Which rule is the one that if only one percent of the mechanics broke it, the result would be the complete failure of the aviation maintenance industry?
Please take a few minutes to think of your candidate, then read on.
I hope you pondered the question for at least 30 seconds. My vote for the most important rule was Federal Aviation Regulation section 43.12, which covers falsification or alterations of maintenance entries.
You say, "Hey, O'Brien, why not FAR 43.13, Performance rules or FAR 91.409, Inspections or FAR 39, Airworthiness Directives?"
You are absolutely right! These three FARs are our major heavy-duty maintenance safety rules. If you screw up one of these rules, the log book police are all over you. So why pick a relatively minor rule that says you're a bad boy if you falsify maintenance records or alter them in any way?
The reason why, my friends, that I believe the most important rule is FAR 43.12 is very simple. Our entire aviation maintenance industry is built on our own personal honor and trust of mechanics. This somewhat idealistic notion that personal integrity and professionalism forms the very core of the aviation maintenance profession goes back to the Wright brothers.
We depend on the single concept that each of the 150,000-plus men and women who maintain and inspect aircraft will do each repair, alteration, and inspection to the highest industry and personal standards.
Think about this. When you make a maintenance entry, and you must each time you exercise the privileges of your certificate, you sign your name and certificate number. By doing so, you have not merely satisfied an FAR. What you have done was give the rest of us in this industry and your government, your word of honor. You certify that your work has been done right. Not 50 percent right, not 90 percent right, but a 100 percent right. That is why I call it the 100 percent rule.
However, if this was a perfect world, when you read some other mechanic's entry, his word of honor — his written statement should be accepted by you with the same respect and trust as you would like your maintenance entry to be accepted. Sadly, this is not a perfect world, so you do not accept every entry at face value. Why?
There are those among us who deliberately falsify records. The important word here to focus on is "deliberately." That is why FAR 43.12 was written. If you notice, it has an even number suffix number (12), so it was written after the Federal Aviation Regulations were re-codified from the Civil Air Rules in 1965. So, 43.12 was written in our maintenance career lifetime. The 100 percent rule tells us all that any perversion of this mutual trust among mechanics, any selling of one's honor that would compromise our record system, will not be tolerated by the United States government.
Why does the government consider the maintaining of maintenance records integrity so important? Records ensure safety and accountability! Industry and FAA recognize that even a relatively small amount of maintenance records' falsification, let's say just 5 percent, would cause the trust in our record system and our industry to collapse.
Why? Who would trust a record system that was only 95 percent accurate? Who among us would like to do an inspection on such an aircraft and then have to sign the log books with our name? What passenger would buy a ticket or what pilot would fly if he or she could only be assured of a 95 percent chance of getting to their destination in one piece?
Those who falsify records know it is wrong. It is an ethical problem — not a human factors problem. It is a yes or no decision. Those who autograph a lie, try to rationalize their actions to soften the guilt. They claim they do it for many good reasons like meeting a gate time or they have to do it in order to keep their job, or they make promises to themselves to fix it later when they can buy the parts, etc, etc, etc.
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