Why Won’t My DAR Issue An 8130-3 For My Part?

The FAA held a meeting in South Florida today (March 20).  Attendees were enticed to attend with the promise of an answer to the question “Why won’t my DAR issue an 8130-3 for my part?“

Not long ago, we published a reminder to the aviation community that the FAA does not require parts traceability in its regulations.  It was an article describing the current state of the FAA regulations with respect to back-to-birth traceability (there is no such regulation).

We were prompted to publish this reminder by stories from South Florida members who had heard from their DARs that “the local office is making me ask for back-to-birth traceability” as a condition of issuing an 8130-3 tag.

It seems that the traceability article attracted some attention in South Florida.  It was referenced in the beginning of the FAA’s slide set.

FAA inspector Jay Rodriguez opened the meeting by announcing that there would be no new policies and no new regulations announced at the meeting.  He held true to his promise.

The answer to the advertised question was a review of the FAA’s regulations and policy and a look at what standards the DAR must confirm in order to issue an export 8130-3 tag.  The DAR must be assured that the part conforms to an FAA-approved design and is in a condition for safe operation.

But there was a more important unspoken question.  Rodriguez knew that the elephant in the closet was the issue of back-to-birth traceability as a condition for 8130-3 tags, and he wasted little time in stating the FAA’s position:

The FAA does not require back-to-birth traceability as a condition of issuing an export airworthiness approval.

The main thrust of the meeting, was that traceability is an important commercial tool.  It aids the FAA in its investigations.  But when it comes time for a DAR to look at a part and decide whether to issue an 8130-3 tag, the DAR can rely on any information that sufficiently demonstrate s that the parts meets the standards for airworthiness.

A few practices that were discussed included the importance of looking at the parts.  Rodriguez echoed a long-standing ASA concern, that the FAA finds it unacceptable to issue an 8130-3 tag for a part that the DAR has never seen.  Issuing an 8130-3 tag based solely on the paperwork runs the dual risks that the part may not match the paperwork, and also that some supervening event could have rendered the part unairworthy.

Another concern raised was the importance of distinguishing owner-operator produced parts, because they are generally not eligible for an 8130-3 tag (because they were not produced under an FAA production approval).

FAA Inspector Carlos Grillo was an important participant throughout the FAA training session.  He kept reminding the attendees of important points, and gave a lot of useful answers to audience questions.  But his most important contribution came in the end of the session, when he summarized the day’s meeting with text from an FAA chief counsel’s opinion letter that states:

Before a part may be approved or accepted for use on a type certificated aircraft the airworthiness of that part must be established. One method of accomplishing this is to establish positive traceability to the production approval holder and then determining that the airworthiness of the part has not been compromised. New production parts are approved for use on type certificated aircraft if they are produced pursuant to a parts manufacturer approval or otherwise meet the production requirements of 14 CFR § 21 303(b). A modification or replacement part produced under a PMA must contain detailed marking information that identifies the part as PMA produced, identifies the producer, and identifies the part number as well as the product on which it is eligible for installation. See 14 CFR § 45.15.

New production parts sometimes may be accompanied by identifying documentation from the manufacturer such as a shipping document, a manufacturer’s certificate of conformance or material certification, or an FAA Airworthiness Approval Tag, Form 8130-3 evidencing that the part conforms to its design data and is airworthy. In the absence of identifying documentation, the markings required by § 45.15 may suffice to identify the origin of the part. If both the markings and other identifying documentation are absent the airworthiness of the part must otherwise be established. If positive traceability to the production approval holder cannot be made, the part may be submitted for inspection and testing to determine conformity. Once inspection and testing results confirm that the part conforms to its type design and is in a condition for safe operation, the part may be considered acceptable for use on a type certificated aircraft.

[NOTE: the regulatory cites and statements in this section were updated by the 2009 changes to Part 21 – the cite to 21.303 should now be 21.9, and the standards in 45.15 no longer require marking of eligibility]

I am a firm believer that a primary culprit behind many of the industry’s problems is inadequate or incorrect information.  Nearly everyone I the aviation industry wants to comply with the regulations and wants to be safe.  The few bad actors are easily squeezed out by the good actors.  But when the standards are not well understood, then there is tremendous room for unintentional non-compliance.

Furthermore, when we know what to look for, we as an industry are able to root out the fraudulent actors and put them out of business.

Thus, two important solutions to the industry’s issues are education and dialogue.  The South Florida FSDO did all of the right things today by sticking to the regulations and educating the South Florida community about the standards that apply to documentation of aircraft parts with export 8130-3 tags.

The FAA has pledged to provide training session like this for the South Florida DAR community on April 3.  That training session is supposed to be focused on the same issues as the public session did.  Most importantly, it will echo the notion that back-to-birth traceability is not required, and that part markings or other documentation can provide adequate evidence that the part was produced under a production approval.

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About Jason Dickstein
Mr. Dickstein is the President of the Washington Aviation Group, a Washington, DC-based aviation law firm. He represents several aviation trade associations, including the Aviation Suppliers Association, the Aircraft Electronics Association, the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association and the Modification and Replacement Parts Association.

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