Part 135: Nine or Less?

FAA has suspended compliance with Handbook Bulletin HBAW 04-06, with the issuance of Revision E to the bulletin.


I am pleased to say that the FAA has suspended compliance with Handbook Bulletin HBAW 04-06, with the issuance of Revision E to the bulletin. This Handbook Bulletin deals primarily with the meaning of the term “type certificated” when used in 14 CFR Part 135.411. Part 135.411 is the air charter rule defining the difference between aircraft required to be maintained in accordance with a maintenance manual written by the air carrier, submitted to the FAA for approval, and approved by the FAA (See Sec. 135.415, 135.416, 135.417, and 135.423 through 135.443), fondly referred to as “10 or more” vs. the aircraft that is required to be maintained in accordance with the maintenance manual provided by the aircraft manufacturer, “nine or less.” The rule reads as follows:

14 CFR Part 135.411
Applicability.

(1) Aircraft that are type certificated for a passenger seating configuration, excluding any pilot seat, of nine seats or less, shall be maintained under Parts 91 and 43 of this chapter and Sec. 135.415, 135.416, 135.417, 135.421, and 135.422. An approved aircraft inspection program may be used under Sec. 135.419.

(2) Aircraft that are type certificated for a passenger seating configuration, excluding any pilot seat, of 10 seats or more, shall be maintained under a maintenance program in Sec. 135.415, 135.416, 135.417, and 135.423 through 135.443.

(b) A certificate holder who is not otherwise required, may elect to maintain its aircraft under paragraph (a)(2) of this section.

(c) Single engine aircraft used in passenger-carrying IFR operations shall also be maintained in accordance with Sec. 135.421 (c), (d), and (e).

In Handbook Bulletin HBAW 04-06E, the FAA has “clarified” its interpretation of the term “type certificated” as it pertains to Part 135.411 as well as furthered that cause toward elimination of field approvals for major alterations.

Excerpt from Handbook Bulletin HBAW 04-06E: Why is this bulletin being released? The Aircraft Maintenance Division, AFS-300, has determined that there are inconsistencies between different Flight Standards District Offices (FSDO) as to the placement of certain aircraft under the applicability of § 135.411(a)(1) vs. § 135.411(a)(2). These inconsistencies are from the lack of clarity in current guidance as it pertains to Supplemental Type Certificates (STC) or “other approved data” that reduce/restrict the seating capacity for aircraft to nine or less passenger seats.

For as long as I can remember the determining factor for whether an aircraft was a nine or less aircraft or a 10 or more aircraft was the number of seats within the aircraft eligible to be occupied during takeoff and landing. Even though the new Handbook Bulletin agrees with this over simplification:

Excerpt from Handbook Bulletin HBAW 04-06E: … One method to verify this is by the simple counting of seats installed in the aircraft …

The question elevated by this bulletin is that of how the seating configuration was approved for that aircraft. Part 135.411 is one of the few rules that, in my experience, was actually viewed the same at nearly all field offices, regional offices, and at headquarters in Washington, until recent years. Then something happened.

As I mentioned earlier, there has been, and continues to be, a huge push by the FAA to reduce or completely eliminate the field approval process. Without getting into too much detail, the field approval process was the long-standing primary method used to obtain approval for aircraft major alterations by the maintenance community. Maintenance people (IAs, A&Ps, repair stations) communicating and working collaboratively with maintenance people (FAA Flight Standards Division personnel, FSDO inspectors). The FAA is consciously replacing this process with the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) process which is handled exclusively by the engineering division of the FAA known as Aircraft Certification. To complicate things, there seems to be a chasm between the Flight Standards Division of the FAA and the Aircraft Certification Division. Not just on policy and regulatory interpretation, but also relative to communication between divisions.

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