Mandatory Service Bulletins?

By Bill O’Brien In an email from Joe Escobar, the editor of this magazine, he wrote: “There seems to be a trend for OEMs to cover their hind ends by incorporating language in their service bulletins that the service bulletin is an amendment to...

So until that ruling reversal happens what do we have here? We now have confusion at the very basic level of how a mechanic or air agency complies with Part 43 data requirements. Unless good policy on this subject comes out soon, there will be more lawsuits and more problems.

If I was a mechanic on the hangar floor trying to make a living and trying to stay out of court at the same time, I would do the following. Before performing an inspection on a Part 91 aircraft, I would prepare a list of all the manufacturer’s mandatory service bulletins and add YES/NO blocks along each service bulletin. Then I would contact the owner and explain that FAA policy does not require compliance with mandatory service bulletins.

Next, I would tell him that as the owner/operator, under section 91.403(a) General, he is primarily responsible for the airworthiness of the aircraft.

With that said, I would have the owner pick and choose all, some, or none of the mandatory service bulletins he wants me to do. I would make sure that his choices are in writing and he autographs the list. Then I would attach the paperwork to the service order. To be fair, I would tell him first to check with his insurance provider and see if they will pay if there was an accident and the aircraft had a good FAA annual but the mandatory service bulletins were not complied with.

This way the mechanic made a good faith effort to explain to the owner any problems with the aircraft and he can still meet the minimum standards in Part 43. I realize that my advice is not a perfect solution to this long-term problem; it is the best that I could come up with.

Let’s fix it!
After 30 plus years of chasing our tails don’t you think it is time to fix this mess? All three parties have wound up in court over this. The only people that win when the regulations are unreliable are the lawyers.

Obviously, this is a legal problem and it will take a legal solution to fix it. So the wet paper bag of responsibility must fall on the FAA General Council to make a final ruling on this issue. Ideally, they will come out with a NPRM where everyone will comment on the proposed rule and have their say and hopefully reason will prevail when the rule is signed by the Administrator. If the NPRM route is not viable then the next best thing that General Council could do is to put out an FAA order stating what documentation/data a mechanic must meet to comply with Part 43, and whether or not manufacturers can make service bulletins or other documentation mandatory.

Now let me tell you, in my other life, it has been my painful experience that FAA General Council is not going to fix this problem unless they are pushed. To push, contact: Kerry B. Long, FAA Chief Council at (202) 267-3222 or fax (202) 267-3227. Let him know how hard it is to make a living when the rules that define airworthiness are no longer clear and confusion reigns.

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