New FAA Safety Guidance on Anti-Friction Bearings

The FAA has issued a Safety Alert For Operators (SAFO) warning about anti-friction bearings that were the subject of “improper overhaul and repair.”

The FAA SAFO states:

“The FAA investigation revealed that AeroBearings LLC conducted work on aeronautical anti-friction bearings used in aircraft engines, APUs, rotorcraft drive systems, and accessory applications without possessing the necessary approved data. As a result, AeroBearings LCC could not determine whether the bearings met the original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM) design specifications. The work accomplished is not compliant with Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) Part 43. In March 2018, the FAA revoked AeroBearings LLC’s Air Agency Certificate No. 8AZR921B.”

The FAA recommends that distributors should:

“1. Inspect records and inventory. Inspect aircraft records, engine records, APU records, accessory records, FAA Form 8130-3 airworthiness approval tags, and aircraft part inventories for any bearings approved for return to service by AeroBearings LLC;
2. Quarantine and inspect bearings not installed. Any bearing found to be overhauled, repaired, or inspected by AeroBearings LLC that is not installed should be quarantined until the suspect bearing undergoes a recertification inspection to determine airworthiness prior to installation. The recertification inspection should follow the approved data, from the OEM or another, to determine airworthiness of a bearing; and
3. Inspect bearings installed. For bearings currently installed, we recommend owners/operators have the suspect bearings inspected at the next piece parts exposure. Owners/operators should also closely monitor the suspect bearings’ health using the OEM’s recommendations or other approved maintenance program methods.”

Please review the full SAFO if you think that your inventory might be impacted by the FAA’s instructions.

The FAA also revoked AeroBearing’s repair station certificate.  In a May 11 decision, the NTSB affirmed the FAA’s emergency revocation of the repair certificate.

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Incident-Accident Parts

An ASA member wrote in to ask about incidents and accidents occasioned by turbulence.  The member found it odd that turbulence (an every-day industry occurrence) would yield an incident or accident report.  The query identifies one of the problems with our industry’s reliance on the accident-incident determination as the basis for identifying whether there may be damage to an aircraft part that affects its airworthiness.

FACTS

The fact pattern involves an aircraft that was flown in a non-US country, by that country’s flag operator.

The member obtained a “non-accident / incident” statement from an operator indicating that there were two occurrences in the history of the aircraft.  One occurrence was an incident and one was an accident and they were almost eight years apart.  The statement specifies that both occurrences were classified by the government (as incident and accident, respectively) because of serious injuries to passengers and/or crew.  The statement also specifies that each serious injury arose in the context of severe turbulence.

The operator’s “non-accident / incident” statement specifies that it is based on ICAO Annex 13.

The concern raised by the ASA member was whether turbulence represents a reportable incident.  Focusing on the turbulence, though, is focusing on the wrong element.

RULES AND STANDARDS

Our industry uses terms that are defined in the ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs).  The terms that are relevant to our inquiry today are found in Annex 13, which is the annex for Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation.

  • Under ICAO Annex 13, the term “accident” includes an occurrence involving a death or serious injury to a person on the aircraft.  Serious injuries (generating an “accident” label) can include fractures and lacerations.  So is a passenger suffers a broken arm as a consequence of turbulence, then the broken arm is reported as an accident (the turbulence in this case would merely be the environment in which the accident arose).
  • Under ICAO definitions, a “serious incident” is any circumstance in which “there was a high probability of an accident.”  ICAO Annex 13 clarifies that incapacitation of a flight crew member during flight is an example of a serious incident under the ICAO standards.  So if the turbulence in our example incapacitated a flight crew member during flight, then it would reflect a serious incident under the ICAO standards.
  • An incident (not a serious one) is any “occurrence, other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft which affects or could affect the safety of operation.”  This is a catch-all term for anything that falls below the threshold of an accident, but might nonetheless be interesting to an accident investigation body.

Note that these terms tend to have very similar (but not always identical) meanings enshrined in national law, because the national laws are often based on the ICAO standards.  In the US, the NTSB regulations have very similar language in their definitions.

You can see from these definitions that it is quite easy to have an incident, a serious incident, or even an accident, that has absolutely no effect on the integrity of the aircraft parts.

