In my preceding article, entitled: "The Code: Part I," for this venerable publication, I went over the Code of Federal Regulations — its format, content, and I finished by reviewing FAR Parts 1, 11, 13, and 21. As a closing thought, and in keeping with my personal motto that terrorism is a form of communication, I made a veiled warning to write a second article on the remaining Subjects and Parts. Well, here it is. But first, for those of you who survived my first mesmerizing article on the Code, congratulations! Your sheer courage is duly noted.
For those of you who actually enjoyed the article, I regret to tell you that there must have been a barrister somewhere in your gene pool and I send my regrets.
For those of you who read just a few paragraphs of last month's article and found my words as unappetizing as bureaucratic salmonella, hunker down and try to work though this. Good or bad, it is a fact that we live in a litigious society and someday the difference between spending a day in court or a day out fishing, just might be a regulatory factoid that you pick up after spending nine minutes reading this article.
Now to get started. This second article will delve into some of the codified mysteries in Part 39 "Airworthiness Directives," Part 43 "Maintenance and Inspections," and Part 91 "Record Keeping Requirements."
Part 39: airworthiness directives
Part 39 has a very specific mission. It corrects unsafe conditions discovered in either the manufacturing of the product or corrects a defect that pops up during the product's service lifetime.
Most technicians are surprised to learn that each Airworthiness Directive (AD) is an individual rule or section with its own amendment number. Since we are now up to amendment number 11,017, it makes Part 39 the biggest Part in the Federal Regulations with over 11,000 sections or rules.
ADs are divided into three books. Book 1 has all the ADs issued from the day after the world was made to 1979. Book 2 covers all the ADs issued from 1980 to 1989. Book 3 covers all the ADs from 1990 to the present. Each book is broken down into 5 sections:
• Large aircraft
• Small aircraft
There are three kinds of ADs:
• Emergency or priority letter
• Immediate adopted rule
• Notice of Proposed Rule Making
Because safety is paramount, the emergency and the immediate adopted rule are exempt from the long and laborious rule making process. The notice of proposed rule making travels the same route that other proposed rules must travel. It is not unusual for a proposed AD to be cancelled by the rule making process. This usually happens when there is a bevy of unfavorable comments to the notice of proposed rule making by the public.
The fastest way to determine the difference between the emergency or priority letter is the emergency AD starts with the words "prior to flight." Most emergency ADs ground the aircraft until a fix is made. An immediate adopted rule, doesn't ground the aircraft, it gives the owner a little wiggle room to get it taken care of. Immediate adopted rules usually begin with the words "within the next 10 hours/cycles/days perform the following." The language used in an AD issued under the normal rule making process usually gives the owner months or hundreds of hours to make the fix.
The AD numbering system is straightforward. The first two numbers are the year, the second group of two describe the bi-weekly issue that the AD was assigned. The last two numbers identify its position within that year, and bi-weekly issue.
Part 43: maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, and alterations
Part 43 is where technicians live. There are only 12 regulations you have to learn, but that in itself is not exactly true, there are only 11 that apply to U.S. certificated technicians. The twelfth rule, Section 43.17, applies to work done on U.S. aircraft by certain Canadian persons. Okay, so U.S. technicians have 11 rules or sections and six appendices to work to, but that's not right either. There is nothing in Appendix C — its reserved, so you only have five appendices to learn.
Part 43, eleven rules or sections can be broken down into five elements:
1. Applicability, in other words what Part 43 is used for
2. Who can do work on airplanes
3. Who can sign off the work
4. Record keeping
5. Performance standards
Applicability: Section 43.1 limits its authority to only aircraft having a U.S. Airworthiness Certificate, and foreign registered aircraft used in a Part 121, 127, or 135 air carrier operation. In other words, this rule allows you to work on a German "N" number — a 320 Airbus operated by United Airlines.
Paragraph (b) of this section states that Part 43 does not apply to any aircraft which has only been issued an experimental airworthiness certificate such as an amateur-built aircraft.
This makes sense if you stop and think that by its very design, an experimental aircraft meets no known published standard. It does not make sense for the FAA to impose a maintenance standard on a unknown and hold a technician to that standard.
Who can work on an aircraft: Section 43.3 gives a long list of individuals who can perform maintenance, from manufacturers, repair stations, air carriers, technicians, people working under the supervision of technicians — it even allows pilots to work on aircraft. In reality, anyone in the world can work on an aircraft, either by holding a certificate, or working under supervision of someone holding a certificate. Who can sign a log book: While the entire world can work on an aircraft, Sections 43.5 and 43.7 allow only a privileged few to "approve an aircraft for return to service." Just technicians, repair stations, manufacturers, air carriers, and pilots performing preventive maintenance can approve an aircraft for return to service. Although earning an A&P is an important accomplishment, the real power in being an A&P technician is not so much having the ratings — the real power of the A&P certificate is the authority given by the U.S. government to approve an aircraft for return to service.
