FARs vs. Consensus Standards

Part 2: Manufacturers’ Authority Under the ASTM Light Sport Consensus Standards vs. the FARs

Last month I provided further information in the development of maintenance practices under the Light Sport ASTM Consensus Standards vs. the FARs in response to inquiries after publication of my article in the July 2012 issue of Aircraft Maintenance Technology magazine, “Opportunity With Light Sport Aircraft Maintenance Under the ASTM Consensus Standards,” a primer on the ASTM LSA Consensus Standards system. In this part I’ll look closer into the who, when, and how of S-LSA maintenance as well as some tips for AMTs working on S-LSA aircraft.

AMT Authority: Who?

FAR 43.1 makes it clear that Part 43 applies to maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, and alteration of any aircraft having a U.S. airworthiness certificate, except as noted (such as certain experimental aircraft). Subsection (d) explicitly includes S-LSA in the governing provisions of Part 43, except for certain Standard Category requirements, like filing a Form 337 for major alterations.

The familiar provisions of FAR 43.3 grant authority to certificated AMTs to perform maintenance, preventive maintenance, and alterations as provided in Part 65. The equally familiar FAR 43.7 gives authority to AMTs to approve aircraft for return to service, after undergoing maintenance, repair or alteration, also as set out in Part 65. Let’s take a look at this part next.

FAR 65.81 permits a certificated mechanic or repairman to perform or supervise maintenance, repair, or alteration of aircraft for which the mechanic is rated. However, the AMT may not perform the task unless he or she has satisfactorily performed it at an earlier date, or until the mechanic has demonstrated the ability to perform the task satisfactorily under the direct supervision of another AMT who has previous experience with the task. The AMT must also understand the task, and have the current manufacturer’s instructions and manuals available to complete the task pursuant to these instructions. FAR 65.107 contains similar provisions for Light Sport Repairman with Maintenance Ratings (LSRM) working on Special Light Sport Aircraft.

Given the legal authority conferred by these FARs, so the argument goes, neither the ASTM consensus standards, nor the manufacturers’ manuals or other service instructions, have the right to curtail the AMT’s activities. Definitions found in F2626, the maintenance manual content requirements specified F2843, and the requirements often found in S-LSA maintenance manuals addressing such things as “task-specific training requirements,” “level of certification requirements,” and limitations on overhaul activities to manufacturers or their appointed facilities, are all void as without legal basis and in conflict with the FARs. Got that?

This issue was the focus of the FAA OLC letter mentioned earlier. The AMT rejected the Rotax requirement, brought forward by the S-LSA manufacturer in its maintenance manual, that the AMT have Rotax factory training. He argued instead that as long as he was operating within the authority of his A&P certificate and ratings, and according to Rotax maintenance instructions and procedures, he was on legally solid ground, even without the Rotax factory training certificate. The FAA lawyers agreed.

A final note about who. Whereas the ASTM Consensus Standards purport to limit the authority of AMTs via maintenance manuals and other service and inspection instructions, they arguably expand the authority of certificated pilots. Although FAR 43.3(g) allows pilots to perform certain prescribed preventive maintenance tasks, no authority is granted to make required inspections. Some S-LSA maintenance manuals detail inspections that can be performed by pilots. A good argument can be made that there is no legal authority for this, and pilots should refrain from making such inspections. (We are not talking about pre-flight inspections here.) Let’s move on.


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