It is important to remember that these terms are defined in the context of investigations.  They help define when a state has authority to investigate an occurrence, and when a state has an obligation to investigate an occurrence.  The purpose of this is to foster a uniform process of investigation that will allow the world to learn from accidents and incidents, and to better prevent them in the future.  They are not defined in terms of the occurrence’s likely effects on aircraft parts, and they were never originally intended to be used for the ‘accident-incident statement’ purposes that our industry has applied to them.  So it is only natural that these terms would fail to be 100% useful in some circumstances when we are using them for something other than their intended purpose.

ANALYSIS

The member asked whether instances of turbulence could be cause for a shop to treat these units as incident-related or accident-related.  The short answer is “no, turbulence alone is typically not an incident, nor an accident” but in this fact pattern it was not the turbulence that was the basis for the incident and accident labels … it was the fact that passengers and flight crew were injured during the turbulence.

As a threshold matter, it is important to remember why we identify units as incident-or-accident related.  The reason is because where an incident or accident may have caused damage to a part, we want a repair facility to assess whether such damage exists – usually through an appropriate form of hidden damage inspection.  Microscopic cracks/fissures can propagate in to larger ones, so hidden damage assessment is intended to identify potential safety problems before they become actual safety problems.

There are two ways to analyze this situation – a legal answer and a practical answer.

Legally, a repair station has an obligation to develop a procedure for “inspecting all articles that have been involved in an accident for hidden damage before maintenance, preventive maintenance, or alteration is performed.” 14 C.F.R. 145.211(c)(1)(iii).  An FAA repair station must follow that procedure.  14 C.F.R. 145.211(b).

The FAA regulations do not impose a specific response for incidents, although a repair station is free to develop its own procedure for responding to known incidents.  When the repair station is faced with a component that has been installed on an incident-related aircraft, the regulation impose no additional burden on the repair station – any decision to perform hidden damage assessment will be based on customer requests for inspection, maintenance manual provisions (some manuals require hidden damage assessment in all overhauls, regardless of whether there is an accident or incident history), and good safety practice (performing the assessment where circumstances suggest a need for such an assessment, even where the law might not require it).

However, where the occurrence has be designated as an accident, the analysis changes.  When an article is identified as having been involved in an accident, then the repair station has a legal obligation to follow its hidden damage assessment procedure.  Thus, if turbulence resulted in an accident (e.g. there was a serious injury to a person, like a fracture ***), then this could drive a legal obligation for hidden damage assessment under the repair station’s quality system.  One way to avoid this, where it becomes an inappropriate waste of inspection resources, might be for the repair station to write into its procedure a clause that permits it to waive the hidden damage inspection where the facts indicate that hidden damage to the particular unit in question was not reasonably possible from the reported event.

At a practical level, though, it is wise to ignore the semantic labels applied to a part, and consider whether the history of the part makes it plausible that there might be hidden damage.  In the case of a complete aircraft, turbulence that resulted in an incapacitating crew injury might be a serious incident (of the sort that the government wants to track in order to reduce such circumstances), but it is an expected environment for aircraft operation.  If there was no other basis for calling the occurrence an incident and is not be the sort of incident that could reasonably cause hidden damage to the aircraft, nor to any specific component from the aircraft, then hidden damage inspection might not be reasonably necessary.  This does not change the fact that the government wants to track injuries in order to find ways to protect against them.

On the other hand, there might be other occurrences that do not even rise to the level of incident that might nonetheless drive a need for a hidden damage assessment.  For example, if an aircraft is improperly chocked during a windstorm and gets pushed by the wind into a building, then this could cause stresses on the affected structure that might lead to cracking.  This is the sort of circumstance where hidden damage assessment of the affected structures might be appropriate.  But because no one was on the aircraft and it was not being operated, it is likely not an accident nor an incident as those terms are defined by ICAO (and, in the US, as those terms are defined by the NTSB).

I advise companies that hidden damage assessments should be applied as appropriate to the physical realities of possible hidden damage, and also as called-for in the appropriate maintenance manuals. An incident involving a catering truck hitting the aft portion of the fuselage is unlikely to cause hidden damage to avionics in the cockpit.

I also feel that once a hidden damage assessment has ruled out the possibility of hidden damage, there is no longer any practical need to continue to convey that accident incident history.  But a company must be careful to ensure that it is accurate in its commercial representations (for example, do not say that a part has never been installed on an incident-related aircraft if it has previously been so-installed; but it is acceptable to say that post-incident hidden damage assessment confirmed no hidden damage from the incident).

