No, Aircraft Disassembly is Not a Maintenance Activity Under the FAA Regulations

Many ASA members have entered the exciting world of aircraft disassembly.  A member recently reported that he has encountered some customers who believe that aircraft disassembly can only be performed by a repair station under FAA regulations. This belief is untrue.

Part 43 of the FAA’s regulations requires that alteration, rebuilding, maintenance, and preventative maintenance be performed only by parties authorized to do so under the regulations. 14 C.F.R. § 43.3(a). Other functions that are not specifically regulated by the FAA remain unregulated functions.

Aircraft Disassembly is Not Regulated Under Part 43 nor Part 145

It should be obvious that disassembly of an aircraft does not constitute alteration or rebuilding. But could it be a maintenance or preventative maintenance task?

Maintenance is defined in the regulations to be “inspection, overhaul, repair, preservation, and the replacement of parts….” 14 C.F.R. § 1.1 (definition of “maintenance”). This definition also specifically excludes preventive maintenance, which is defined separately.

Aircraft disassembly is different from inspection, overhaul, repair, preservation, and the replacement of parts, so aircraft disassembly is not a species of maintenance under U.S. law.

Preventative maintenance is defined in the regulations to mean “simple or minor preservation operations and the replacement of small standard parts not involving complex assembly operations.” 14 C.F.R. § 1.1 (definition of “preventative maintenance”). This definition is further refined in Appendix A to Part 43. That appendix limits the scope of preventive maintenance only to certain listed functions (this is explicitly described as a limitation so it cannot expand the definition of preventative maintenance). It clarifies that the removal, installation and repair of landing gear tires is a preventative maintenance function (but this only applies in the context of simple or minor preservation operations, and disassembly alone is not a preservation operation). So removal, alone, without any effort to preserve, is not a preventative maintenance function.

Aircraft disassembly is neither a preservation operations nor the replacement of small standard parts, so aircraft disassembly is not a species of preventative maintenance under U.S. law.

Whereas aircraft disassembly is neither alteration, rebuilding, maintenance, nor preventative maintenance, it is not regulated under Part 43, and therefore is not one of the functions reserved to only certain certificate holders,

Thus, it is clear that the FAA Part 43 regulations (and by extension the Part 145 regulations) do not apply to disassembly of aircraft.

The unregulated nature of disassembly is one of the reasons that the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association AFRA) stepped in and offered their Best Management Practices (BMP) for disassembly of aircraft in order to encourage practices designed to preserve airworthiness as well as to guard the environment.  The AFRA BMP provides guidance, and the AFRA auditing program supports compliance to the standard.

This does not mean that repair stations are prevented from disassembling aircraft for their parts. Because this is an unregulated function, repair stations may also perform the disassembly function if they wish.

No Obligation Imposed by Advisory Circular

Some have taken text in FAA’s AC 20-62 out of context and suggested that it might impose restrictions on removal of parts. The text in question (take alone and out of context) states: “Parts with removal records showing traceability to a U.S. certificated aircraft, signed by an appropriately certificated person.” But look at this text in its full context and you see a different picture:

8. INFORMATION RELEVANT TO USED PARTS. The following information may be useful when assessing maintenance records and part status.

d. Seller’s Designation. The seller may be able to provide documentation that shows traceability to an FAA-approved manufacturing procedure for one of the following:

(1) Parts produced by an FAA-PAH by TC, PC, PMA, TSOA.

(2) Parts produced by a foreign manufacturer (in accordance with part 21 subpart N).

(3) Standard parts produced by a named manufacturer.

(4) Parts distributed with direct ship authority.

(5) Parts produced, for the work being accomplished, by a repair station to accomplish a repair or alteration on a specific TC’d product.

(6) Parts produced by an owner or operator for installation on the owner’s or operator’s aircraft (i.e., by a certificated air carrier).

(7) Parts with removal records showing traceability to a U.S. certificated aircraft, signed by an appropriately certificated person.”

Eligibility, Quality, and Identification of Aeronautical Replacement Parts, FAA AC 20-62E, para 8(d) (December 23, 2010).

In its full context, it is obvious that this text is just one of a list of types of parts that are considered acceptable. Most parts removed from aircraft that are intended for reuse will fit into category one (TC, PC, PMA, TSOA), and therefore the analysis will never get to category seven. That category exists for articles that do not fit within one of the first six categories.  Note also that this text harkens back to the time when it was assumed that any part removed from an aircraft was a good part – modern practice recognizes that mistakes are made at installation and therefore modern disassembly procedure scrutinizes each part and its records to properly identify it without making unsubstantiated assumptions.

Further, the FAA does not have any removal record, and has no regulations reflecting removal records. For this reason, no certificate is necessary in order to sign a removal record.

 

Advertisements

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.

One Response to No, Aircraft Disassembly is Not a Maintenance Activity Under the FAA Regulations

  1. Jason Dickstein says:

    David Downey raised an excellent point in a post on a reblogged version of this and I thought it deserved to be reposted here:

    David (Dave) Downey Jason, great points. One comment/question. Based on part 3, it seems that disassemblers are subject to FAA oversight to the extent that they convey records of applicability. They, the disassemblers would have to insure that the [maintenance] records they convey are accurate. Thoughts?

    Yes, Dave is absolutely correct (Good Point!). At the time Part 3 was being drafted it was intended to include non-certificate holders. But FAR 3 would not regulate the disassembly process; rather it would regulate the records and statements made about those parts.

    Because of the limiting language in the applicability clause at the front end of Part 43, there is some question about whether 43.10 (safe disposition upon removal of life-limited parts) could also apply (we had discussed removal in the context of replacement when the underlying statute was written; but honestly we weren’t thinking about complete aircraft disassembly when the statute and regulation were written).

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: