Language on the 8130-3 Tag: “This PMA part is not a critical component”

An ASA member recently asked whether a DAR would be permitted to write “This PMA part is not a critical component,” on the domestic 8130-3 tag for a PMA component.

Many of you will recognize this as the language requested by the EU on export 8130-3 tags that accompany FAA-PMA parts that are not critical components.

Does this sort of language have value in a domestic 8130-3 tag?  It might.  When a Maintenance DAR (DAR-T) produces an export 8130-3 tag for a non-critical PMA part that is destined for an EU member nation, the DAR-T may add language verifying that the PMA part is not a critical component.  The DAR-T may need some basis to make this non-critical decision, though.

The determination of whether a PMA part is critical is made by the design approval holder (the FAA-PMA holder) and confirmed as part of the FAA approval.  See Order 8130.21H Section 4.4(c).  The PMA holder is thus in a prime position to inform the first DAR to issue an 8130-3 tag about whether the part is critical.  Adding the language “This PMA part is not a critical component,” on the domestic 8130-3 tag may support efficient issue of future export tags for the same article, when a later decision to export is made.

Is it permissible for the designee at the manufacturer’s facility to place this PMA “criticality statement” on the domestic 8130-3 tags that accompany the PMA parts?  Yes, because it is not prohibited.

Manufacturers typically rely on designees to issue its 8130-3 tags (such as a DMIR, DAR, or an organizational delegation known as an ODA). Each designee is required to follow the instructions in Order 8130.21 (latest revision, which is currently the “H” revision).

Originally, industry requested the “domestic 8130-3 tag” as a work-around to circumvent outdated rules that prevented anyone other than a manufacturer from requesting an export 8130-3 tag for a (“class III”) aircraft part. These outdated rules were impeding US exports and undermining safety (because the 8130-3 tag is used to distinguish known airworthy parts).  I know this history because I proposed the “domestic 8130-3 tag” to the FAA as just this sort of work-around, after FAA management explained that they could not modify the regulations in a timely fashion to support exporters.  As time went one, this tag quickly began to serve other uses (including documenting actual domestic shipments) and the FAA ultimately revised the regulations to permit any exporter to apply for an export 8130-3 tag for an aircraft part (which eliminated the original NEED for the tag as a work-around).

Critical Components and the EU Bilateral

The PMA “criticality statement” is something that is requested under the technical implementation procedures (TIPs) that accompany the US-EU bilateral aviation safety agreement (BASA). It is not intrinsically necessary for domestic shipments.

Under the US-EU TIP, a “Critical Component” is defined as:

“a part identified as critical by the design approval holder during the product type validation process, or otherwise by the exporting authority. Typically, such components include parts for which a replacement time, inspection interval, or related procedure is specified in the Airworthiness Limitations section or certification maintenance requirements of the manufacturer’s maintenance manual or Instructions for Continued Airworthiness.”

The TIP directs that PMA parts being exported from the United States to the European Union bear appropriate language in block 12 (the remarks block). For a PMA part which is not a critical component, the remarks block of the 8130-3 should state:

“This PMA part is not a critical component.”

But if the PMA part is a critical component, then there are two options for the language in the remarks block. In the first option, if the PMA holder also holds an EASA STC design approval which incorporates the PMA part into an EASA certified or validated product, then the language should say:

“Produced by the holder of the EASA STC number [INSERT THE FULL REFERENCE OF THE EASA STC INCORPORATING THE PMA].”

In the second option, if the PMA holder holds a licensing agreement from the TC or STC holder (giving the PMA holder the rights to use the TC/STC design for the PMA parts), then the
following statement should be written in the remarks block:

“Produced under licensing agreement from the holder of [INSERT TC or STC NUMBER].”

These are the only two options for exporting FAA-PMA critical components from the US to the EU.

Who Determines Whether a Component is Critical?

Section 4.4(c) of Order 8130.21H states that “The determination of a PMA article’s criticality, as required to be entered in Block 12 when exported, can only be determined by the actual design approval holder (that is, the FAA-PMA holder).” This is important language because certain parties (foreign governments and competitors) have attempted to gainsay the FAA-approved “critical part” decisions of the FAA-PMA holders. But this language is not meant to prevent a designee issuing an export 8130-3 tag from making a PMA “criticality statement” on the 8130-3 tag that is consistent with the determination of the design approval holder. Thus, any subsequent designee issuing an export 8130-3 tag for an FAA-PMA part may rely on the design approval holder’s determination as to whether the PMA part is a critical component.

Can We Place this Language in Block 12?

Block 12 is a free-form remarks block. The specific instructions of the block are that the block should state any information “necessary for the user or installer to determine the airworthiness of the product or article.” There is a list of examples in the FAA guidance, but this list is not exclusive. A replacement time, inspection interval, or related procedure specified in the Airworthiness Limitations section would certainly be necessary information, and the fact that there is no such limit (e.g. that the part is not critical) could likewise be useful to the installer. Thus, there seems to be no legal bar to adding this language to block 12 in a domestic 8130-3 tag (e.g. “This PMA part is not a critical component.”). When such text is added to the first domestic 8130-3 tag that is generated at the production approval holder’s facility, this would seem to be useful information that is preserved to support subsequent DARs who might later produce export airworthiness tags, which reflects additional value in the use of this language on a domestic 8130-3 tag.

Note that the language we are discussing, “This PMA part is not a critical component,” is not required language on a domestic tag.  Therefore, addition of this language to block 12 would be at the discretion of the designee, who is creating this tag.  Thus, the designee would be within his or her rights to refuse to add this specific text to a domestic 8130-3 tag, to the same extent that he or she would be permitted to do so. It is simply a matter of discretion.

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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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