Early on in my aviation career, as a young mechanic with hair, I kept hearing about and just as quickly forgot about, the "code." The code, I found out a little later, stood for the code of federal regulations. Fully armed with that dollop of information, but not seeing what it meant to me, I naturally assigned it to the mental equivalent of ram dump and went happily on my way. Like me, I bet the majority of mechanics, working the line, figure the "code" is a lot like the electoral college — it works okay if you don't think a lot about it.
It was only after I matriculated into the bureaucracy and found myself as an instructor in the FAA academy in Oklahoma City that I learned how big the code is, and how it affects us all.
What follows is a general description of the code in a term paper format so aspiring, but lazy students of the Federal Aviation Regulations, can plagiarize it with little mental effort expended.
The code of federal regulations is a codification of general and permanent rules that were first published in the Federal Register by agencies and departments that for the most part, belong to the executive branch of government.
The code is divided into 50 huge "titles" that represent broad areas subject to federal regulations. The various titles list regulations that set the standards that affect all of us from air transportation, to processing meat, to establishing mutual funds, to paving a road, and everyone's favorite — establishing the income tax tables.
Each of the 50 titles is divided into chapters. The chapters usually bear the name of the issuing agency. For example, the title that we mechanics must pay attention to is: Title 14 Aeronautics and Space. Title 14, Chapter 1, is entitled: Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation.
Although, there are four chapters in Title 14, Chapter 1, is the only one that talks to the Federal Aviation Regulations; the rest of the other chapters, deal with Department of Transportation rules, NASA regulations, etc.
Now here's the part you are not going to believe. Compared to most of the other executive agencies, the FAA has only a handful of regulations that do not quite fill up a chapter's worth of paper. For example, compared to the Department of the Treasury's Title 12, Banks and Banking, which has 28 chapters, and the Department of Agriculture's, Title 7, which has 34 chapters; the FAA, with one chapter, is considered among its peer agencies as a neophyte in the rule-making business.
So far, we have looked at titles and chapters in the code. Moving on, each chapter is further divided into subchapters. For example, Title 14, subchapter A talks to only one part, Part 1 Definitions, while subchapter B, Procedural Rules talks to five parts. Subchapter C, Aircraft has 11 parts in the subchapter.
The entire 199 parts that make up the Federal Aviation Regulations are initially divided this way. Yes, that was not a typo. In chapter 1, there are 199 parts assigned to the Federal Aviation Regulations. Sounds like an awful lot of rules!
However, in the real world it's not so. Most of the 199 parts do not affect mechanics such as the parts dealing with airport security and air traffic control internal regulations, or my personal favorite — Subchapter N, War Risk Insurance — do not apply to aircraft mechanics.
Okay, so far we have titles, chapters, and subchapters. Next are parts. Parts are what most mechanics are familiar with. Parts contain regulations dealing with a particular subject, such as Part 39 Airworthiness Directives or Part 145 Repair Stations. Parts are further divided into subparts and sections. Subparts make up a specific group within the part, such as Subpart B in Part 21 that deals with type certificates.
Sections are what the legal folks call individual rules, for example: 43.13: Performance Rules, is a section of a sub-part, which is part of a part, which is found in a chapter, which is a subdivision of a title.