How to take to the skies with the right LOA [+ Free LOA Guide]

The LOA development and application process may seem daunting, especially when you’re doing it alone. With our free LOA Guide (Download Here), we provide an overview of what LOAs are, when you need them, and how straightforward the application process can be.

 

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What is an FAA Letter of Authorization (LOA)?

A Letter of Authorization (LOA) in aviation is a formal document approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Part 91 operators (known as Operations Specifications (OpSpecs) for Part 135) authorizing them to engage in specific flight activity. For example, when an operator wishes to use data link when flying outside of the United States, they would need to apply for a Data Link Communications LOA – otherwise known as an LOA A056. Always check which LOAs are required when planning your trip, especially when flying abroad.

Here are a few useful LOA facts:

  • LOAs do not expire, unless under exceptional circumstances. You do not need to renew your LOA, unless significant operational information changes, since LOAs are tied to the aircraft and operator.
  • For an LOA to be in effect, the indicated operator should have operational control of the flight.
  • Once you receive your approved LOA, there’s not much else to do – no follow up is required with your Flight Standards District Office, unless you’re looking to add an authorization or revise the information on an LOA.

For an overview of all LOAs and when you need them, take a look at our LOA Guide.

Applying for an LOA

The FAA is responsible for issuing LOAs to the rightful operator, or the entity with operational control over the aircraft for a particular flight. However, the operator is not necessarily the manager or owner of the aircraft. Where multiple operators use the same aircraft, separate LOAs would be required for each operator. 

When applying for an LOA, there are a few steps to take to ensure you have all the required materials:

  1. Make sure you have the right manual for the right LOA ready and up-to-date. Prepare the necessary operations procedures by either creating a standalone manual, or adding an appendix to an existing one.
  2. Gather all supporting documentation required by the FAA, such as training certificates, or company procedures, as well as a cover letter, along with potential FAA checklists, forms, or job aids.
  3. Once you have all documentation in place and have looked over all FAA instructions, the final step is submitting the application. Each FSDO (Flight Standards District Office) is different though, so you can expect additional instructions or feedback. Be meticulous in preparing all documentation to avoid your application being delayed or even denied. Keep in mind that we can support you throughout the entire LOA application process.

Application turnaround times vary according to which LOA you’ve applied for. Since it can take anywhere from three weeks to six months, plan your LOA application well before you plan to take to the skies.

Download your free LOA guide now to learn more about the application process, which LOAs are required when, as well as application turnaround times. Reach out to us for any questions you may have. Our LOA experts are here to help!

Flight Planning Codes Demystified [+ Free Guide]

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 10th, 2019. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

November 16, 2020

A flight plan is a critical part of a flight and it is essential to ensure that it’s properly prepared. Unfortunately,mistakes are often made when completing them, due to lack of knowledge or confusion about regulations. It’s important to ensure your flight plans are going to ATC with the right codes to help you avoid clearance changes and delays. Errors on sample flight plans are also a frequent reason why Letters of Authorization are either delayed or not approved.

Our experts have compiled a free Flight Planning Guide with equipment checklists for operators and their planning providers to make sure their flight plan meets ATC’s and the FAA’s expectations.

 

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Flight planning codes for LOA approval

When applying for a Letter of Authorization (LOA), there is a lot of paperwork to prepare and the FAA wants to make sure everything is in order. For applications for LOAs A056, Data Link Communications (CPDLC/ADS-C), and B036, Oceanic and Remote Operations (RNP-10/RNP-4/RNP-2), a sample flight plan is required.

Since you’re requesting Data Link and PBN authorization for the aircraft, the FAA will specifically be checking whether the flight planning codes listed in ICAO Items 10 and 18 are correct for the aircraft capabilities. 

Unfortunately, there are often errors in this section, which end up causing delays in the approval of LOAs. While flight planning codes may seem like just a bunch of letters and numbers on paper, errors can have real consequences when received by ATC, such as inadvertent flight penalties or the inability to receive an in-flight clearance. Operators and planning providers must share the responsibility in correctly filing flight planning codes. 

Your flight planning code checklist

We’ve put together a list of important form items operators can run through to check the most common Flight Plan Form errors.

For the full list of codes you need to consider, download the Flight Planning Guide

Item 10

List the navigation and communication equipment and capabilities of your aircraft.

