Can Factory New Parts Be Hazmat?

Recently, an ASA member asked me whether factory new parts could be hazardous materials.  This is an important question because if the parts are treated as hazardous materials, then they must be shipped in compliance with the hazardous materials regulations.

The answer to the question depends on whether the units have hazardous materials (or dangerous goods) in them when they are shipped.

Some factory new parts are intrinsically hazardous materials.  A factory new self-inflating life raft is likely to be considered a hazardous material because it has a compressed gas cylinder in it, and this makes it a “life saving appliance, self inflating” which is regulated under UN number 2990.

Other articles, though, may be conditional hazmats.  That is, the article may or may not be a hazardous material depending on whether the unit has yet had hazardous material introduced into it.  Fuel system components can be a good example.  After they have had fuel run through them, the fuel residue generally makes the fuel system component a hazardous material (known as “dangerous goods in apparatus”).  But before fuel has ever run through the fuel system component, it may not be a hazardous material.

Reading that last sentence, you may be expressing frustration over a lawyer’s unwillingness to commit.  “[I]t may not be a hazardous material”?  How about taking a stand?

But with some engine components, even a factory new and unused part might be a hazardous material.  Even without fuel residue, new parts and overhauled parts may contain a preservative or calibration fluid that is a hazardous material.  The preservative may be treated as a “petroleum distillate” that is regulated under UN 1268.  Even if the amount that remains is only a tiny residue, this residue in an engine part will cause the engine part to be treated as a “dangerous goods in apparatus.”

One important rule of thumb is that if you can smell a substance in the aircraft part, then there is at least an appreciable residue that remains (that’s what you are smelling).  And if that residue is a hazardous material then the larger article is likely to be regulated as a hazardous material if it is shipped with the hazardous residue.

The best source of information about what is in you parts is going to be the manufacturer, who can tell you what chemicals or other hazards might be found in their part.

Once you’ve identified the chemical(s), the best source of information about the chemical is the manufacturer of the chemical (and their MSDS).  This is usually idfferent from the “OEM of the part.  I once encountered a calibration fluid that the engine OEM said was not a hazmat, but the label on the chemical’s packaging specified that the chemical was, in fact, a hazmat.  We double-checked with the chemical manufacturer and confirmed that the fluid was a hazmat.  So research carefully, and be sure to check what you learn!

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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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