The code - Part I

Feb. 1, 1999
Early on in my aviation career, as a young mechanic with hair, I kept hearing about and just as quickly forgot about, the code.

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.

So, once again we have titles, chapters, subchapters, parts, subparts, and sections. The government has a unique way or code on how each part, subpart, and section is identified. The code works like this. Title 14, Chapter 1, Part 39, Subpart A, Section 39.1.

Have you noticed the code starting with parts is numerical, then Subpart A (alphabetical), then Section 43.13, (numerical)? You'd almost think they planned that way!

In addition, have you noticed that the FAA fills up odd number parts such as Part 1, 11, 21, 43, 91, 121, 145, etc. first? So, with a few exceptions of the 199 parts assigned to the Federal Aviation Regulations, only slightly more than half (106) of the parts assigned to the FAA are being used. With that much empty space available, I like to think that the designers of the code built in bureaucratic job security for people like me.

The same identification scheme that is used to identify FAR parts from one another is also used within each part. Each original individual section or rule is identified with an odd number, e.g. 21.95 or 43.1. You can tell a new rule (Part 66) or Section (43.12) if it has an even number.

Now, before I am touted as journalism's answer to Nytol®, why am I subjecting you to this tome on the "code"? My intent for the next few articles is to go over in-depth, some little known facts about the regulations that set the standards that you earn your living by.

Part 1: definitions and abbreviations
Part 1 is your aviation dictionary. If you ever get a bureaucratic valentine from the local FSDO that may impact on your certificate, make sure you double check the aviation dictionary (Part 1) for the proper, legal definition of the words used in the letter of investigation. Words like maintenance, total time, appliance, airframe, most likely have a totally different legal meaning than what you have been taught to believe.

Also, take a look into a little heard of section, Section 1.3: Rules of Construction. This section, defines the way "words" are used in the rest of the Federal Aviation Regulations. For example, words importing (referring to) the singular include the plural and vice a versa. Words importing the masculine gender include the feminine. The word shall is used in an imperative sense. The word may is used in a permissive sense. Such as a person may or may not be authorized, or permitted to do the act prescribed. Finally, the word includes means "includes, but is not limited to."

Part 11: General rulemaking procedures
I have written several articles on this Part, but it bears repeating because in Subpart C of this Part is where the average guy and gal has regulatory authority to change the way the FAA does business by requesting a rulemaking action.

The average citizen has the power, as written in Title 14, Chapter 1, Part 11 to petition the FAA to make a rule, change an existing one, or delete a rule altogether. Especially handy to the student of FAR, is Section 11.25, which explains not only the rulemaking process, but explains how to obtain an exemption from one or more rules.

Part 13: investigative and enforcement procedures
In numerous safety seminars, I have given on FAA regulations, by far the majority of mechanics agree on this one statement of mine: "Mechanics look at the regulations only three times in their lives — when they study for the A&P test, when they want something from the FAA such as an IA or a Repair Station, and when they are in trouble."

Part 13 is where mechanics should go first when they get a letter of investigation from the FAA. More importantly, if you have to get an attorney to defend you, make sure the guy you are paying $200 an hour to has read Part 13. If the lawyer says he knows it, test him on it, you might embarrass him in private, but better him than you in front of an administrative law judge.

If you could sit with me in my cubicle of power, you would be surprised at the number of lawyers that call me in a week. After I successfully make them identify themselves as a lawyer, (they are easy to spot), the conversation quickly turns into a question and answer session that focuses on what to do next for their client.

Recently, in a telephone conversation, I gave a counselor the two-minute rote answer to "What is the fee scale for a witness in the proceedings?" The answer is found in Part 13, Section 13,121. Imagine my surprise when I found out that he turned around and charged his client a 1/2 hour ($100) for "consulting" with the FAA!

Part 21: certification procedures for products and parts
A rule in Part 21 that is worth your time to read is Section 21.181. It talks to the duration of airworthiness certificates. If you read into the rule, it says: This airworthiness certificate is effective as long as the maintenance, preventive maintenance, and alterations are performed in accordance with Parts 43 and 91 of this Chapter and the aircraft is registered in the United States.

This statement is duplicated on the standard (white) airworthiness certificate which is found in most seat pockets or backs of cockpit doors. But the real message is: The registration certificate, not the airworthiness certificate, is the most important document in the aircraft because the airworthiness certificate is worthless without it.

If you have a problem with the above statement, like I first did when I first found it staring up at me, take a look at an airworthiness certificate. The validity of my statement is found in Block 1 of the airworthiness certificate. Block 1 identifies the "N" number of the aircraft which is found on the registration certificate.

Section 21.197: Special Flight Permits, is another rule worth reading. The rule allows an aircraft that does not meet all the applicable airworthiness requirements but is capable to fly, to make a flight. There are five reasons or purposes that a special flight permit is issued for.

1. Flying the aircraft to a base where repairs, alterations, or maintenance are to be performed or to a point of storage.
2. Delivering or exporting the aircraft.
3. Production flight testing new production aircraft.
4. Evacuating aircraft from areas of impending danger.
5. Conducting customer demonstration flights in new production aircraft that have satisfactorily completed production flight tests.

If you need one of the above special flight permits, please contact your local FSDO. An FAA Airworthiness Inspector will help you process the paperwork in accordance with Section 21.199.

Another important rule in Part 21 is Section 21.303: Replacement and Modification of Parts. The rule states that no person may produce a modification or a replacement part for sale for installation on a type certificated product unless it is PMA approved. However, there are four exceptions.

1. Parts produced under a type or production certificate.
2. Parts produced by an owner or operator for their own product.
3. Parts produced under a TSO.
4. Standard parts conforming to an established military or industry standard.

Without getting into a lengthy explanation of owner produced parts, here are some things you must remember. The part is for the owner's aircraft only. The owner or his agent must use approved data to produce the part(s). No reverse engineering — like tracing out a damaged spar on the garage floor and then whittling a spar blank to size is permitted! FAA figures if Boeing has to have approved data to make a part, so does the owner.

Now, if the owner has only acceptable data, it is time to contact the local FSDO and see if the acceptable data can be field approved. Also, don't forget that the owner must sign the maintenance record that the part is owner-produced and is airworthy, and also signs his name. The mechanic who installs the part will still follow Section 43.9 maintenance record entry requirements.

Another area not really taught to mechanics in A&P schools is Export Airworthiness Approvals, found in Subpart l of Part 21.

Exports are broken down into three groups or "classes." A Class I product is a complete type-certificated (TC) aircraft, or TC aircraft engine, or TC propeller. A Class II product is a major component of a Class I product such as a wing or a fuel control, or control surfaces. Finally, a Class III product is anything that is not a Class I or II.

Now, one of the obscure things found in this rule is the definition of "newly overhauled." The term "newly overhauled" is used to describe a product that has not been operated or placed in service (except for testing), since having been overhauled, inspected, and approved for return to service in accordance with the applicable FAR.

The paperwork required for a Class I product is called an Export Certificate of Airworthiness, FAA form 8130-4. You must make application for the certificate at the local FSDO. The export certificate does not authorize the operation of the aircraft, it only states that the aircraft meets its type design and is in an airworthy condition.

Section 21.329 requires that used aircraft being exported must have an annual type inspection completed no less than 30 days before the date of application is made for the Export C of A.

Used engines and propellers being exported must be "newly overhauled." In addition, the importing state may have additional requirements that the exporter must meet. See the local FSDO for additional requirements of other countries.

For Class II and Class III products, Section 21.231 and 21.333 both say that the Export C of A for both classes is in the form of an 8130-3 tag. The tag identifies the part by manfacturer, make, model, or serial number. The tag declares the part is new or newly overhauled and that the part is in an airworthy condition. The tag also will show that the part meets the special requirements of the importing country. However, Section 21.331 allows the exporter some wiggle room by stating that the product does not have to meet all the requirements of the rule if the importing country gives its OK.

In closing, I offer my apology to those who for the last 8 minutes or so had to wade through this ton of information to glean some useful dollop of wisdom that someday might prove helpful on the hangar floor.

I tried to be witty in explaining the regulations, but only got half way to my goal. But, in my defense, trying to make the regulations easy to understand is in itself, a contradiction. But I am Irish, so I must try harder the second time around.

So, steel yourselves for some more bureaucratic insights with all the clarity of an astrologer's predictions. I give you fair warning. As you read this, The Code: Part II has already been mailed to the editor.

About the Author

Bill O'Brien