Some people in the PMA market have suggested that the OEMs in the industry are the “bad guys.” Ed Bayne of Boeing took on this perception at the 2011 Gorham Conference. He explained how Boeing has been actively partnering with PMA companies to deliver safe and effective replacement parts to the aviation marketplace.
Boeing issues technical assistance letters and enters into license agreements with PMA companies to support acquisition of PMAs.
Boeing does not enter is a license agreement with everyone who desires one. Boeing evaluates opportunities to enter into license agreements. Each such agreement is a business decision, and it is handled through the intellectual property group at Boeing. Keith Bruning was at the conference representing that group. Boeing has issued many such licensing agreements, although internal deliberations have temporarily halted the issue of new license agreements.
OEM-licensed PMA parts represents one way that the customers can get parts produced by PMA holders while still ensuring that the parts are produced to the FAA-approved OEM (Boeing) design standards. At the Gorham Conference, Bruning explained that the licensing agreement is an arms-length relationship in which Boeing licenses approved data, but the PMA holder remains responsible for their own manufacturing quality, and Boeing will not provide production oversight to a licensee except to the extent that the licensee is also a supplier subject to Boeing’s normal supplier oversight protocols.
Darlene Holloway handles the technical assistance letter process at Boeing. When Boeing decides to license its intellectual property, Boeing provides sufficient design data and intellectual property for the licensee to apply for and receive FAA approval of the design. Because the design is already approved, the FAA confirms the prior approval of the design but does not need to revalidate the design. Order 8110.42 specifies that the PMA application can be processed directly through the MIDO, instead of being routed through the ACO, when it relies on a licensing agreement as the source of the previously-approved data (known as “identicality by licensing agreement”).
The PMA applicant remains responsible for demonstrating to the FAA that the applicant has an appropriate quality system and that the applicant’s PMA parts will remain in conformance to the approved design. The PMA holder becomes responsible for the conformance, condition, quality and warranty associated with each of their PMA parts.
Bayne explained that the Boeing licensing agreements generally preclude the PMA holder from altering the licensed design without first coordinating the change with Boeing, in order to make sure that the licensed design continues to match the FAA-approved data.
A Boeing Illustrated Parts Catalog (IPC) may call out the part by part number. Different countries may have their own policies concerning use of PMA parts, and some countries have expressed a preference for licensed PMA parts (in the context of critical parts listed in the airworthiness limitations section of the aircraft manuals). In these countries, there is some additional value to a PMA holder producing critical parts under a licensing agreement with the type certificate holder.
Bayne explained that when a part is based on a licensing agreement, the PMA parts number can be identical to the OEM part number, if the OEM has licensed the trademark associated with the part number (or it may be different depending on the business relationship). Independent PMA parts, on the other must have a different part number in order to avoid confusion as to source in the marketplace.
Bayne explained that the Boeing Tech Assist letter is generally not allowed to be shared with non-FAA parties. An air carrier or other inquirer can verify the existence of the licensing agreement by checking the FAA website (which indicates basis of design approval) or the FAA-issued PMA supplement (which will also indicate basis of design approval) to verify that the PMA was obtained by licensing agreement.