Scrapped Parts – What Evidence of Destruction Should I Expect?

An Association member recently asked me what sort of documentation is appropriate to provide evidence of destruction when aircraft parts are being scrapped.

In 2012, ASA published ASA Best Practice: Disposition of Unsalvageable Aircraft Parts.  That guidance recommends:

“Persons disposing of unsalvageable aircraft parts and materials should maintain a record keeping system which identifies the part number, serial number (as applicable) and description of the part.”

This recommendation is advisory only – it is not required by law.

Under US law, there is no legal obligation to scrap commercial aircraft parts, and therefore there is no legal requirement to maintain documentation or other evidence of that activity.  Nonetheless, there may be some risk-mitigation-reasons for maintaining such records.

Aircraft parts that are not airworthy – and cannot be made airworthy – can be a hazard to aviation safety if their condition is misrepresented and they are subsequently used inappropriately.  Because of this potential hazard, many companies will scrap aircraft parts that they deem to be valueless (including those identified as “beyond economic repair”).  They do so in order to help to mitigate any potential liability (including product liability) associated with a future use (or misrepresentation) of the parts.  If the part has been scrapped, then it is less likely that someone will mistake it for a good, airworthy, part.

This means that while there is no legal obligation for scrapping, there may be risk mitigation and/or legal liability reasons to scrap certain parts.  Therefore, a company’s decisions about scrapping, and evidence thereof, should be guided by sound commercial practices and the business’ plan for mitigating its own liability (and for protecting the aviation community from parts-related hazards).

I have heard that some companies ask their scrap facility to photograph mutilated material, but this appears to be an unusual request at this point in time.  Such documentation can be costly and time consuming.

It is more normal for businesses that scrap aircraft parts to provide a certificate of destruction.  In other countries, where the disposal of certain materials is more heavily regulated, a certificate of destruction may be more regulated; but in the US, an aircraft parts certificate of destruction is a commercial document that is typically not subject to direct FAA regulation.

I drafted the AFRA Best Management Practices for Disassembly of Aircraft Assets and Recycling and we recommended obtaining a Certificate of Destruction in that standard.  This recommendation was based on these facts:

  1. Many third parties that were providing such services to the aviation industry provided such a certificate;
  2. Many aviation industry parties that were obtaining such services asked for such a certificate; and,
  3. The practice of obtaining evidence of destruction of parts could be useful to mitigate liability in the event such parts (or counterfeits of such parts) later were involved in a loss event, such as an aircraft incident or accident.

Because it is not legally required in the United States, I cannot describe a specific legal minimum standard for evidence of scrapping (e.g. documentation, photographs, etc.); but I can provide some tips related to scrapping of parts identified as being appropriate for destruction.  These following points are only suggestions to consider when developing your scrapping policy.  An actual decision should be based upon your business’ needs and desires, and upon your risk mitigation strategy.

  1. Your business may have obligations imposed by contract.  This is particularly true when disposing of defense aircraft parts.  You should ensure that your practices are consistent with your contractual obligations, and then subsequently you should ensure that you do not adopt new contractual obligations related to scrapping without updating your practices to support those new obligations.
  2. If you are not going to scrap parts yourself, on-site, then use a facility that you trust to perform the scrapping activity.
  3. You may want to consider periodic audits of your scrapping vendor, to ensure they continue to have a secure environment for intake, scrapping and security of the scrap result.  many reputable facilities have a procedures-based system for handling material.  This sort of system allows you to audit the procedures (as written) to ensure they meet your need, and then permits you to audit the implementation of the procedures to ensure that they are being implemented consistent with the expectations generated by the written procedures.
  4. Consider maintaining a record keeping system that identifies the part number, serial number (as applicable) and description of each part.  This system should be sufficiently robust to allow you to pull evidence of destruction from your files if it becomes necessary.
  5. As discussed above, consider obtaining a Certificate of Destruction for the parts that are scrapped, and retaining the Certificate as part of your records.  This may identify the material based on an attachment (which may be your manifest that accompanied the material to the scrap facility).  This represents current normal practice for identifying material that has been destroyed.
  6. In the future, photographs documenting the destruction of material may become an industry norm.  If this becomes a norm, then:
    1. You may want to adopt that norm; and,
    2. You ought to find it easier to find scrap facilities willing to offer photographic evidence, if market forces are requiring such documentation.
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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 Air Carrier Purchasing Conference, and the Modification and Replacement Parts Association. He also represents private clients drawn from the spectrum of the aviation industry.

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