And the U.S. Standard Airworthiness Certificate
There are very specific issues to consider when you are the maintenance provider performing the import inspection or the owner of an aircraft being imported. This article will discuss the process of importing aircraft from other countries and the issuance or re-issuance of a U.S. Standard Airworthiness Certificate.
Classification of parts
First let's look at the FAA's product classification found in 14 CFR Part 21. 14 CFR Part 21.321 (b) contains the classifications used by the FAA for aviation products. The rule is really written for the purpose of exporting products from the United States to other countries and provides three separate classifications. A Class I product is defined as a complete aircraft, aircraft engine, or propeller. A Class II product is a major component of an aircraft, aircraft engine, or propeller, the failure of which would jeopardize the safety of a Class I product; or any part, material, or appliance, approved and manufactured under the TSO system in the "C" series. A Class III product is any part or component that is not a Class I or Class II product and includes standard parts. For the purposes of this article we will discuss the issues around the process of receiving back into country a Class I product - an aircraft.
It seems simple. The only thing we need to do is demonstrate to the FAA (or a designee), by providing evidence (i.e. logbooks and other maintenance records) that the aircraft conforms to U.S. type design and is in a condition for safe operation. In order to issue the airworthiness certificate the FAA is required to make a "finding of conformity" (see 21.183(d)(3)). This finding of conformity is determined through a physical inspection of the aircraft as well as the inspection and maintenance records, including records substantiating the eligibility of parts being used on the aircraft, provided by the applicant seeking the airworthiness certificate. The applicant's evidence must show how the applicant determined conformity.
There are several different situations that can exist. For example, an aircraft can be manufactured in a different country, be originally certified and delivered in the United States, and then leave the United States for a period of time before seeking reentry. An aircraft can be manufactured in the United States, originally delivered to a foreign country, and then be seeking original entry into the United States. Or an aircraft can be manufactured in the United States, be originally certified in the United States and then leave the United States for a period of time and then seek reentry, just to name a few. I'm sure you can think of a few others. The point is each are seeking entry or reentry to the United States and each may be a different challenge all together dependent upon the country of the manufacturer and the country the aircraft is coming from. In some cases, the aircraft may have been in several different countries prior to seeking entry into the U.S. air transportation system, posing several challenges. And, in some cases where the aircraft's records don't include
enough evidence to show that it conforms to U.S. type design, it just isn't practical to go through the process of obtaining a U.S. Standard Airworthiness Certificate.
Bilateral airworthiness agreements
To help in the process, the U.S. Department of State has worked to establish bilateral agreements with various countries. When an aircraft is coming into the United States from a country with which a bilateral agreement has been established, the exporting country can provide what is referred to as an Export Certificate of Airworthiness (C of A). An Export C of A is a document issued by the authorities (CAA) of the exporting country attesting to the condition of the aircraft. Specifically, the Export C of A is intended to attest that the aircraft conforms to the importing country's applicable requirements. For example, an Export C of A from Germany issued to an aircraft being exported to the United States is intended to certify that the aircraft conforms to U.S. type design. Because there are many different bilateral agreements with different countries, the Export C of A can be more meaningful from some countries than others.
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