Regulatory bodies confident in industry’s ability to catch up on deferred maintenance

Maintenance and repair | Apr 12, 2023 | By Satair | 2 min read

As airlines and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) organisations consider the various ways to catch up on maintenance that was deferred during the pandemic, they should not count on any slack from regulatory bodies.

In statements provided to the Satair Knowledge Hub, both the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said they had no plans to relax regulations in light of the maintenance backlog.

“The FAA granted temporary exemptions to certain regulations during the pandemic but did not waive any maintenance requirements,” the FAA wrote. “Airlines and MROs are responsible for complying with all applicable FAA regulations.”

The EASA similarly said that the pandemic did not significantly impact regulatory oversight.

“In general, oversight during the COVID-19 pandemic continued to be performed by competent authorities, while adapting working methods and oversight programmes,” the agency wrote. “Oversight programmes were adjusted to increase or reduce the frequency and duration of inspections depending on the restrictions in place in the particular country, adapting as necessary remote and on-site activities.”

When asked if the agency would consider revising any regulations in light of the industry’s maintenance backlog, the EASA said that “the current regulation contains appropriate safety barriers on deferred maintenance.”

Not concerned

With maintenance that was deferred during the pandemic coming due at a time when the aviation industry is contending with a snarled supply chain and a looming labour shortage, there are concerns that airlines and MROs will have difficulty catching up on a backlog of maintenance projects. While both regulatory agencies made it clear that they have no direct influence on the supply chain or labour market, both said they tried to be flexible during the pandemic.

“The agency [FAA] worked with staff and students at Aviation Maintenance Technician Schools (AMTS) to allow greater flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the FAA wrote, directing the Knowledge Hub to its coronavirus guidance and resource page.

The EASA also stressed that it “does not have direct influence in providing resources for the aviation industry to perform their activities nor in the supply chain.”

However, the EASA did identify “supply chain challenges and labour shortages [...] as examples of hazards and mitigation strategies” in its COVID-19 return-to-service guidelines.

Neither agency expressed any particular concern with the industry’s ability to catch up on deferred maintenance projects.

“There is no compromise possible between the need for deferred maintenance and aviation safety, as deferment of maintenance tasks can only be done within prescribed requirements,” the EASA wrote. “Based on this EASA is not concerned that COVID-19 pandemic may have an adverse effect on deferred maintenance in terms of safety implications.”

For more on how the airlines and MROs are dealing with the backlog of deferred maintenance, be sure to read this month’s related articles:

Maintenance backlog causes surge in MRO demand, but is there capacity?

Deferred maintenance presents balancing act for airlines