Item 10a

  • Review your data link codes (J codes).
    These codes will include “J1” through “J7”
    Most DLC-capable aircraft are capable of VDL M2. If your aircraft is VDL M2 capable then you need to have the “J4” code listed.
    There has been some confusion regarding this code and TSO C-160/160a compliance. TSO compliance relates to determining domestic enroute capability which affects Item 18, but does not affect this item.
  • Determine if you should include the “P2” code.
    If the aircraft is PBCS capable, “P2” should be included. If the aircraft is not PBCS capable, do not include this code. (Note that if your aircraft has Honeywell FMSs that have not yet been updated with a proper latency timer fix, then you should NOT include “P2.”)
  • Check if you will list a COM/, NAV/, or DAT/ entry in item 18.
    If you will be listing an entry in item 18, then add a “Z” code here.
    You will always list an entry in item 18 and need a “Z” code if your aircraft is data link capable.

Item 10b

  • Ensure the transponder code is correct.
    For example, if the aircraft has 1090 MHz ADS-B installed, which is very common, one of the “extended squitter” codes should be used. The most common code is L, but your aircraft may differ.

Item 18

List additional technical equipment codes to clearly communicate your aircraft capabilities. There are a lot of codes and a specific order, so errors in this section are frequent. Depending on your flight planning provider and their system, you may only have to do this once, when you set up your aircraft profile.

  • Check the code sequence.
    Keep the codes in the preferred sequence as indicated in the FAA’s flight planning brochure to prevent truncation of your flight plan resulting in an incomplete flight plan.
  • Ensure applicable RNP-4 codes are listed.
    If the aircraft is RNP-4 capable, the PBN/ entry must include L1, in addition to “A1” for RNP-10.
  • All data link equipped aircraft must include a DAT/ entry.
    Aircraft capable of US domestic en route CPDLC, without any known “push-to-load” message errors, will typically use the code DAT/1FANSE2PDC.
    Aircraft capable of US domestic en route CPDLC, with known “push-to-load” message errors, will typically use the code DAT/1FANSER2PDC.
    Aircraft not capable of US domestic en route CPDLC, but FANS equipped, will typically use DAT/1FANS2PDC.
  • Make sure the SUR/ entry is correct.
    If ADS-B is installed, it should be SUR/260A or SUR/260B, depending on the equipment.
    If the aircraft is PBCS capable/authorized, make sure to add “RSP180” to this entry.
    If the aircraft is not PBCS capable/authorized, do not enter an RSP code.
  • Make sure there are REG/, SEL/, CODE/, and OPR/ entries.
    These are all operator/aircraft specific and reflect the aircraft registration, aircraft SELCAL code, aircraft hexadecimal Mode S code, and the operator’s name, respectively.

Item 19

Include items specific to survival equipment and information for search and rescue teams. This section of the form usually isn’t transmitted to air traffic control, but the FAA considers it mandatory for LOA approval.

Finally, although not related to flight planning codes, we have seen the FAA taking notice of the fuel information as well. Here are a few key items to check:

Fuel

Equal Time Point (ETP)

  • Ensure these calculations are included in the flight plan
    The equal time point is a point along the route from which it takes the same amount of time to return to the departure point as it would to continue to the destination.

Fuel Block: This is a detailed breakdown of fuel usage.

  • Ensure fuel listed meets requirements.
    ICAO specifies seven different fuel blocks that are to be present on the flight plan.
  • Check that your naming conventions are correct.
    Keep in mind that there are different naming conventions. For best results, it is recommended that you keep your fuel block as closely matched to ICAO’s terminology as possible.
    If you name your reserve fuel “reserve” or “RESV”, rename it to “contingency”, or “CONT”.
  • Check your back up fuel.
    Authorities want to see how you plan on using your fuel and if there is enough fuel planned in the event you would need to fly to an alternate airport.
    • Be sure to add 30 minutes of holding/final reserve fuel.
    • Be sure to add 5% contingency fuel (5% of the trip fuel).

Don’t forget to download our free Flight Planning Guide

Looking for more detail on each of these items? Our International Operations and Procedures Manual has expanded information with charts explaining each code in the appendices.

Contact us for any LOA support, and check out our free LOA Guide for more information.  

The Most Common Risks Operators Face Day to Day

Quick, accurate risk identification is essential for a successful operation. While some risks may be specific to a location, flight path, or aircraft, there are many that occur regularly and can be planned for ahead of time.

