Relevant Language from EASA’s Supplier Control Mechanisms

In an earlier post, we reported on EASA’s formal endorsement of FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 00-56 and the ASA-100 quality standard (endorsing them as an acceptable mechanism for ensuring that a supplier’s quality assurance system meets EASA expectations).

These two documents form an important part of EASA’s recent publication on supplier control mechanisms.

Some of the readers have asked me to provide the relevant language of EASA’s endorsement; they’ve noted that the entire Decision includes six annexes in addition to the actual EASA decision (and is thus too long to navigate).   In response to these inquiries, I have put together a short (five page) set of excerpts that show the supplier control implementation in the recently-published EASA AMCs and GMs.

You can find a copy of the excerpts here, at this link: ED Decision 2019-009-R – Supplier Control Mechanisms Added to European Law (excerpts).

In summary:

  • EASA AMC1 145.A.42(b)(i) provides that the procedures for the acceptance of components, standard parts and materials should include supplier evaluation procedures;
  • EASA GM2 145.A.42(b)(i) explains what a supplier is, in order to assess who must be controlled (find out more in our earlier article on supplier definition);
  • EASA GM3 145.A.42(b)(i) describes the elements that should be considered when evaluating a supplier’s quality system, and it explains that suppliers accredited to ASA-100 an AC 00-56 are acceptable;

 

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Europe Formally Recognizes AC 00-56 and ASA-100

The European Union has formally recognized FAA AC 00-56 and ASA-100 as acceptable methods for supplier evaluation.

Some of you will remember that ASA was working with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to establish protocols for aircraft parts suppliers.  EASA examined various proposals for regulating distributors, and ultimately concluded that the FAA’s Voluntary Industry Distributor Accreditation Program was an appropriate model upon which to rely.  EASA sought comments on the proposal and ultimately issued a recommendation to the European Commission.

The first part of that recommendation was acted upon in August when the European Commission issued a new rule that required repair stations (EASA 145 organization) to

“establish procedures for the acceptance of components, standard parts and materials for installation to ensure that components, standard parts and materials are in satisfactory condition and meet the applicable requirements”  EASA 145.A.42(b)(i).

The second part of that recommendation has been implemented in ED Decision 2019/009/R.  This Decision provided guidance on what it means to establish the above procedures.  First, the guidance clarifies that “[f]or the acceptance of components, standard parts and materials from suppliers, the [] procedures should include supplier evaluation procedures.” AMC1 145.A.42(b)(i) Components, section (b).   At first glance, this appears to impose a huge new obligation on repair stations to evaluate suppliers.  But EASA has offered an easy way to meet this evaluation obligation, by relying on the existing infrastructure for supplier evaluation.

GM3 145.A.42(b)(i) Components explains how to evaluate suppliers.  It explains that a suppliers’ quality system should have certain elements.  It also permits reliance on suppliers known (through external auditing) to meet four standards that are considered acceptable: AC 00-56, ASA-100, AS/EN9120 and EASO 2012.  This means that a 145 organization can rely on a supplier that was audited to such a standard, and does not have to perform its own evaluation.  The basis for endorsing each of these standards was an analysis of each standard by EASA that found that each was in compliance with the list of elements published in this GM.

I was part of the EASA rulemaking team that performed the evaluations, so I know that EASA put a lot of effort into validating that the Voluntary Industry Distributor Accreditation Program was acceptable for use in Europe.  The entire industry of accredited distributors should be proud of this recognition, because it is the result of 25 years of commitment to safety and quality.

This is great news for the community of accredited distributors.  This verifies that aircraft parts installers who rely on AC 00-56 as an element of their supplier selection process are doing the right thing.  It also confirms that the global norms for supplier evaluation are working to enhance safety.

 

Look for tomorrow’s article on how broad is the European definition of “supplier.”

Brexit Update: EASA Makes Things a Little Easier

The European Commission published a Notice to Stakeholders detailing the consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union’s aviation safety rules.  That Notice to Stakeholders had painted a bleak picture of the near future between the UK CAA and EASA, cancelling all UK approval and refusing to recognize any UK-sourced EASA Form One after March 29.  Recent updates to Brexit policy, though, have set much more reasonable short-term policies for the EU.

We’ve discussed the fact that one of the biggest problems facing aircraft parts professionals in the wake of Brexit will be getting parts from the UK (parts made in the UK or overhauled in the UK) onto aircraft registered in EU nations.  Europe has recognized that this is an issue whose effect is worse for the EU than it is for the UK.  This recognition has resulted in authority for EASA to do something about it.  EASA executives has been sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting for an opportunity to do the right thing, and they have published new guidance that countermands the earlier Notice to Stakeholders.  The official European Commission position suggests that EASA will recognize continued validity for some approval documents.  The caveats are that (1) this is a limited time offer, and (2) EASA insists on UK CAA reciprocity for recognition of EU approvals [which the UK CAA has already stated it intends to offer].

The Commission will propose measures ensuring continued validity of such certificates for a limited period of time. These measures will be subject to the condition that the United Kingdom applies similar measures. Likewise, the Commission will propose measures ensuring that parts and appliances placed on the Union market before the withdrawal date based on a certificate issued by a legal and natural person certified by the UK Civil Aviation Authority may still be used under certain circumstances.

