Brexit is Coming – How Will It Affect Aircraft Parts?

Brexit – the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union – will occur at 11 pm on Friday, March 29, 2019 (known as the withdrawal date).  In the past few weeks, we’ve met with representatives from the UK CAA, EASA and the FAA.  We’ve had a chance to talk about post-Brexit expectations.  It is clear that there are still a lot of unknowns.

One of the most significant unknowns revolves around the uncertainty in the future of UK-EU relations.  The UK CAA feels that there are generally two possible options.

The Two Options for Brexit

Option one is a Brexit that is reflected by an agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU. The EU and the UK negotiators have a draft of such an agreement, but early statements suggest that it may face some difficulty being ratified by the UK Parliament.

If there is a broad agreement between the two parties before the withdrawal date, then there is a reasonable chance that EU will permit UK CAA to participate in EASA.  EASA already has several non-EU participants that participate in EASA – like Norway and Switzerland – and the EU could permit the United Kingdom to join EASA as a non-EU member state.  In such a case, UK could continue to issue certificates recognized by EASA and certificate holders could continue to issue the EASA Form 1.  This option could make things simple, but as each day passes without a ratified high-level UK-EU agreement, the likelihood of this happening diminishes.

In addition, UK CAA has suggested that EASA may be unable to negotiate with UK CAA at any level under after the withdrawal date (because UK remains a part of the EU until then); so even if the plan is for UK CAA to participate in EASA, there may be a gap between the withdrawal date and UK CAA’s subsequent participation in EASA.

Option two arises if there is no deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union.  In such a case, UK CAA believes that EASA will not be permitted to negotiate with UK CAA on a formal basis. UK CAA would have to rebuild its own independent regulatory framework; it is already hiring additional qualified staff to be prepared to do this.

Under option two, and even under some versions of option one, there may be no aviation safety agreement between UK and EU.  If there is no agreement, then 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 to Stakeholders paints a bleak picture of the near future between the UK CAA and EASA.

European Union Treatment of Parts Produced or Maintain in the UK

The European Notice to Stakeholders 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 (UK time) 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.

This means that UK production approvals will become invalid, as far as the EU is concerned.  But this does not just apply to parts made after March 29.  It also applies to parts made before the withdrawal date.

Under European regulations, acceptable parts are required to bear appropriate documentation (such as EASA Form 1).  EASA Forms 1 issued before the withdrawal date under UK CAA authority become invalid as of the withdrawal date.  This means that parts in your inventory today – parts that are perfectly acceptable for installation on European-registered aircraft, today – will no longer be acceptable, after withdrawal, under EASA documentation rules because the UK CAA certificates will become invalid after the withdrawal.

After March 29, one may not install a part that is documented solely under a UK CAA EASA Form 1 into an EU-registered aircraft.  It would appear likely that this also would apply to aircraft registered in non-EU nations (like Norway) that have agreed to follow EASA regulations.  This would include:

  • New parts with UK CAA EASA Form 1
  • Maintained parts released to service on a UK CAA EASA Form 1

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, then they can be directed to customers who are legally able to use those parts.

How does a distributor tell if its EASA Form 1 certificates are affected?  Check block 1 of the form.  This is the block with the name of the regulatory authority.  If it says “UK CAA” in block one, then the EU will no longer recognize it as a valid tag after the withdrawal date (unless there is an agreement that changes the circumstances).  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.

Some people might wonder about dual-certificated parts from the UK.  About 200 repair station in the UK have FAA Part 145 certifications, and they historically have been released to service, following maintenance, on a UK CAA EASA Form 1 that also indicates compliance with FAA Part 145 regulations.  The EU has a bilateral agreement with the United States … does this permit acceptance of the work because it was performed under US FAA standards (too)?  The answer is “no.”  The EU only accepts maintenance from the United States’ system when it also approved under the EASA 145 standards.  Because UK’s EASA 145 certificates (and all other certificates issued by the repair stations) will become invalid upon withdrawal, a dual US-UK approval will not be acceptable for introduction into the EASA system.

Possible UK Solutions

EASA has a solution.  But it may be a costly and unwieldy solution.

EASA has proposed to issue EASA certificates to businesses in the UK as “third-country.”  In fact, it started accepting applications on October 2.  “Third country” treatment means that the UK certificate holders get treated like any-old foreigners.  They need to pay as if they were foreign applicants.  They need to pay for all of the EASA-time spent in approval and oversight.

By way of comparison, the EU has a working arrangement agreement with Uzbekistan.  It is currently scheduled to have no agreement with the UK.  So the Uzbekistan CAA is scheduled to have a closer relationship with EASA than the UK CAA will have.  This doesn’t mean that the years of trust between EASA and UK CAA disappear.  In the interim between now and March 29 (while UK CAA is still a member of EASA), EASA will be relying on UK CAA to support audits of UK aviation businesses that apply for EASA certificates as third country applicants.

EASA issues a number of foreign certificates, but the two most important for aircraft parts distribution are likely to be production organization approvals and maintenance organization approvals.  Both are potentially available to UK businesses.  An EASA third-country production organization approval would permit a UK manufacturer to produce parts and issue an acceptable EASA Form 1 even after the withdrawal date.  An EASA maintenance organization approval would permit a UK repair station to maintain articles and issue an acceptable EASA Form 1 even after the withdrawal date.

The timing of third-country certificates appears to be uncertain.  It would make the most sense for EASA to issue the certificate on or before March 29 in order to allow seamless operations in support of aviation safety.  The earlier that   EASA is able to issue the certificate before March 29. the better for industry planning (including safety contingency planning).  But it is also possible that the European Union will not permit EASA to issue third-country certificates to businesses in the UK until after the withdrawal date (a lergal justification advanced for this delay is that UK is not a third country until the withdrawal date).

When a distributor looks at an EASA Form 1 certificate issued by a UK-based entity, if block 1 of the form says “EASA” then this is an indication that the relevant certificate was issued by EASA and not by the UK CAA.  If it says “EASA” in block one of the Form 1, then the EU should recognize it as a valid (“third country”) tag after the withdrawal date.