ASA continues to work on parts-specific language that allows a discloser to uniformly identify that any past possible damage to an article has been assessed and cleared through hidden damage assessment.  For more on this topic, be sure to attend the ASA Quality Committee meeting in Dallas, this fall!

18 Month Left Before ADS-B Equipage Deadline

ADS-B must be equipped in aircraft by January 1, 2020.  Does your inventory reflect this change?

In May 2010, the FAA published a final rule that required all aircraft flying in designated controlled airspace must be equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance—Broadcast (ADS–B) Out avionics on aircraft operating in Classes A, B, and C airspace, as well as certain other specified classes of airspace within the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS).

ADS–B Out broadcasts information about an aircraft through an onboard transmitter to a ground receiver. The FAA expected use of ADS–B Out to help in moving our air traffic control system from a radar-based system to a satellite-derived aircraft location system.  Today, air traffic control facilities across the country are already using ADS-B to separate traffic.

Only aircraft that fly in uncontrolled airspace, and aircraft without electrical systems, such as balloons and gliders, are exempt from the ADS-B mandate.

ADS-B Out reflects the transmitted information about the aircraft, its position, and its heading.  There is also an ADS-B In, which uses the ADS-B receiver to obtain information useful to the pilot.  ADS-B In equipment allows aircraft, when equipped properly, to receive and interpret other participating aircraft’s ADS-B Out data on a computer screen or an Electronic Flight Bag in the cockpit.

Many companies have already installed ADS-B equipment, but if you have customers that have not done so, then now is the time to help them make the transition before the deadline (which is only 18 months away).  If you or your business partners have any questions about equipage then you can find answers on the FAA’s Equip ADS-B webpage.  For more information about the technology, visit the FAA’s ADS-B website.

The Electronic Records/Signature Law (ESIGN) turns 18

The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) was signed into law on June 30, 2000.  That makes the law 18 years old on Sunday.  If there was any justice in the world, we’d all be buying the law a cigar and allowing it to vote.

ESIGN established a general rule of validity for electronic records, electronic contracts, and electronic signatures.  Prior to the law, many courts had refused to recognize electronic signatures and they questioned electronic records.

ESIGN applies to transactions “in interstate commerce,” which is a term of art meaning that the transaction is open to being regulated by Congress under the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution (most transactions, today, are subject to the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution).  Generally, it explains that when records and agreements are required to be in writing, an electronic version of them counts as a “writing.”

ESIGN also applies to federal and state government agencies.  They are forbidden from adopting record-keeping rules that would “impose unreasonable costs on the acceptance and use of electronic records.”  The law explains that if an agency wants to require paper records (to the exclusion of electronic), then the agency needs to show “there is a compelling governmental interest relating to law enforcement or national security for imposing such requirement.”

Eighteen years after the law was enacted, the aviation industry still struggles with full implementation of the law.  Even though it is clear that aviation records can be recorded and transmitted electronically, the aviation industry remains wedded to paper.  Nowhere is this more clear than with respect to parts documentation.  While distributors are now more comfortable reducing paper 8130-3 tags, and paper material certifications to electronic format for archival storage, transactional records remains stubbornly rooted to a paper paradigm.

One reason for this paper paradigm is because most aircraft parts are unserialized, and therefore it can be difficult to uniquely tie an electronic record to a particular (unserialized) part. A paper record, on the other hand, can be literally, physically, connected to the part to which it applies.  In a world in which we deal with so many different parts coming and going through our warehouses, paper records provide a level of comfort that we are connecting the uniquely correct record to the uniquely correct part.

The FAA has repeatedly said  that commercial documentation paradigms (like back-to-birth traceability) are not required by FAA regulations.  They have specifically stated that there is no Federal Aviation regulation that requires traceability of an aircraft part to its origin, and the FAA does not require back-to-birth records even for life-limited parts.  The FAA has explained that a part may be identified as having been released by a manufacturer as an airworthy part using  “a shipping document, a manufacturer’s certificate of conformance or material certification, or an FAA Airworthiness Approval Tag, Form 8130-3,”  but that in the absence of such documentation, “the part may be submitted for inspection and testing to determine conformity.”

