will be a determination made by the 
FAA, the operator, and the manufacturer. In any case, minimal training 
will be necessary because of the nature of the equipment, and the 
pilot's current familiarity with the system. Media-storage issues have 
not changed and will continue to be the certificate holder's 
responsibility as the subscriber to the database service, and thus, the 
operator would be responsible for providing the updates to the pilot. 
Protection of the data would not require special skills or action 
because data is stored on media similar to an SD card or flash drive. 
Further, post-update security is not an issue because the data on the 
storage media would have no useable value. Finally, we have eliminated 
the proposal to have recordkeeping requirements. We therefore believe 
the concerns raised by ALPA have all been addressed.
    ALPA states that provisions in current collective-bargaining 
agreements could make the assumption of the responsibility for updating 
aeronautical data impossible for pilots at a particular carrier, as 
updating may not be included within the scope of pilots' 
responsibilities. At a minimum, this proposal could result in labor-
management contention.
    We do not believe the FAA's role is to intervene between 
management, labor, and collective-bargaining units on issues arising 
from a permissive rulemaking. Should issues arise related to compliance 
or concerning FAA expectations with this final rule, we would provide 
guidance or legal interpretation upon request.

IV. Regulatory Notices and Analyses

A. Regulatory Evaluation

    Changes to Federal regulations must undergo several economic 
analyses. First, Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 direct that each 
Federal agency shall propose or adopt a regulation only upon a reasoned 
determination that the benefits of the intended regulation

[[Page 71094]]

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, this 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 rule.
    In conducting these analyses, the FAA determined that this rule: 
(1) Has benefits that justify its costs, (2) is not an economically 
``significant regulatory action'' as defined in section 3(f) of 
Executive Order 12866, (3) is not ``significant'' as defined in DOT's 
Regulatory Policies and Procedures, (4) will not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, (5) will not 
create unnecessary obstacles to the foreign commerce of the United 
States, and (6) will not impose an unfunded mandate on state, local, or 
tribal governments, or on the private sector by exceeding the threshold 
identified above.
    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 allows that a statement 
to that effect and the basis for it to be included in the preamble if a 
full regulatory evaluation of the cost and benefits is not prepared. 
Such a determination has been made on this rule for the following 
    The rule is permissive in nature and will provide relief to all 
operators of certificated aircraft who elect to allow pilot-performed 
updates, rather than to pay for services of an authorized repair 
station or mechanic. The rule eliminates the requirement that only 
repair stations and authorized mechanics can perform database updates 
and allows pilots to perform the update on avionics equipment approved 
by the Administrator and described herein. Allowing pilots to perform 
the updates will save the operator the expense of either making a 
positioning flight to a repair station or transporting an authorized 
mechanic to the aircraft to perform the update. Public comments on the 
proposed rule supported this change and there were no contrary comments 
to the economic analysis in the Regulatory Evaluation.
    Using the cost information supplied by commenters, who provided the 
only available data for assessing the impact of this rule, the FAA has 
determined that this rule is not a ``significant regulatory action'' as 
defined in section 3(f) of Executive Order 12866, and this rule is not 
``significant'' as defined in DOT's Regulatory Policies and Procedures.

