February 1997 issue of Aircraft Maintenance Technology
History was my best subject in high school. No doubt because it was the sole class in four years in which I wasn’t on the back side of the learning power curve. I maintained a good grade in history because I realized early in my freshman year that history was a record of mankind with all the facts and dates laid out in chronological order.
Dedicated men (scribes) painstakingly recorded their present day events for posterity. They knew that by leaving a permanent written record behind, their era’s accomplishments, wisdom, and folly would never be lost or forgotten. We owe these forgotten men a debt we cannot repay.
A&P technicians are also scribes. Aviation scribes. If you look in an aircraft’s logbook, be it a Boeing 777 or J3-65 Cub, the vast number of entries in an aircraft’s logbooks are done by technicians who chronicle the aircraft’s maintenance history. But unlike the scribes of yore, the technician who signs the logbook is usually the one who performed or supervised the maintenance that was accomplished.
It goes without saying that the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) have placed some limits on aviation scribes on what can and cannot be entered into an aircraft’s logbook. The following is a review of these limitations:
There are basically three FARs that form the core requirements for maintenance record entries: FAR Part 91, Section 91.407, and Part 43, Sections 43.9 and 43.11.
Before we look into each particular rule’s bureaucratic requirements for maintenance entries, I can safely state the unwritten FAR, known as the four “C” rule, requires that each maintenance entry must be clear, correct, complete, and credible. Follow the four “C” rule and everything else should fall into place.
Back to the written rules
The first rule we are going to examine is for the owner or operator of the aircraft – Part 91, Section 91.407. This rule basically says that the aircraft cannot be operated unless a maintenance entry is made by an authorized person in accordance with Sections 43.9 or 43.11. Or to put it more candidly, “If any person authorized under Section 43.7 to perform work has not returned it to service via a logbook entry, the owner or operator can’t fly it!”
As part of their flight training many general aviation and corporate pilots have imprinted into their DNR that they cannot fly their aircraft unless the annual inspection, routine or nonroutine repair work has been signed off by a technician or IA.
What most pilots do not realize, as one of the persons authorized under Section 43.7 to make a logbook entry, is how much trouble they can get into if they fly the same aircraft on which they themselves have performed preventive maintenance and did not sign off the work in the logbook. Some pilots seem to think since they fixed it, and because it’s their aircraft, that they do not have to approve the work for return to service. They’re wrong! The exact same rules apply to them as it does for any technician performing maintenance.
This missing maintenance entry can create a real problem for a technician or IA who last signed the aircraft’s logbook. Let’s take a look at the following example:
A technician as part of an annual inspection checks the tires and brakes, replaces the brakes, and tells the pilot/owner that the left main tire should be replaced within the next 50 hours.
The following week in his own “T” hangar the pilot changes the tire himself. He is a firm believer that if snug is good, then tight is better. He over torques the wheel bearing nut. As usual, he makes no record of the work he performed. On the first landing since the annual inspection, the bearings seize up 100 feet after touching down, the wheel locks up, and the aircraft skids and turns abruptly, drops a wing, and then cartwheels, catches on fire and burns, and the pilot dies of injuries.
The power behind the certificate
If you ask a general aviation mechanic this question: Who is primarily responsible for the airworthiness of the aircraft? Young or old, he will answer immediately and without batting an eye
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In my preceding article, entitled: The Code: Part I, for this venerable publication, I went over the Code of Federal Regulations