What happens to parts that were maintained or produced in the UK before withdrawal date, by a company that obtains a replacement EASA third country certification?  This would appear to establish a continuity of EASA approval; but the actual legal treatment of the certification is currently unknown.  It is equally possible that EASA could invalidate EVERYTHING with UK CAA in block one (for ease of determination) or it could decide to accept parts from UK certificate holders who subsequently obtain comparable EASA foreign approvals (causing potential complication in cases where there was a hiatus between the withdrawal date and the date on which the EASA foreign approval was issued).

US Acceptance of UK Maintenance and Production

The United States and the United Kingdom have pledged to work things out.  It is likely that there will be some difficulties at first (there always are), but both authorities seem optimistic about their desire to find a way to support safety and keep aviation flying.  They are actively negotiating a new bilateral agreement, with the understanding that they will be ready to use it if the UK CAA is unable to rely on EASA as their agent (and if the EU permits UK CAA to participate in EASA, then some of the following details will likely change).

An important element of the US-UK negotiations is the plan concerning UK-based repair stations.  As previously mentioned, there are about 200 repair stations in the UK that bear FAA credentials as well.  The plan appears to be

  1. Identify the repair stations whose FAA credentials will expire in the first six months after the withdrawal date;
  2. Renew the FAA credentials of those soon-expiring repair stations early, before the withdrawal date, so they can be renewed before March 29 under the EASA provisions;
  3. This early renewal of expiring repair station certificates in the UK allows the FAA to have a cushion of time to work-out the operating procedures with UK CAA without any emergencies forcing rash decisions;
  4. After the withdrawal date, FAA repair stations in the UK will be permitted to issue dual release 8130-3 tags under FAA and UK CAA authority.

Yes, you read that last bit correctly.  Repair stations in the UK would be permitted to issue 8130-3 tags as approval for return to service documents.  This unusual move is permitted, because FAA removed the geographic limitations on 8130-3 tags about a decade ago.  The UK repair stations in question hold FAA Part 145 certificates and are permitted to approve for return to service in accordance with 14 C.F.R. 43.9.  UK CAA is in favor of this solution because the 8130-3 tag is well-recognized internationally.

Other than these details, it is likely that much of the UK-US bilateral will resemble the US-EASA bilateral in order to minimize the differences and mitigate the change management issues associated with Brexit.

Conclusion

It is possible that the EU and the UK will enter into an agreement that permits UK CAA to remain a part of EASA.  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.

Distributors need to be prepared by:

  1. Assessing their inventory for susceptibility to Brexit issues based on UK CAA production and/or maintenance, and potentially segregating inventory in a way that eases identification;
    • Segregation could be physical or virtual, e.g. inventory could be managed through software;
    • Remember that we might not know who is willing to accept EASA Form 1 from the UK CAA until very close to the withdrawal date;
  2. Communicating with customers to understand their post-Brexit expectations;
  3. Establishing procedures for proper handling of UK CAA-tagged articles to ensure that they do not go to customers who cannot accept such articles;
  4. Training their personnel on how Brexit impacts the business and the customers;
  5. Communicating with UK-based partners to assess how they plan to deal with the changes.  For example, will your UK-based repair stations apply for EASA 145 under the third-country provisions?  Will your UK-based manufacturers apply for EASA POA under the third-country provisions?

Bear in mind that we’ve dealt here only with the airworthiness acceptance issues in this article.  Commercial relationships will be further complicated by myriad other issues, ranging from import tariffs to continued operations of aircraft.

This is a developing issue.  ASA will be taking steps to keep members informed, and ASA hopes to host discussions about the impact of Brexit in the near future.

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Holy Grail: International Mutual Maintenance Acceptance

Today, distributors who obtain overhaul services for their rotable aircraft p[arts are well-aware of the value of the tag that accompanies the part.  Depending on the company’s business model, a distributor seeking overhaul services may ask for more than one certification on the Approval for Return To Service (ARTS) documentation.  For example, a common certification is a dual US-EU certification made on either an EASA Form 1 or an FAA Form 8130-3.  This allows the part to ultimately be installed in either a US-registered aircraft of an aircraft registered in one of the EU member nations.  For a distributor that does not yet know which customer will purchase the overhauled component, having multiple certifications approving the component overhaul expands the potential customer pool that might be able to purchase that component.

But as the number of countries potentially extending jurisdiction over maintenance grows, the number of certifications that one must consider becomes unwieldy.  This can be maddening for a distributor that enjoys a global business model.

The large number of jurisdictions that could exert jurisdiction over maintenance work has resulted in some repair stations experiencing commercial pressure to obtain multiple certificates, and to be prepared to sign-off on maintenance under the rules of multiple different jurisdictions.  One friend of mine has admitted that he is managing over 130 certificates in his maintenance facilities.

Typically, the way that the maintenance is performed doesn’t change from one jurisdiction to the next; what changes are the ancillary matters, like how the maintenance is documented, how employee training is documented, what matters must be communicated to the government that issued the certificate, etc.  Because the way that the maintenance is performed really doesn’t change from one jurisdiction to the next, if one jurisdiction can accept that the neighboring jurisdiction’s government oversight yields the same results as its neighbor, then there may be some room for the governments to extend to one another a mutual recognition of the maintenance performed in the other.

Many people will be familiar with existing examples of this sort of mutual recognition.  One of the longest-standing such relationships exists between the United States and Canada.  Under existing United States laws, maintenance performed by a Transport Canada Authorized Maintenance Organization (AMO) is accepted in the United States as if it had been performed by an FAA-certificated repair station.  See 14 C.F.R. 43.17.  The regulations also recognize certain work signed-off under an Aviation Maintenance Engineer (AME) license from Canada.  In each case, the Canadian does not need an FAA certificate – the US accepts the work done by the Canadian certificate holder because of the trust between the FAA and Transport Canada (trust that is verified and renewed through collaboration and mutual oversight at the government-level).  Canada’s regulations provide for a similar recognition of maintenance performd in the US by FAA certificate-holders.

Recently, the quadrilateral group of airworthiness authorities met in Brazil to discuss a future paradigm in which mutual recognition of maintenance might be possible.  The quadrilateral group is made up of:

  • Brazil (ANAC),
  • Canada (TCCA),
  • European Union (EASA), and
  • United States (FAA).

The essence of such mutual recognition of maintenance is close and careful coordination that allows the authorities to each conclude that the others are performing oversight which yields substantially the same results – that is, a finding that a repair station subject to FAA oversight will yield the same safety results as a repair station subject to EASA oversight.

During the Brazil meeting, industry representatives and the authorities discussed the implementation mechanisms for such a paradigm shift.  Industry would like to see the authorities adopt a multilateral focus.  As part of this, they would like to see the four authorities consider a multilateral agreement in which the four authorities agree to mutual recognition and common standards for maintenance among themselves.

The Multilateral Approach

One reason for this is multilateral approach is because variances in the way that maintenance is accepted could cause problems.  For example, imagine a scenario where where maintenance on a subcomponent X is performed in jurisdiction one.  The maintained subcomponent X is then exported to jurisdiction two, which has an agreement to accept the maintenance performed under the maintenance authority of jurisdiction one. A repair station located in jurisdiction two accepts the maintained subcomponent X and introduces it into component Y, during the course of an overhaul of component Y.  This is permitted under a mutual recognition agreement between jurisdiction one and jurisdiction two.  The problem arises when the component Y is then exported to jurisdiction three.  Under a maintenance mutual recognition agreement between jurisdiction two and three, the repair station in jurisdiction three can accept the work performed in jurisdiction two.  But if there is not yet a bilateral agreement between jurisdictions one and three, then the subcomponent overhaul work on subcomponent X may not be acceptable to jurisdiction three.

But imagine that there is also a bilateral maintenance mutual recognition agreement between jurisdiction two and jurisdiction three.  This still might not solve the problem; because if the documentation requirements differ or if small details differ, then the maintenance documentation/acceptance requirements of jurisdiction two may not be adequate for jurisdiction three.  In such a case, maintenance that would have been acceptable in jurisdiction three if it had come directly from jurisdiction one, becomes unacceptable merely because it went first to jurisdiction two under the “wrong” paperwork.

This causes a problem in smoothly accepting the subcomponent and component work in jurisdiction three.  This problem is less likely to arise if all four of the quadrilateral jurisdictions agree to the same standards for accepting maintenance in a multilateral agreement, instead of a series of six bilateral agreements.

The Bilateral Approach

The authorities on the other hand, have made it clear that they prefer to retain the multilateral coordination, but to act through bilateral agreements.  This means a total of six agreements among the four authorities:

 

Brazil (ANAC) Canada (TCCA)
| \ / |
| X |
| / \ |
European Union (EASA) United States (FAA)

 

One reason for the preference for the bilateral agreement approach is that this is the approach that has historically been used in aviation.

The authorities all agree that there is too much redundancy in maintenance oversight.  They are committed to making strides to reduce unnecessary reduncancy.  But today, they typically approach issues through bilateral relations, so they are not yet comfortable with taking a multilateral-agreement approach to maintenance acceptance.

This is not a task that will happen quickly.  The trust-building among authorities to permit reliance on one-another, alone, is a lengthy process.  But industry proposed a number of ways to faciliate progress, such as using a risk-based approach to allow staged maintenance acceptance.  Under such a scenario, lower-risk maintenance, like non-critical component maintenance, could be accepted first, and acceptance of maintenance work that incorporates a higher level of risk tolerance could be shared among the authorities at a later date, when the authorities become comfortable with sharing maintenance recognition of less-risk-sensitive maintenance.

Another idea that was floated as a model in which third parties could assess compliance to an international standard (a standard encompassing international maintenance norms).  A repair station that was certificated by its home government AND accredited to a third party standard based on international norms could be eligible to issue an internationally-recognized approval for return to service.  AC 00-56B and AS9100 are both examples of accreditation programs that can help to serve as effective models for the government bodies to consider.

The Continuing Efforts

These concepts are being developed by the quadrilateral group in partnership with industry representatives.  They recognize that with finite regulatory resources, the elimination of redundant oversight means more authority resources can be focused on maintaining and improving safety.

At the same time that the quadrilateral group is working with industry on this project, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is also investigating an international model for mutual recognition of maintenance.  If the ICAO effort is successful, then it could lead to international standards and recommended practices (SARPs) that might make it easier for governments to engage in mutual recognition of maintenance activities.

ASA will continue to work with the regulatory authorities to facilitate their trust-building exercises, to support their efforts to eliminate unnecessary redundancy, and to eliminate paperwork and administrative impediments that actually undermine safety by diverting focus away from the true aviation safety concerns.

Source of Parts for Repair Stations – Does it Matter?

An ASA member recently asked us to answer a MAG 6 question.  MAG 6 refers to revision 6 of the Maintenance Annex Guidance between the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

QUESTION: The ASA member (a dual-certificated repair stations subject to the MAG 6 requirements) asked:

We are an FAA and EASA dual-certificated repair station.  We would like to install a part.  Does it matter if the part was procured from outside sources or the replacement part comes from our own shelf and we perform the required inspections in house?

ANSWER: The first question is ‘how and when did the part enter your system?’  Remember that MAG 6 grandfathered parts that were already in a repair station’s inventory.  The relevant language from MAG 6 states:

“New parts that were received into inventory prior to October 1, 2016 must, at a minimum, have a document or statement (containing the same technical information as an FAA Form 8130-3) issued by the PAH or supplier with direct ship authority. These parts in inventory, documented with the required information, will be grandfathered and remain suitable for installation into EU articles, provided the certification/release date of these parts is prior to October 1, 2016.”