Through ARCrisk, ARC’s digital Risk Assessment Tool, flight departments log thousands of risk assessments every year. We’ve taken a look at the top 10 selected risk factors flight departments are facing and how to mitigate them. How do these compare to your top 10 factors and subsequent mitigations?

Read the full article and download the guide on ARC.

MEL, MMEL, NEF: What Are You Required to Have? [+ Free MEL Guide]

Are you required to have an MEL? Could your aircraft be grounded if you don’t have an NEF Program? MMELs, MELs, and NEFs (nonessential equipment and furnishing lists) allow you to operate even if some aircraft equipment and furnishings are inoperative.  Knowing which you need though can be confusing.

Did you know that the use of an MMEL as an MEL requires more than simply having the MMEL? Find out what other documents you need to have on board the aircraft. Download our free MEL guide for clear guidance on what you need, how to use it, and how to maintain it.

 

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MMEL Explained

Master Minimum Equipment List (MMEL): A master list of items on an aircraft that are allowed to be inoperative under specific conditions without impacting the safety of flight.

The MMEL is established by the aircraft manufacturer and approved by the national aviation authority. The goal of the document is to detail what equipment and furnishings can be inoperative without compromising safe operations. When developing the MMEL a number of factors are taken into consideration including:

  • Engineering and flight testing of failures
  • Effects of inoperative items on flight safety and the crew
  • Impact of multiple failures

MEL Explained

Minimum Equipment List (MEL): Based on the MMEL, it is an adapted list of items specific to a given aircraft/fleet aircraft that may be inoperative taking into consideration specific regulatory and operations limitations unique to each operator.

With an MEL, the operator can far more easily determine the conditions under which an aircraft can operate even with inoperative equipment, since it is more concise and customized to the aircraft/fleet and operator.

An MEL must also be approved by the aviation authority, but unlike an MMEL, which is designed to cover an entire aircraft series/models’ potential configurations, spanning years or even decades, an MEL can be fully customized to remove non-applicable items as well as add procedures. 

MEL customization is based on:

  • Aircraft type, variant, and serial number
  • Applicable regulations related to the type of operation, aircraft size and capacity, airworthiness directives, MMEL supplements, STCs, etc.; and special approvals granted to the operator (CAT II, PBN, RVSM, ETOPS…).

It is important to ensure that when customizing an MEL, it is never less restrictive than the MMEL.

What about nonessential equipment that cater to passenger convenience and entertainment? These are part of an Operator’s NEF Program instead.

NEF Explained

Nonessential Equipment and Furnishings Program (NEF): It is part of the MEL, but may be kept as a separate document. It outlines the steps operators may use to determine if a damaged, inoperative or missing item can be deemed as nonessential and therefore deferred.

If you have the LOA that allows you to use your MEL, or MMEL as an MEL for U.S. Part 91 operators, you may use an NEF Program to defer items deemed nonessential.

However, if you don’t have an NEF program, all inoperative, nonessential items need to be fixed before takeoff.

U.S. registered aircraft operating under Part 91 can obtain authorization to use the MMEL as an MEL, although it’s highly suggested that operators use this for domestic operations only.

MMEL as MEL (U.S. Registered, Part 91 Only)

If you want to use an MMEL as an MEL, there are however other documents you must have onboard in addition to the MMEL – refer to the MEL Guide for more information.

When using an MMEL as an MEL crews only have generic information available to them. Not all items included in the MMEL will be applicable to their specific aircraft or type of operation. It is important that crews be able to determine which deferrals are applicable to them.

  • A number of items in the MMEL will not indicate a specific number installed or number required. Crews will need to know which equipment is installed, how many units are installed, and the minimum number required based on applicable regulations and operational limitations.
  • The MMEL and M&O procedures will contain generic procedure statements. Crews will need separate guidance on where specific procedures can be found.
  • The MMEL will contain generic regulatory statements. Crews will need to know which regulations apply to each item and have copies of those regulations available to them in the aircraft.

Due to the generic nature of the MMEL, crews must be careful when selecting the appropriate deferral item. Some of the things they will want to consider are:

  • Modifications, Service Bulletins, STCs, etc.
  • Part numbers
  • Serial number ranges
  • Variant restrictions
  • Operating types
  • Installations of other equipment
  • Quantity of equipment installed

Creating an MEL that meets regulations and then keeping it up to date is very time consuming. Contact our team for advice and support. And don’t forget to download your complimentary MEL Guide:

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