B. Total Estimated Benefits and Costs of This Final Rule

    The two benefits from this rule will arise from increased safety 
and reduced operational costs. The primary safety benefit is that 
affected aircraft operators will no longer be forced to occasionally 
operate aircraft without the most current aeronautical database when 
the database expires and authorized personnel are not available to 
perform the update. A corollary safety benefit is a reduction in 
workloads for pilots and air traffic controllers, which accrues a 
benefit to the aircraft operator and to air traffic control. As 
previously discussed, the use of avionics systems contributes to 
increased safety in four respects: (1) By providing the pilot with 
accurate aeronautical information; (2) by increasing access to airports 
under less than optimal flight conditions; (3) by increasing workforce 
efficiency for both the aircraft pilot and air traffic control; and (4) 
by generating more efficient use of the airspace system.
    Avionics systems databases are generally updated every 28 days, 
although some are updated as often as every 14 days. The current 
regulations allow only pilots of aircraft operated under non-restricted 
operating regulations to perform the database update; all other 
operators (i.e. those operating under parts 121, 129 and 135) must have 
an authorized repair station or mechanic perform the update. This 
requirement creates a problem for operations conducted under part 121, 
129, 135 and other restricted operators if the database expires when 
the aircraft is en route or at a remote location and authorized 
personnel are not available to perform the update. If the database 
expires, the aircraft operator/pilot has one of three choices: (1) Fly 
the aircraft to a location where authorized personnel are available; 
(2) fly authorized personnel to the aircraft; or (3) operate the 
aircraft under MEL restrictions, which limits the pilot's options in 
terms of routes flown and airport accessibility. Each of the three 
options results in added operational costs in terms of man-hours and 
additional and increased fuel costs. Reducing the number of unnecessary 
aircraft operations conducted due to an expired database eliminates 
increased pilot and ATC workloads associated with re-vectoring flights 
or transporting authorized personnel to perform updates.
    One commenter reported that its airplanes averaged 1.25 operations 
a year per aircraft under MEL because the aeronautical database upload 
had to be deferred until the aircraft could reach a repair station. 
Another commenter reported that its fleet of 12 aircraft had to operate 
between 10 and 15 times a year flying under MEL because certificated 
maintenance personnel were unavailable at the remote location where the 
aircraft was when the aeronautical database needed to be updated.
    Pilots of non-restricted operations have been performing database 
updates on these types of avionics systems since 1996 and the FAA knows 
of no accidents or incidents attributable to errors by these pilots 
from performing these updates. Today, aircraft operated under all parts 
of the regulations are regularly equipped with avionics systems whose 
database update procedures are similar to those used by pilots who 
perform database updates on aircraft in non-restricted operations. The 
ease of pilot-performed updates combined with the absence of any 
accidents or incidents provides ample evidence that all pilots flying 
aircraft equipped with appropriate avionics devices should be permitted 
to perform updates. Consequently, allowing pilots of restricted 
operations to perform updates will reduce the numbers of route-
restricted flights required by reason of an expired database.
    The second benefit will be cost savings to the operators. Allowing 
their pilots to update aeronautical databases eliminates the costs 
associated with paying authorized personnel to perform the task and the 
costs of a positioning flight to a repair station, or transporting a 
certificated mechanic to the aircraft to install the update. In 
practice, the costs of having authorized personnel perform database 
updates are minimal because the task would be performed concurrent with 
a number or other tasks as part of a maintenance service. Even when 
done specifically to update the database, the

[[Page 71095]]

cost is relatively small. This conclusion is supported by reports 
received from commenters stating that the rule would generate such cost 
savings. However, only one commenter provided an estimate of the cost 
of a positioning flight, which was an average of $7,700 from the 
components of crew costs, fuel costs, and lost revenue. In a clarifying 
comment to the FAA, that commenter reported that during 2011 its 
airplanes incurred $514,333 in direct crew costs and fuel costs for 
positioning flights solely to update aeronautical databases. This 
commenter also reported that its 600 aircraft made 218 of these 
positioning flights, which is an average of about 0.36 positioning 
flights per year per aircraft. Thus, its reported average cost per 
positioning flight was about $2,360.
    In the Initial Regulatory Evaluation for the proposed rule, the FAA 
estimated that the cost of a single positioning flight ranges between 
$1,000 and $2,500 and that the cost to transport a certified mechanic 
to an aircraft is similar. The FAA has determined that its initial 
estimate was reasonable. However, the FAA cannot use one commenter's 
statement to quantify a total societal cost-savings from this rule for 
two reasons. The first reason is that this operator's experiences may 
not be typical of all the operators that will be affected by the rule. 
The second reason is that the FAA does not know the number of existing 
aircraft or the numbers of future aircraft that will have aeronautical 
database systems that will be affected by the rule. Nevertheless, given 
the number of commenters who did state that they would receive cost 
savings from the rule, the FAA concludes that the rule will result in 
reduced man-hours and fuel costs by reducing the numbers of positioning 
flights required solely to update the databases.
    A third benefit is that the final rule, which will allow all pilots 
operating appropriately equipped aircraft to perform database updates, 
which will also pave the way for future technologies. Certification 
regulations make approval of new devices contingent upon conforming to 
established criteria for approved equipment, which imparts flexibility 
allowing the use of newer devices.
    In the Initial Regulatory Evaluation, the FAA determined that the 
proposed rule would impose minimal costs because it would allow a pilot 
to upload the current database; a task that currently imposes an 
additional cost on the operator who must have the update performed by a 
certificated mechanic or in a repair station. The comments received in 
response to this issue support the FAA's determination.

C. Who is affected by this rule?

    This rule affects all operators of certificated aircraft equipped 
with installed avionics that: (1) Have a pilot accessible data transfer 
mechanism permanently installed on the flight deck; (2) can be updated 
without the use of tools, and (3) is programmed to provide a data load 
status. This rule will also affect maintenance personnel and repair 
stations that parts 121, 129, and 135 operators were previously 
required to pay for updating databases.

D. Sources of Information

    The primary sources of information were the commenters, which 
included part 135 operators, part 121 operators, aircraft electronics 
manufacturers, an aircraft electronics association representative, a 
pilot union, and several individuals.

E. 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 final 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 an initial regulatory flexibility analysis as described in the 
RFA. However, if an agency determines that a final rule will not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, 
section 605(b) of the 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.
    The net economic impact of this rule will provide regulatory cost 
relief. As this rule will reduce costs for some small entities, the 
acting FAA Administrator certifies that this rule will not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.

F. 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 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. We assessed the 
potential effect of this rule and determined that it will not 
constitute an obstacle to the foreign commerce of the United States, 
and, thus, is consistent with the Trade Assessments Act.

G. 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 
(adjusted annually for inflation with the base year 1995) 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 rule does not contain 
such a mandate; therefore, the requirements of Title II do not apply.

H. Paperwork Reduction Act

    The Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) 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. We have 
determined that there is no information collection burden associated 
with this final rule.

I. International Compatibility and Cooperation

    In keeping with U.S. obligations under the Convention on 
International Civil Aviation, it is FAA policy to

[[Page 71096]]

comply with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Standards 
and Recommended Practices to the maximum extent practicable. The FAA 
has reviewed the corresponding ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices 
and has identified no differences with these regulations.
    Executive Order 13609, Promoting International Regulatory 
Cooperation, promotes international regulatory cooperation to meet 
shared challenges involving health, safety, labor, security, 
environmental, and other issues and to reduce, eliminate, or prevent 
unnecessary differences in regulatory requirements. The FAA has 
analyzed this action under the policies and agency responsibilities of 
Executive Order 13609, and has determined that this action would have 
no effect on international regulatory cooperation.

J. 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 final rulemaking action qualifies for the categorical 
exclusion identified in paragraph 312(f) of the Order and involves no 
extraordinary circumstances.

K. Regulations Affecting Intrastate Aviation in Alaska

    Section 1205 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 1996 (110 Stat. 
3213) requires the Administrator, when modifying regulations in 14 CFR 
in a manner affecting intrastate aviation in Alaska, to consider the 
extent to which Alaska is not served by transportation modes other than 
aviation, and to establish appropriate regulatory distinctions.
    The final rule would also provide an incremental benefit to 
aircraft providing air transportation to remote parts of Alaska by 
relieving pilots from having to fly with operational restrictions when 
the database expires.

V. Executive Order Determinations

A. Executive Order 12866

    See the ``Regulatory Evaluation'' discussion in the ``Regulatory 
Notices and Analyses'' section elsewhere in this preamble.

B. Executive Order 13132, Federalism

    The FAA analyzed this final rule under the principles and criteria 
of Executive Order 13132, Federalism. We determined that this action 
will not have a substantial direct effect on the States, or the 
relationship between the national government and the States, or on the 
distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of 
government and, therefore, will not have federalism implications.

C. Executive Order 13211, Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy 
Supply, Distribution, or Use

    The FAA has analyzed this final rule under Executive Order 13211, 
Actions Concerning Regulations that Significantly Affect Energy Supply, 
Distribution, or Use (May 18, 2001). We have determined that it is not 
a ``significant regulatory action'' under the executive order because 
it is not a ``significant regulatory action'' under Executive Order 
12866, and it is not likely to have a significant adverse effect on the 
supply, distribution, or use of energy.

VI. 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/.

List of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 43

    Aircraft, Aviation safety, Reporting and recordkeeping 

The Amendments

    In consideration of the foregoing, the Federal Aviation 
Administration amends chapter 1 of Title 14, Code of Federal 
Regulations, as follows:


1. The authority citation for part 43 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40113, 44701, 44703, 44705, 44707, 
44711, 44713, 44717, 44725.

2. Amend Sec.  43.3 by adding new paragraph (k) to read as follows:

Sec.  43.3  Persons authorized to perform maintenance, preventive 
maintenance, rebuilding, and alterations.

* * * * *
    (k) Updates of databases in installed avionics meeting the 
conditions of this paragraph are not considered maintenance and may be 
performed by pilots provided:
    (1) The database upload is:
    (i) Initiated from the flight deck;
    (ii) Performed without disassembling the avionics unit; and
    (iii) Performed without the use of tools and/or special equipment.
    (2) The pilot must comply with the certificate holder's procedures 
or the manufacturer's instructions.
    (3) The holder of operating certificates must make available 
written procedures consistent with manufacturer's instructions to the 
pilot that describe how to:
    (i) Perform the database update; and
    (ii) Determine the status of the data upload.

3. Amend Appendix A to part 43 by removing paragraph (c)(32).

    Issued in Washington, DC, on October 12, 2012.
Michael P. Huerta,
Acting Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2012-28845 Filed 11-28-12; 8:45 am]