So if the parts were new, received into the repair station’s inventory prior to October 1, 2016, and had the requisite documentation, then they are acceptable for use.  If they did not have the requisite documentation (described above) when they were received into the repair station’s inventory, then you may need to inspect them for airworthiness before installation, pursuant to the guidance found in FAA Notice 8900.429.  In addition, this grandfathering process did not apply to used parts, so those will also need to be processed appropriately before use.

Ultimately, the second question is going to be “can you make a finding of suitability/airworthiness consistent with the regulations?”

The process you use for identifying the suitability of the part may be different depending on the source.  If you bring in the part from outside, then it must meet the MAG 6 documentation requirements or it must be subject to the FAA Notice 8900.429 inspection provisions.  If the part is selected from an in-house shelf, and was not brought in through your standard receiving inspection mechanism (e.g. a part removed by your repair station from a larger component during a tear-down of the new component for the purpose of separating parts needed for overhaul), then you will need to rely on your own internal mechanisms to assure airworthiness.  EASA regulations anticipate this but the MAG does not, which is why Notice 8900.429 was necessary.  In that sense the source of the part does matter (to the extent it drives a particular process that will be used to identify the suitability of the part).

The process you use for identifying the suitability of the part may also differ depending on the nature of the part.  The installer needs to ascertain the airworthiness of the part, so a part that is more likely to have major or catastrophic failure mode is likely to have more airworthiness conditions that need to be checked in order to gauge airworthiness of the part.  On the other hand, a part whose failure could have no safety affect on the aircraft is more likely to be subject to a mere “form, fit and function” check.

In a broad sense, though, it does NOT matter whether you procured the part from outside sources (e.g. with appropriate documentation) or you selected a part from your own shelf and performed appropriate inspections to verify airworthiness (as permitted under FAA Notice 8900.429).  The reason is because in each case, the installer has an obligation to ensure the part meets the prerequisites for being fitted during maintenance, and if it meets those prerequisites then it is eligible to be fitted (and if it fails to meet those prerequisites, then it cannot be fitted no matter the source … until and unless it is maintained to return it to an airworthy condition).

Thus, you can rely on documentation meeting the MAG 6 standards (e.g. documentation described in MAG 6, Section B, Appendix 1, paragraph 10(k)) or you can use the alternative mechanism described in FAA Notice 8900.429.  If the part meets the applicable requirements under either of these standards, and is otherwise airworthy, then it should be eligible to be fitted for maintenance in an appropriate installation.  Even though the way the part was shown to be eligible might have been different, the end result is the same.

If you intend to rely on documentation as part of the process for identifying suitability for installation, then it is a good idea to rely on an AC 00-56 accredited distributor.  AC 00-56 distributors provide a level of documentation that has been found acceptable by the FAA and other aviation authorities, and they are regularly audited for compliance to the AC 00-56 standards.  AC 00-56 accredited distributors can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Update on MAG issue and ASA Efforts

What is the Issue?

The latest revision of the Maintenance Annex Guidance [“MAG”] creates a new system in which existing industry documentation (which is acceptable under current EU and US regulations) becomes unacceptable within US repair stations. It is objectionable because it imposes new documentation standards that do not exist in either US or European regulations, and in doing so creates a documentation requirement for aircraft parts that will render worthless significant portions of existing aircraft parts inventories.

Under current US standards, no documentation is required in order to receive an aircraft part into a repair station’s inventory. See, e.g., FAA Chief Counsel’s Opinion Letter (August 6, 2009) (stating “there is no Federal Aviation regulation that requires traceability of an aircraft part to its origin” and explaining that parts may be found airworthy based on documentation, markings, or inspection and testing).  The repair station may install the part as long as it confirms that the article will return the product to a condition “at least equal to its original or properly altered condition.” 14 C.F.R. § 43.13.

The European system is a bit different. The European system distinguishes parts into six different categories, but for purposes of this analysis only two are relevant.

The first is serviceable parts – those in a satisfactory condition. Serviceable parts must be accompanied by the European manufacturer’s document known as the EASA Form One, or an equivalent document. EASA 145.A.42(a)(1).  EASA has recognized that the FAA 8130-3 tag is an equivalent document for receipt purposes (when signed on the left side).  EASA AMC M.A.501(a) ¶ (5)(a) (documents under the terms of a bilateral agreement); Technical Implementation Procedures for Airworthiness and Environmental Certification Between the FAA and EASA, ¶ 5.1.10 (Rev. 5 Sept. 15, 2015) (the bilateral agreement).

Because there are many articles produced by US manufacturers that do not bear 8130-3 tags, a ‘safety valve’ provision allows European repair stations to accept articles without such documentation.

There is a second provision in the EASA regulations that permits “unserviceable parts” to enter into a repair station without documentation when they are intended to be maintained. EASA 145.A.42(a)(2).  The European definition of “unserviceable” includes articles that are missing “necessary information to determine the airworthiness status or eligibility for installation.” EASA M.A.504(a)(3).  Thus, any new aircraft part that is missing an EASA Form One or 8130-3 (whichever is appropriate) is deemed unserviceable and can enter a repair station without documentation. Such an article may then be inspected to serviceable condition and installed if it passes inspection. See, e.g., EASA AMC M.A.501(a) (Installation); EASA AMC M.A.613(a) (Component certificate of release to service).  It cannot be treated as serviceable until it undergoes that inspection.

The problem with the MAG is that it closes the safety valve that allows acceptance of new parts without an 8130-3 or EASA Form One. It does this by establishing two different categories that are inconsistent with the “serviceable/ unserviceable” categories established under European law. The two categories are “new” and “used.” Under existing European law, a new part without the correct documentation can be received as unserviceable, and subsequently inspected to serviceable condition, but under the MAG, a new part is required to have an 8130-3 or EASA Form One. There is no exception under the MAG for new parts without the designated documentation – they are simply excluded.

So How Does this Affect Members?

Actual implementation has already shown that the language of the MAG is being enforced by FAA field inspectors as mandatory even though there is no regulatory basis under US or EU law for such enforcement. Thus, the real implementation has been that all US repair stations with EASA credentials are required to have a written manual (known as a Supplement) requiring them to exclude new parts without 8130-3 documents or EASA Form One documents – even though both US and EU regulations permit acceptance of these new parts.

This is starting to have a real world effect that will be expanded with the October 1, 2016 implementation.  Distributors are finding that parts that they could sell with manufacture’s trace (or other reasonable trace) are no longer “good enough.” Repair stations are starting to demand 8130-3 tags on everything (including parts that are not eligible for 8130-3 tags).

What is ASA Doing About It?

ASA continues to work with the FAA to achieve a solution.  FAA management recognizes that this is a potential problem, and they have been optimistic about finding a solution.

Our first efforts were to find a way to “grandfather” existing aircraft parts inventories.  FAA supported this solution, but EASA opposed it.

We have also asked for guidance explaining that repair stations can apply US standards to parts destined for US registered aircraft, but early implementers have shown that this idea is not consistent with what FAA inspectors are requesting so it is likely to be ineffective.  In addition, it creates a logistical problem for component repair stations who may not know the ultimate destination of the components on which they are working.

We are now looking at new ways to obtain 8130-3 tags for good inventory.  This will not be a 100% solution to the impediment created by the documentation requirements, but it should help preserve the value of some inventories.  We expect to continue discussions of this proposal with the FAA, next week.

On the legal front, we continue to pursue a halt to the MAG documentation requirements.  This would not affect the EASA regulations – they still apply where appropriate – but to the extent that the MAG imposes additional standards that would be enforced by the FAA, we have asked the DC Circuit Court to issue a “Stay” that would prevent the FAA-enforcement of these new documentation requirements.

Today, as part of this effort, we filed this Motion for a Stay.  We would like to thank the many ASA members who worked with us to develop  affidavits explaining the factual situation of 8130- 3tags and aircraft parts inventories.

New FAA MAG Guidance Corrects Some Problems; But Documentation Challenges Remain

Revision Six of the Maintenance Annex Guidance (MAG)  has been released.  ASA has been working with both FAA and EASA contacts to make changes to the prior revision (rev. 5), because it included unnecessary restrictions that were not based on either US-FAA or EU-EASA regulations.

Many will remember that the MAG rev. 5 language included a number of unacceptable requirements.  Unacceptable provisions included a requirement that the part number be found in the TC holder’s parts catalogue (which would have excluded many PMA and TSOA parts, as well as OEM parts issued in advance of IPC changes) as well as a requirement limiting 8130-3 tags to those issued by PAHs (discounting 8130-3 tags issued by the FAA itself through its designees).  Most of the unacceptable language has been removed and/or remedied in revision 6.  The replacement language for new parts in MAG rev. 6 looks like this:

(a) New components must be traceable to the Production Approval Holder
(PAH) and be in a satisfactory condition for installation. An authorized
release document, as detailed below, must accompany the new
component.

This language is found in sections 10(k)(1)(a) (for US-based Repair Stations) and 7(c)(1)(a) (for EU-based Repair Stations) of the appropriate Sample Supplements in the MAG.  It explicitly requires traceability, without defining what sort of traceability is acceptable.   This is a potential problem: the FAA is taking an industry term for which there is no set meaning (and about which industry experts disagree) and is trying to use it as if it were an objective standard.  They have done this in other guidance, like FAA Order 8130.21H, and it has resulted in disagreements and confusion.  The traceability requirement also belies the various FAA Chief Counsel Opinion letters which have repeatedly asserted that there is no FAA regulation that requires traceability of an aircraft part to its origin.

Repair Station Experience

At the ASA Quality Committee meeting last Fall, members with repair stations expressed that their local FAA FSDO inspectors were requiring strict compliance with the exact language of the MAG Supplement (despite the fact that the language is explicitly labelled as a sample).  Repair station representatives also explained that they were being required by their FAA inspectors to have a single receiving inspection system.  This means that all of the parts that they receive would have to meet the EASA requirements and the MAG requirements (including parts ultimately destined for installation in FAA-registered aircraft).  They would NOT be permitted to receive parts that met FAA requirements (but not EASA requirements) for installation on FAA-registered aircraft (despite the fact that the regulations still permit this).

FAA headquarters has said that these are misinterpretations by the field offices and that they reflect unintended consequences; but when pressed about how they plan to remedy this, the FAA Headquarters representatives could only  suggest that we bring these situations to their attention on a case-by-case basis.  They had no plans to remedy these “unintended consequences.”

In light of this experience, ASA members should expect that most repair stations will be pressured by the FAA to strictly comply with the MAG language as if it were a regulation.  This means that the normal protections of the law may not apply to your transactions, and an appeal to the regulations may fall upon deaf ears!  If you encounter a repair station customer that has been pressured to limit their receiving inspection system in a manner that is more narrow than required by the regulations, then please talk to ASA and we will put you in touch with the right people at the FAA.

A New Source of 8130-3 tags

Last Fall, the FAA promulgated a new rule that permits production approval holders to issue their own 8130-3 tags. The MAG changes are meant to reflect this new privilege.  There are a lot of problems with this:

  1. The 8130-3 privilege was an option – not a requirement – so many manufacturers might choose not to issue 8130-3 tags (and this makes it difficult for distributors to economically and conveniently obtain those forms).
  2. While the EU has agreed to accept manufacturer’s 8130-3 tags, all of the other the US bilateral agreements require FAA 8130-3 tags.  This means that other trading partners might reject manufacturer 8130-3 tags as unacceptable.  When ASA met with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in March, CAAC expressed reservations about manufacturer 8130-3 tags and reminded us that the China-US bilateral agreement did not authorize acceptance based on manufacturer 8130-3 tags.
  3. The MAG rev. 5 language failed to adequately address the significant existing inventory that was not documented according to the new standards.
  4. Even if the other hurdles had not existed, the governments did not permit enough time to ramp-up 8130-3 tag issuance in order to meet the new demand imposed by the MAG revision.

The limits and burdens associated with this privilege have cause some manufacturers to decide that they are not going to issue these tags.  Large manufacturers like Boeing have said that they feel more comfortable sticking with their ODA program as a source of 8130-3 tags.  Smaller manufacturers fear that their local MIDO inspectors may impede them from issuing 8130-3 tags, and plan to stick with issuing their traditional commercial certificates of conformity.

The reason this new source of 8130-3 tags is important is because it was supposed to be a driving force behind the MAG rev. 5 changes.  And the fact that some manufacturers will not issue manufacturer-8130-3 tags on components means that the the FAA and EASA are operating under false assumptions as they manipulate the receiving requirements of repair stations.

Existing Inventory Problem – Grandfather Clause Failure

A significant disappointment in all of this is that the FAA and EASA recognized the need for a grandfather clause for existing inventory, but they failed to create a grandfather clause with enough breadth to reflect the realities of existing inventory.

In recognition of the fact that the new manufacturer-based 8130-3 tag-privilege was supposed to remedy a past lack of 8130-3 tags, the FAA and EASA agreed upon a grandfather clause that would apply to parts produced before October 1, 2016.  The grandfather clause was meant to apply to demonstrably airworthy parts without 8130-3 tags, that were produced before the October 1 date.  In order to take advantage of the grandfather clause, the parts were supposed to bear (1) evidence of airworthiness and (2) evidence of manufacturer before October 1.

Evidence of airworthiness is well understood and necessary in the industry. But the new grandfather clause requirement is that the evidence must consist of “a document or statement (containing the same technical information as an FAA Form 8130-3) issued by the PAH or supplier with direct ship authority.”  So common documents that would be excluded might include (but not be limited to):

  • Airline trace for new surplus parts (not issued by the PAH);
  • OEM C of C (typically does not contain all of the technical information contained in an FAA Form 8130-3);
  • OEM inventory list for a lot purchase (typically does not contain all of the technical information contained in an FAA Form 8130-3);
  • Spec 106 Form from the OEM-authorized distributor (even if it includes all of the technical information contained in an FAA Form 8130-3, it was not dated by the PAH).

This creates an initial challenge but there is some good news.  In an earlier publication of the guidance, found in FAA Notice 8900.360, the PAH documentation needed to have been dated prior to October 1, 2016.  This meant that undated PAH documentation was not usable.  This has been changed in the new version of the language.  This is important because it means that a distributor who possesses adequate evidence of airworthiness (meeting the guidance of the MAG) can produce their own evidence of manufacturer before October 1 by specifying that the article was released before October 1.

We wish that the FAA had been explicit that this was meant to ‘fix’ 8900.360, because we fear that some people will not realize that the later language of MAG rev. 6 was meant to be a remedy to incorrect language in the earlier Notice.  Based on our discussions with the FAA, the change in the date language was explicitly intended to remedy the earlier flaw in the Notice 8900.360 language.  Today, anyone ought to be able to look at a calendar, see that the date is before October 1, and certify that an existing article was manufactured by that date.  And distributors ought to be able to do this for their entire inventories by flagging those parts received by September 30, 2016 (a secure flag in the electronic inventory system ought to be adequate to serve as a basis for a distributor’s C of C that states that the part was received before October 1, 2016 and was therefore released prior to October 1, 2016).

More Unintended Consequences?

An interesting effect of this is that the United States may be somewhat increasing the US trade deficit in the near future.

Let’s say that we have two identical parts that were both produced by the same US production approval holder.  One of them was sold to a new parts distributor in the United States and it bore a standard Certificate of Conformity (which does not include all of the same technical information as an 8130-3 tag).  The other one was sold to a new parts distributor in Europe and it bore an export 8130-3 tag.  Now, a US repair station needs that part.  Existing inventory held by new parts distributors in the United States may not bear the right documentation to receive it under the MAG.  Even if the part is needed for a US-registered aircraft, FAA FSDO norms of requiring repair stations to apply the MAG to all received parts would preclude the part from entering the repair station’s system.  The new parts distributor in Europe, with the export 8130-3 tag on the part, will be the only one who can make the sale to the US repair station!

The FAA’s role is to protect aviation safety.  They do not have responsibility for protecting US competitiveness.  But this change appears to do nothing to enhance safety.  It does not address any known safety issue – it merely adds de facto documentation requirements that appear to circumvent the formalities of the Paperwork Reduction Act.  It is a little shocking that the FAA continues to publish documents that chip-away at US competitiveness without doing anything to enhance safety.

So What Does it All Mean?

EASA has approved about 1480 repair stations in the United States.  That is a very significant chunk of the US domestic repair station market, and it probably represents a substantially high percentage of the commercial aircraft repair market in the US.  This means that a substantial percentage of the commercial aviation repair stations in the US will be affected by this guidance (approaching all of them).  For US distributors, it is important to understand how to navigate through this.

If you have repair station customers that have written their manuals and supplements to require EASA-documentation for all parts received – including those destined for installation on US-registered aircraft – then you should counsel the repair station to revisit its procedures.  But for component repair stations who may not always know the final installation destination of the components on which they work, they may be stuck with applying EASA documentation standards.  Because the FAA is enforcing these EASA standards, the 8130-3 tag (and the EASA Form One) now become a transaction requirement in the commercial aviation market – including for purely domestic transactions where the FAA inspector has insisted on a single receiving system.

US distributors should be particularly aggressive in seeking out 8130-3 tags for inventory.  For inventory without 8130-3 tags, distributors need to ensure that they have access to a DAR (and also a back-up DAR) in order to ensure that they will be able to obtain 8130-3 tags as necessary.  If there are not enough DARs in your area, then please let ASA know so we can bring this fact to the attention of FAA Headquarters.

