Two-Year Record Retention Requirement for Repair Stations

Many ASA members hold repair station certificates, and we find ourselves answering many repair station related questions.

One ASA member recently asked:

“It is our understanding, that all maintenance related records are to be kept on file for two years.   If that is the case, are we allow to destroy maintenance related records that are older than 2 years?”

The answer is yes, a repair station is generally allowed to destroy its own records, such as its maintenance records, after the applicable retention period(s) have expired.  The current retention period for maintenance records under the FAA’s regulations is two years.  14 C.F.R. 145.219(c).  The general rule that you may destroy records after two years holds true AS LONG AS there is no other obligation to maintain those records for a longer period.

Other record maintenance obligations that could apply include (but are not limited to):

  • Obligations published in your repair station manual, quality manual, or other business directives;
  • Contractual obligations to maintain records;
  • Relationships with operators in which they rely on your business to maintain their records;
  • Regulatory obligations to maintain hazardous materials shipping records;
  • Regulatory obligations to maintain export records;
  • Obligations to maintain records for (or in anticipation of) litigation (non-spoliation obligation – if litigation is threatened then be sure to seek legal advice, as you may be precluded from engaging in regular record disposal practices).

Note that the obligation to hold records for two years applies to “records in English that demonstrate compliance with the requirements of part 43” including the maintenance release.  Thus it may not apply to other documents – like certain commercial and transactional documents, as well as financial records.

It is often advisable to have a written document destruction policy so that (1) employees have a plan to follow, and (2) if challenged, the business can show that this was a regular business practice that was uniformly administered.

But just because you have a right to destroy your documents doesn’t always mean that you should destroy them.  The company’s own records can be important evidence of proper performance of company obligations, in the event of litigation or enforcement action.  A business may wish to hold/maintain records for a time that is reasonably related to the most likely statutes of limitations that might apply in the event of litigation.  With this in mind, ASA has established a seven year minimum document retention period for distributors accredited to ASA-100.  Always remember that product liability claims can arise many years after the sale of an aircraft part!

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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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