Record keeping: If you think about it, technicians have to sign only 3 pieces of paper; however, the A&P technicians have the authority to approve the aircraft/component for return to service in only two out of the three pieces of paper.
The first two are maintenance and inspections log book entries. In Part 43, Section 43.9 talks to maintenance entries and Section 43.11 talks to inspection entries.
The third piece of paper is the Form 337. While a certificated technician can perform a major repair or major alteration, it is an IA, repair station, or air carrier who return the aircraft or component for return to service. Appendix B in Part 43 is the appendix that talks to maintenance entries on Form 337 and maintenance releases for major repairs and major alterations. Let's look a little closer at the entries.
Section 43.9 maintenance entries require all log book entries to have:
1. A description or reference to "acceptable data" used
2. The date the work was completed
3. Name of the person performing the work
4. Signature and kind of certificate held
You may have noticed there is no requirement to approve the work for return to service in Section 43.9. But, the FAA lawyers have that covered. Paragraph (a)(4) in that section says very plainly that the signature constitutes the approval for return to service for "only the work performed." Also, note that the person who signs off the work does not necessarily have to be the one who performs the work. If you have a person working under your supervision, even if he or she is not certificated, you must put down their name as well as your own.
How long are you held responsible? For maintenance work, such as minor repairs and alterations, the technician is held responsible only for the work he or she performed until that work is re-inspected, altered, replaced, damaged, or reached its life limit. In the Part 91 world, the maximum length of time to be held responsible is approximately one year or until the next annual inspection.
Section 43.11 Inspection Entries requires all log book entries to have:
1. The type of inspection and a brief description of the extent of the inspection.
2. Date and total time in service. Time in service is defined as the time accumulated from take-off to landing, and yes, using Hobbs time and tach time is just fine, except please do not mix the two together, it makes for a convoluted set of records.
3. The signature and certificate number of the person approving or disapproving the aircraft or component part for return to service.
Remember, inspections, big and small, which are conducted on Part 91 aircraft, cannot be delegated to another individual. The one signing the log book entry must be the one who performed the eyeball inspection.
How long are you held responsible for an inspection? For an inspection, the technician is held responsible for as long as it takes for the ink to dry on the log book.
While this drastic departure from sanity might sound like the FAA is freebasing, the truth is the technician has no control over the airworthiness condition of the aircraft once the aircraft leaves his care. The FAA would be unreasonable to hold the technician responsible for the future airworthiness of an entire aircraft for an undetermined period of time, especially when the aircraft is at the mercy of every pilot out there!
So, Part 43, Section 43.11 says that the inspection log book entry declares that every AD, every major and minor repair and alteration is airworthy at that moment in time. Another way of looking at this rule is, an inspection approves the past, not the future.
Before I close out inspection requirements, it is a wise technician who also understands that Section 43.15 talks to additional performance rules for inspections. It is in this rule where specific inspection items are called out for rotorcraft annual and 100-hour inspections, and progressive inspections.
Form 337, used for major repairs and major alterations, is a very old form going back to the CAA Form 337 which the FAA embraced. While a technician does not have the authority in Part 65 to approve an aircraft for return to service after a major repair or major alteration, it is the technician who first makes the decision whether or not the repair or alteration is major or minor.
While Part 43 requires a Form 337 to be made out for a major repair or alteration, it is Part 91, Section 91.417 on recordkeeping that states the length of time the owner or operator is required to keep the Form 337. For a major repair, Section 91.417 (a)(1) requires that Form 337 is kept only one year.
The FAA thinking behind this rule is based on the fact that this major repair returns the aircraft or component part back to its original type design so nothing has been changed. Furthermore, in most cases within a year, the repair would be bought off again by a new inspector, so the form can be discarded because a copy of the major repair is kept in the aircraft's file in Oklahoma City.
While trashing the major repair Form 337 after a year is perfectly legal, from the technician's point of view, I sure would want a copy of the Form 337 in the maintenance records in order to see who, what, when, where, and how the aircraft was repaired. So, in yours and my own personal interest, I would tell the owners to hold on to all major repair Form 337s.
On the other hand, Section 91.417(a)(2) says major alterations Form 337 should be treated differently. These Form 337s, unlike their major repair cousins, requires the owner to hold them forever. This is because each major alteration changes the aircraft's type design. So, a record of each change must be kept with the aircraft.
Also, starting last year, the FAA changed its policy on field approved major alterations. Now the technician has to develop instructions for continuing airworthiness (ICA) in order to aid the next technician a year from now who has to inspect the alteration that was installed today.
Technicians usually get into trouble when they write something in the log book. Maybe that is why their handwriting is so small and a little smudgy. But handwriting alone is not the problem. Usually the hammer falls because they describe the work performed based on what they think they did and not what they legally did. To avoid this mantrap, read on.
Section 43.2 is a relatively new rule as you can tell by its even number suffix. This rule defines the terms "overhauled" and "rebuilt." The section defines the major difference between the overhauled unit and a rebuilt unit by stating the overhauled unit must meet manufacturer Service limits, and a rebuilt unit must meet new part limits. How many times have you and I used the term "rebuilt" to describe installing some seals in a Cessna nose strut, when we should have used the word "repaired" in the log book?
Performance standards: Technicians have it a lot easier than pilots because the FAA sets the standard for our overall job performance, or how we do our work, in just one rule.
Section 43.13 Performance Rules is a three-paragraph rule. Paragraph (a) sets the standard for data and tools that we must use. The rule requires that each person performing maintenance shall (imperative) use the methods, techniques, and practices identified in the "current" manufacturer's manuals or instructions for continuing airworthiness or other methods, techniques, and practices acceptable to the administrator. The technician must also use the tools, equipment, and test apparatus to assure completion of the work in accordance with accepted industry practices.
Paragraph (b) sets the standard for the acceptable quality of work. The rule requires that each technician performing maintenance shall do the work in such a manner, and use materials of such quality, that the condition of the aircraft is at least equal to its original or properly altered condition. That reference in the rule "equal to" is very important. If a technician makes a repair "better than" the original, that technician made either a major or minor alteration to the aircraft's type design.
Paragraph (c) provides special provisions for air carriers. This paragraph basically states that an air carrier's manual and their operating specifications constitute an acceptable means of compliance with Section 43.13 Performance Rules.
The last rule that we are going to talk about in Part 43 is another "new rule" because it has an even suffix number. When you first read Section 43.16, it seems like it is repeating the requirements in 43.13 and 43.15, which is exactly right. This rule, further nails down the requirements for air carriers' inspections, plus it includes in those requirements, operators of large, multi-engine turbine aircraft operated under Section 91.409(e) who were kind of misplaced in earlier versions of Part 43 maintenance requirements.
Part 91 General Operating and Flight Rules
The rules in Part 91 that technicians concern themselves with are the general operating rules. These rules fall into two broad subparts in the rule.
Subpart C talks to additional equipment that must be maintained and Subpart E — maintenance, preventive maintenance, and alterations. Subpart C talks to equipment that for the most part were never part of the aircraft's original type design. This additional equipment was added to the aircraft because it either enhanced the aircraft's operating environment or, because it was required by regulation. An example of equipment that enhances the aircraft's operating environment are transponders, supplemental oxygen, TCAS, GPS, and even aircraft lights. An example of equipment required by mandatory law passed by congress is the ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter).
The one rule in Subpart C that technicians should understand is Section 91.213. This section talks to inoperative instruments and equipment. It states that no person may operate an aircraft with inoperative instruments or equipment installed unless the following conditions are met — an approved minimum equipment list (MEL), or the conditions of 91.213(d) are met such as a log book entry describing the inoperative equipment, and it does not constitute a hazard to the aircraft, the equipment is not part of the day VFR required equipment, not one of the aircraft's required equipment for the kind of flight being conducted, not required to be operational by an AD, and the inoperative equipment/control is placarded inoperative.
Granted, while this rule is not especially exciting to read, it can, and will, get a technician in trouble. How so? Because if you do not inspect each inoperative part under 91.213(d) in accordance with 91.405(c) at each 100 hour/annual/ progressive inspection, the FAA interprets this as not inspecting an "alteration."
This sounds like a wild bureaucratic numskull notion, but legally a MEL is considered an STC (major alteration) as are the inoperative equipment the pilot signed off under 91.213(d). If you do not perform or record that you inspected the "major alteration" to the aircraft's type design, you could be in violation of section 91.213 and 43.11 inspections.
Part 91 Subpart E is where we find the requirements for inspections such as annuals, 100-hour, progressive, and the inspections for large and turbine aircraft under 91.409(e)(f).
It is also the Subpart in which we find the technician's favorite rule. Section 91.403(a) is the rule that the FAA puts the primary responsibility for maintaining the aircraft in an airworthy condition right on the owner or operator.
Take time to review these inspections as all A&P technicians should gain a good working knowledge of the types of inspections in Part 91.