Due to commercial norms, non-US distributors typically obtain export 8130-3 tags when they receive parts from the United States.  This may give those distributors an advantage over their US counterparts who find it difficult to obtain 8130-3 tags for existing inventory.  Non-US distributors should take advantage of this while they can!

Finally, let us know what you think the effect of this guidance will be.  Will you be able to sell you inventory or does this threaten to devalue or block your inventory?  We would like to hear from the members about the real-world effects in order to judge our next steps.

Discussing 8130-3 Tag Issues – an update on the MAG rev. 5

Today, ASA met with the FAA to discuss issues related to the 8130-3 tag, especially as related to the new guidance in the Maintenance Annex Guidance revision five.

As many of you know, revision five of the MAG created a host of new problems for the industry.  Most of the problems arose in the Supplements.  The Supplements are supposed to be sample documents that describe what a supplement could look like.  But unfortunately, many FAA inspectors have told dual certified (FAA/EASA Part 145) repair stations that they may not diverge from the sample supplements, which means that the supplements are being enforced as if they were de facto regulations.

The FAA and EASA both agree that many of these problems were inadvertent mistakes.  They have said that many of these problems will be corrected in a soon-to-be-issued revision six.  Examples of the issues to be corrected include:

  • MAG 5 would require repair stations to only accept new parts listed in type certificate holder’s parts catalog.  The type certificate holder’s parts catalog is a commercial document.  Independently-marketed parts, like aftermarket TSOAs and PMAs, will not be listed in the type certificate holder’s parts catalog.  Furthermore, the type certificate holders’ parts catalogs are notorious for being out-of-date.  This means that newer OEM replacement parts may not yet be in the catalog.  But also, as the parts catalogs are updated to reflect changes in suppliers, perfectly good FAA-approved parts may no longer be listed in the online parts catalog if the supplier has been superseded.  For all of these reasons, this was not appropriate guidance, and the FAA and EASA have agreed to remove it.
  • MAG 5 would require repair stations to only accept new parts when accompanied by a PAH 8130-3 tag.  This eliminates from consideration parts bearing a DAR 8130-3 tag.  For pre-existing parts in a distributor’s inventory, there might be no legal way to obtain a PAH 8130-3 tag.  FAA and EASA have agreed that it was never their intention to eliminate other forms of 8130-3 tags from consideration.

The problems are also far-reaching because FAA field inspectors have told some dual-certified repair stations that they can only have one receiving standard – thus all parts received for any purpose must meet the EASA requirements as well as the MAG rev. 5 requirements.  This is their interpretation of the MAG rev. 5 requirements.  We addressed this issue to Tim Shaver and Tony Janco from FAA Headquarters (at today’s meeting) and they insist that this interpretation is wrong.  A dual-certified repair station is permitted to accept parts that meet only US standards (and not EASA standards) if it intends to use the part on a US-registered (“N-registered”) aircraft.

But some of the issues are proving more difficult to address.  For example, while accepting parts with US-acceptable traceability for N-registered aircraft is a straightforward issue, repair stations that perform component-level work and intend to tag the components with a dual-certified 8130-3 tag (both FAA and EASA) for approval for return to service are left in a much more ambiguous place when they ask whether they can accept a part that meets US airworthiness standards (but that fails to meet EASA documentation standards).  FAA is interested in providing better guidance in this area, but needs to coordinate with EASA on such guidance.

One of the problems with the MAG language is that it is based on the assumption that all U.S. production approval holders will begin issuing 8130-3 tags with their new parts.  This is a new privilege that is available to U.S. production approval holders.  The privilege is optional, though, so a number of production approval holders will simply not issue 8130-3 tags.  This means that there is even more of a burden for distributors to obtain 8130-3 tags now that this is being enforced by FAA field inspectors as a de facto receipt requirement for domestic repair stations.

One of the documents that the FAA has issued to help interpret this is FAA Order 8900.360.  This Order explains that FAA and EASA have agreed to extend the implementation date of the Sample Supplement language to October 1, 2016 (this had previously been extended to April 1). For ASA members, there is some very important safe harbor language that explains that existing inventory does not need 8130-3 tags:

In addition, both authorities have agreed that parts released by a PAH prior to October 1, 2016, will not be required to be accompanied by an FAA Form 8130-3.

The problem with this language is that it requires Production Approval Holder (PAH) documentation with a date:

Note: New parts currently in inventory must, at a minimum, have a document or statement (containing the same technical information as an FAA Form 8130-3) issued by the PAH or supplier with direct ship authority. The parts currently in inventory and documented with the required information will be grandfathered and remain suitable for installation into EU articles provided the date on the document is prior to October 1, 2016. Annex 1 provisions of the agreement regarding the export of parts remain unchanged (i.e., parts that are exported to a customer under the regulatory jurisdiction of the EU will require the export certification as detailed in the Technical Implementation Procedures for Airworthiness (TIP) independent from the aforementioned grandfathering provision). All other provisions of the MAG, Change 5, will remain in effect. [emphasis added]

Many new parts in existing distributors inventories do not meet this requirement.  The part may have come from an air carrier’s inventory, and bear air carrier certification that it was received as a new airworthy part. It also could bear PAH tags, packaging, and even inspection stamps that help to verify that it is a PAH part, but none of these might be dated (dates on such packaging and labels are not often found unless the article is subject to shelf-life-limits).  This isa new requirement, so many existing airworthy parts simply do not meet this requirement.

The FAA was very open to correcting the perceived problems in the documentation requirements.  Tim Shaver confirmed that the grandfathered-parts should have traceability consistent with current industry standards.  He was open to ASA’s proposal that ASA members should be permitted to validate a part’s eligibility for grandfathering based on whether the part was known to exist before October 1, 2016 (e.g. if it was in the distributor’s inventory).  This is one of the targeted solutions we are pursuing.