Despite the best efforts of the FAA’s lawyers, the industry remains stubbornly rooted to a paperwork paradigm.  There are many commercial reasons for this, but one important pseudo-regulatory reason is that FAA inspectors frequently insist that the manuals for FAA certificate holders feature documentation requirements.  Once these requirements are published in the manuals, then these FAA-approved manuals drive the documentation requirements which are flowed-down throughout the industry.  And because these documentation requirements are not directly tied to FAA regulations, there is no opportunity to apply the ESIGN mandates and protections to them.

Through recent conversations with both the FAA and EASA, we are starting to see a new understanding of the value of several important paperwork paradigms:

  • limiting documentation ‘requirements’ only to those that are actually valuable to safety;
  • making acceptable safety information more readily available through available (and trusted) industry channels; and
  • permitting greater reliance on electronic information where availability of such data supports safety.

This is likely to be related to the greater reliance of the rest of the world on electronic data (a reliance that was facilitated by ESIGN), but it is also related to the fact that senior decision-makers in the FAA and EASA are more comfortable with electronic records than were their predecessors (again, a comfort that was facilitated by the impact of ESIGN on other parts of the world of data).  And they are also thinking more critically about what information supports safety (and should be encouraged) and what information does not support safety (and therefore becomes unnecessary to the FAA’s mission).

Doing Business With Iran Under a JCPOA License? Get Your Transactions Completed by August 6, 2018.

As we reported on May 8, the United States’ decision to end the JCPOA agreement with Iran means that existing JCPOA-based licenses will be revoked on August 6.  A number of ASA members have these export licenses, which permit aircraft-parts-business with the specified Iranian parties.

On May 8, the President announced his decision to discontinue the United States’ participation in the Agreement with Iran, and to reimpose sanctions against Iran.

The Treasury has published a document explaining the wind-down process, including answers to frequently asked questions.  The wind-down document explains that the United States government plans to revoke JCPOA-related authorizations, such as the aircraft and aircraft parts-related export licenses that were issued pursuant to the US-Iran Agreement.  Those export licenses are scheduled to be terminated as of August 6, 2018.

Those ASA members who hold JCPOA export licenses (which are being terminated) may consider applying for replacement licenses under the safety of flight statement of licensing policy found in 31 C.F.R. § 560.528. That provision permits licenses on a case-by-case basis for exporting to Iran in order to ensure the safety of civil aviation and safe operation of U.S.-origin commercial passenger aircraft.  Historically, the United States government has not issued many of these licenses, but if the transaction is valuable to the United States then the transaction might be considered for licensing.

Watch Out for Brexit – That EASA Form One Might Have a Shelf Life!

How will Brexit affect the typical ASA member?  Although the full details are as yet unknown, the prima facie thoughts have been published by the European Commission (EC), and these thoughts could reflect future problems for ASA members.  In summary, UK-originated EASA Form 1 will be considered invalid in the EU after Brexit.

The European Commission published a Notice to Stakeholders detailing the consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union’s aviation safety rules.  The Notice explains that when the UK leaves the European Union (EU), then from an EU perspective, this action will (1) invalidate all certificates issued by the UK CAA, and (2) invalidate all certificates issued by the UK CAA certificate holders.  Certificates will be invalid as of the withdrawal date, which is currently set for 11pm on March 29, 2019.

The Notice explains that “[t]he products, parts and appliances concerned will no longer be considered as certified in accordance with Article 5 of the Basic Regulation.”  Article 5 of the Basic Regulation provides the legal foundation for the issue of an EASA Form 1 for a part or appliance.  In a practical sense, if you have an EASA Form 1 for a new part, and it was issued in the UK, then the EU will no longer recognize it as a valid document after Brexit.  This means that parts in your inventory that bear EASA Form 1 may have to be segregated and identified as “UK” and “EU,” in order to ensure that if they are still in inventory after Brexit, that they can be directed to customers who are legally able to use those parts.
There is an grandfather-clause that applies to parts that are already installed on an aircraft.  It does not provide any safe harbor for parts already in a distributor’s inventory.
What about release to service documents issued by 145 organizations located in the UK?  These are issued on EASA Form 1 tags, but they are arguably do not reflect certification “in accordance with Article 5 of the Basic Regulation.”  This technical argument is unlikely to save those tags.  Another provision in the Notice makes it clear that:
“Certificates confirming compliance with the provisions of the Basic Regulation and its implementing rules issued before the withdrawal date … will no longer be valid.”
This would appear to apply to maintenance release documents, as well, because they are described in Annex IV of the basic regulation (and also because disallowing UK certificates as “third-party certificates” is consistent with the message of the Notice).
How do you know if a Form 1 is subject to these conditions?  Look in block one (in the upper left had corner).  That block identifies the aviation authority under whose legal authority the form was issued (usually by identifying the name of the nation and/or the name of the aviation authority).  As an example, here is a link to a form issued under the legal authority granted by France’s DGAC; and here is a link to an overhaul tag issued under the legal authority granted by the UK CAA.
It is possible that further negotiations will result in an agreement between the EU and the UK to change this declaration.  It is also possible that Brexit could be reversed.  But, absent some other agreement, the EU will no longer accept UK-based EASA Form 1 for new parts, even if the Form was issued while the UK was still part of the EU, after the withdrawal date.