European Commission Communication – Contingency Plan

How limited is the offer to accept approvals after March 29? It appears likely that the EU will continue to recognize certain EASA-issued approvals in the UK for nine months.  This includes type certificates (TCs), supplemental type certificates (STCs), repair design approvals (RDAs), European Technical Standard Order Authorizations (ETSOAs), and design organization approvals (DOAs).  In addition, they will recognize certain approvals issued by UK approval-holders – this mostly means that EASA Form One issued by a UK-based approved maintenance organization (AMO, a.k.a. MRO).  This last provision needs to have some details filled-in by EASA, like when the EASA Form One can have been issued and still remain acceptable in the EU (is there a sunset?).

Here is the text that EASA has published on the subject:

On 19/12/2018 the Commission has adopted two measures that will avoid full interruption of air traffic between the EU and the UK in the event of no deal. These measures will only ensure basic connectivity and in no means replicate the significant advantages of membership of the Single Aviation Market. This is subject to the UK conferring equivalent rights to EU air carriers, as well as the UK ensuring conditions of fair competition.

  • A proposal for a Regulation to ensure temporarily (for 12 months) the provision of certain air services between the UK and the EU.
  • A proposal for a Regulation to extend temporarily (for 9 months) the validity of certain aviation safety licences.

This second proposal provides the validity extension of the following safety certificates and approvals:

The following certificates issued by EASA to natural or legal persons having their principal place of business in the UK shall remain valid for 9 months from the date of application of the Regulation:

  • Type certificates and restricted type certificates,
  • Approval of changes to type certificates and restricted type certificates,
  • Supplemental type certificates,
  • Approval in respect of repairs,
  • European Technical Standard Order authorisations,
  • Design organisation approvals.

The following certificates issued by any natural or legal persons certified by the competent authorities of the UK concerning the use of products, parts and appliances shall remain valid:

  • Authorised Release Certificates for products, parts and appliances,
  • Certificates of release to service in respect of completion of maintenance,
  • Airworthiness review certificates for ELA 1 aircraft,
  • Certificates of release to service on completion of maintenance,
  • Airworthiness review certificates for ELA 1 aircraft,
  • Airworthiness review certificates and extensions thereof.

 

In addition to the plan to contnue to recognize certain UK approvals after March 29, EASA has also reiterated that it will be willing to issue third-county approvals to UK-based approval holders (like holders of POA and MOA).  Third-county EASA approvals would permit UK-based approval holders to continue to operate under EASA jursidiction, and to enjoy the benefits of EASA’s regulations and  agreements.  This could help to ensure that the goods and services of such UK approval holders continued to be acceptable in the EU.

 

When Will EASA Issue Third Country Approvals?

EASA cannot issue third country approval for UK-based businesses until the UK is actually a third country; but our sources have said that for UK-based businesses whose applications have been processed by or before March 29, EASA intends to email the approval to the applicant on March 30 and mail a hard-copy approval to follow shortly afterward.

The European Commission Communication – Contingency Plan Annexes states the need to wait until the UK is a third-country:

Regarding aviation safety, for certain aeronautical products (ʻtype certificatesʼ) and companies (ʻorganisation approvalsʼ), the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) will only be able to issue certificates once the United Kingdom has become a third country. The Commission will propose measures ensuring continued validity of such certificates for a limited period of time. These measures will be subject to the condition that the United Kingdom applies similar measures. Likewise, the Commission will propose measures ensuring that parts and appliances placed on the Union market before the withdrawal date based on a certificate issued by a legal and natural person certified by the UK Civil Aviation Authority may still be used under certain circumstances. The Commission has invited EASA to start processing certain applications from UK entities in preparation of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom.

How Much Will Third Country Approvals Cost?

Cost represents some of the best news from EASA.  Normally, third country approvals are prohibitively expensive, but EASA has capped the initial cost for UK approval holders who wish to obtain EU third country approvals.  The fee will be capped at eight hours, times the authorized rate.  The base authorized rate appears to be € 221 per hour, but it is modified by inflation adjustments so the final figure appears to be € 230.18 Euro per hour for calendar year 2019.  This appears to allow a qualified UK applicant to obtain an EASA third country approval for about € 1841.44.  Be sure to check with EASA, as these figure are subject to change at the EU’s discretion.

EASA stresses that the fee is non-refundable, regardless of the outcome of the application, and regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations.  If you need to send in a revised application, after initial payment of the fee, then the revised application will be considered as a new application, and you will have to pay a second fee for the ‘new’ application.

Because the UK applicants will be entities that were previously fully recognized by EASA, EASA intends to apply a “desk review procedure.”  Because it is an abbreviated review, EASA expects to process these applications in a matter of weeks (EASA sources have suggested two weeks as a target).

Subsequent recurrent charges will follow the fee schedule found in Commission Regulation (EU) No 319/2014, Annex Part I (Table 8 for POAs, and Table 9 for MOAs).

 

What Do I Get, if I Apply for a Third Country Approval as a UK Approval Holder?

EASA is permitting a wide variety of certificates to fall within this program.  The two most important to our readers are Production Organisation Approvals (POA) and Maintenance Organisation Approvals (MOA).

As a successful applicant, you would get an MOA or POA (depending on what you sought) with identical scope and privileges as your base UK approval.  If your application includes a variance from your UK approval , then you still can only obtain an EASA approval that correlates to your UK privileges.

As long as the application processing is complete by March 29, EASA expects to send a copy of the approval by email on March 30th.  The certificate will be valid as of March 30th .

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.

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.

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