But the biggest problem with the imposition of new documentation standards – the most significant frustration for distributors – is that there appears to be no thought being given to developing a systemic approach to documentation based on the airworthiness needs of the authorities and the industry.  many of the changes add no safety value.  Despite the lack of safety value, they are adding cost and frustration to the industry.  Perhaps most frustrating of all, the documentation changes imposed by the FAA-EASA agreements threaten to devalue existing inventories.  They do this by imposing requirements that are not supported with an adequate foundation (e.g. inadequate sources for the documentation).  Distributors need a way to easily obtain the documentation when it is warranted and the part is eligible (because it is demonstrably airworthy).

The FAA is sympathetic.  Dan Elgas of the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service agrees that issuing the 8130-3 tag for a part with evidence of airworthiness is an administrative task. It should not require a designee when it is based on an existing production quality system.  He felt that the current ODA provisions reflect too much burden when the 8130-3 tag is issued in a production environment.

Scott Geddie is the Manager of the FAA’s Delegation and Organizational Procedures Section.  He explained that the FAA is open to the idea of limiting the FAA’s involvement only to what the FAA needs to do. “If the FAA doesn’t need to be involved then we should step away,” he said.

One place where there is some room for positive change is in the FAA’s detailed treatment of export 8130-3 tags.  Many people are frustrated with the situation where the tag names a country-destination, but then the part needs to be shipped to another destination.  We asked the FAA whether we could list more than one destination on an 8130-3 tag if the part compliaed with the special import requirements of each country (many DARs have been told “no” by FAA inspectors on this point).  The FAA said that it has already discussed this issue and Dan Elgas suggested that the FAA is willing to entirely remove the requirement for country specific (destination) language on the 8130-3. He agrees that this is the exporters responsibility and not the 8130-3 tag’s responsibility.

There is still much work to be done, but we are starting to move things in the right direction.  I hope to provide other updates, soon!

MAG rev. 6 Will Mitigate Some 8130-3 Tag Issues

We reported in December on the changes to the US-EU agreement that appeared to change the standards for documentation for both US-based repair stations and also EU-based repair stations.  As written, this had the potential to dramatically affect ASA members by changing the traceability requirements for aircraft parts and also by limiting which 8130-3 tags were eligible for use.

The change was found in the US-EU Maintenance Annex Guidance (MAG).  It arose in revision 5 which was published in September 2015.  The most important changes were found in the sample EASA Supplement and the sample FAA Supplement.  Although these were samples, many U.S.-based repair stations have reported that their local FAA inspectors are requiring them to conform to the language in the samples.  This caused problems because the sample Supplement language was inconsistent with the regulatory requirements of both the EU and the US.

Some of the problems included language that seemed to suggest that a repair station could not accept a component that was not listed in the OEM’s parts catalogue.  This would have excluded TSOA articles that were not part of the original configuration (e.g. seats defined in an STC), PMA parts, and replacement part numbers where the part number has rolled but the parts catalogue has not yet been brought up-to-date.  At the root fo this problem was a set of apparent requirements that were not found in FAA or EASA regulations or policy and instead existed only in the MAG sample Supplements.

The good news is that we’ve been working with EU and US authorities to correct the problems.  Both have clarified that the language we identified did not reflect a change in traceability policy among the authorities – rather it was intended to merely better reflect the regulatory requirements of both authorities.  They have admitted that the policy could have been more clear and they are seeking to inject greater clarity.

ASA and other trade associations brought these issues to the attention of the civil aviation authorities.  The authorities reviewed our concerns and recognized that MAG rev. 5 did not adequately reflect their intent and has been interpreted in a manner that is inconsistent with their intent.  In order to combat this misinterpretation, US and EU authorities are working together to correct the language in a MAG rev. 6 document.  Thus, the language of the MAG rev. 5 that has caused concern in the industry is being changed to clarify the EU and US intent.

I have had an opportunity to review draft MAG rev. 6 language and the language I have seen represents a dramatic improvement – one that should be acceptable to both the US and EU industries.  The version I saw was not the final version.  FAA and EASA officials are working diligently on this revision and we expect to see it earlier, rather than later.

There had been some fear that the MAG would preclude acceptance of 8130-3 tags issued by designees.  It is likely that the final language of MAG rev. 6 will recognize all appropriate 8130-3 tags.  This will likely include both 8130-3 tags issued by production approval holders (FAA-approved manufacturers) and those issued by the FAA’s designees.

One question that I have seen from the distribution community is whether DARs will continue to be relevant for purposes of issuing 8130-3 tags.  The answer to this is “Yes;” there appears to be no move to change current policy which permits DARs with the right function codes to issue 8130-3 tags for demonstrably airworthy parts.  The MAG applies to US-EU relations, but remember that the rest of the world is still out there, too.  Whatever change is occasioned by the MAG, it only applies to US-EU transactions and not to the other countries with which the US trades.  Most other countries still expect FAA (designee) 8130-3 tags.

Also, we still expect the authorities to recognize a ‘grandfathering’ (consistent with a joint FAA-EASA letter on this point) in which parts produced before April 1, 2016 would benefit from an exception.  The parts would need to be accompanied by documentation providing information equivalent to the 8130-3 tag (like a manufacturer’s C of C) that was issued before April 1, 2016.  We have recommended that all distributors should set a flag in their inventory system in order to be able to identify parts in their system as of 23:59 on March 31.  This will allow those distributors to later certify that the components were produced prior to the grandfathering date.  You may still encounter some commercial resistance to these components, but at least you can show that the component was produced before April 1, 2016 (because it had to have been produced before it existed in your inventory).

Other expected clarifications include a clarification that parts can be received into repair stations without 8130-3 tags if they are intended to be serviced.  This will allow repair stations to accept parts in need of repair without imposing absurd documentation requirements on them.  Distributors with as-removed parts in their inventories should continue to be able to send those parts to repair stations for overhaul.

Do you have other concerns as a consequence of MAG rev. 5?  Let us know your concerns!  The authorities have been clear that they did not intent to inhibit valid, legal and safe transactions, and they are open to clarifications in order to make sure that the industry understands their intent.

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