New aliases for Al-Naser Airlines and Dart Airlines added to Treasury’s list of Specially Designated Nationals

The U.S. Department of the Treasury (Office of Foreign Asset Control) has added some new airline names to the list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs).  In particular they have added some new airline aliases.  The full listing for Al-Naser Airlines and Dart Airlines are both listed below – the new additions to the listings are in bold face type and underlined to highlight the changes:
AL-NASER AIRLINES (a.k.a. ALNASER AIRLINES), Al-Karrada, Babil Region – District 929, St. 21, Home 46, Baghdad, Iraq; P.O. Box 28360, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; P.O. Box 911399, Amman 11191, Jordan; Additional Sanctions Information – Subject to Secondary Sanctions [SDGT] [IFSR] (Linked To: MAHAN AIR). -to- AL-NASER AIRLINES (a.k.a. AL NASER WINGS; a.k.a. AL NASER WINGS AIRLINES; a.k.a. ALNASER AIRLINES), Al-Karrada, Babil Region – District 929, St. 21, Home 46, Baghdad, Iraq; P.O. Box 28360, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; P.O. Box 911399, Amman 11191, Jordan; Additional Sanctions Information – Subject to Secondary Sanctions [SDGT] [IFSR] (Linked To: MAHAN AIR).
 
DART AIRLINES (a.k.a. DART AIRCOMPANY; a.k.a. DART UKRAINIAN AIRLINES; a.k.a. TOVARYSTVO Z OBMEZHENOYU VIDPOVIDALNISTYU ‘DART’; a.k.a. “DART, LLC”; a.k.a. “DART, TOV”), 26a, Narodnogo Opolchenyia Street, Kiev 03151, Ukraine; Kv. 107, Bud. 15/2 Vul.Shuliavska, Kyiv 01054, Ukraine; Ave. Vozdukhoflostsky 90, Kiev 03036, Ukraine; Additional Sanctions Information – Subject to Secondary Sanctions; Tax ID No. 252030326052 (Ukraine); Government Gazette Number 25203037 (Ukraine) [SDGT] [IFSR]. -to- DART AIRLINES (a.k.a. AIR ALANNA; a.k.a. DART AIRCOMPANY; a.k.a. DART UKRAINIAN AIRLINES; a.k.a. TOVARYSTVO Z OBMEZHENOYU VIDPOVIDALNISTYU ‘DART’; a.k.a. “ALANNA”; a.k.a. “ALANNA LLC”; a.k.a. “DART, LLC”; a.k.a. “DART, TOV”), 26a, Narodnogo Opolchenyia Street, Kiev 03151, Ukraine; Kv. 107, Bud. 15/2 Vul.Shuliavska, Kyiv 01054, Ukraine; Ave. Vozdukhoflostsky 90, Kiev 03036, Ukraine; Additional Sanctions Information – Subject to Secondary Sanctions; Tax ID No. 252030326052 (Ukraine); Government Gazette Number 25203037 (Ukraine) [SDGT] [IFSR] (Linked To: CASPIAN AIRLINES).
Typically, companies will need a Treasury license before accomplishing most aircraft parts transactions involving an SDN.  This includes transactions in which you are selling parts to a MRO that you know intends to install the parts on an aircraft belonging to, or operated by, an SDN.  The U.S. has jailed people who’ve sold aircraft parts to SDNs.  The U.S. has enforced its export regulations against non-US companies, so even non-US companies should be cautious about doing business with an SDN.
You should seek legal advice before doing business with any Specially Designated National (SDN).
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