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.

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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.

EASA Drops Rulemaking!

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is new and improved!

On 1 September 2014, EASA announced a new organizational structure that should “prepar[e] the Agency for the challenges of the coming years.”

The most salient change is that there is no longer a Rulemaking Directorate.  I spoke with a number of EASA executives while this change was being planned and implemented and they felt that the separate Rulemaking Directorate was necessary while EASA was developing the large bodies of rules that would regulate the European aviation industry, but that such a directorate was no longer necessary now that the regulatory structure has been developed.

Many of you have heard me say that “regulators need to regulate.”  It is what they do.  And if you have regulators whose job is to make new regulations, then they will make new regulations whether new regulations are needed or not.  EASA has recognized this, and has removed the temptation to make rules for the sake of rules with this change.

The remaining directorates will still be able to develop rules as they are needed, but they will primarily focus their resources on regulating the industry under the rules that currently exist, and limit rulemaking activities to situations that require such activities.

EASA’s press release announced that “The new organisation will enable the Agency to engage more pragmatically with the aviation industry. A strategy and safety management directorate has been created in order to strengthen EASA’s overall strategy and to promote a data driven and performance-based approach to managing safety. All regulatory functions have been integrated across the different aviation domains and more homogeneity has been introduced to better enable the Agency to speak with one voice.”

Setting aside the rhetoric, EASA’s reorganization reflects a strategic recognition of what EASA wants to do to support safety as well as a pragmatic recognition that rulemaking should be driven by need, and not by a coincidental prior commitment of resources.  It is a bold move, but one that should be applauded by anyone who cares about the integrity of the regulatory regime.

The new EASA organization chart can be found online.

Language on the 8130-3 Tag: “This PMA part is not a critical component”

An ASA member recently asked whether a DAR would be permitted to write “This PMA part is not a critical component,” on the domestic 8130-3 tag for a PMA component.

Many of you will recognize this as the language requested by the EU on export 8130-3 tags that accompany FAA-PMA parts that are not critical components.

Does this sort of language have value in a domestic 8130-3 tag?  It might.  When a Maintenance DAR (DAR-T) produces an export 8130-3 tag for a non-critical PMA part that is destined for an EU member nation, the DAR-T may add language verifying that the PMA part is not a critical component.  The DAR-T may need some basis to make this non-critical decision, though.

The determination of whether a PMA part is critical is made by the design approval holder (the FAA-PMA holder) and confirmed as part of the FAA approval.  See Order 8130.21H Section 4.4(c).  The PMA holder is thus in a prime position to inform the first DAR to issue an 8130-3 tag about whether the part is critical.  Adding the language “This PMA part is not a critical component,” on the domestic 8130-3 tag may support efficient issue of future export tags for the same article, when a later decision to export is made.

Is it permissible for the designee at the manufacturer’s facility to place this PMA “criticality statement” on the domestic 8130-3 tags that accompany the PMA parts?  Yes, because it is not prohibited.

Manufacturers typically rely on designees to issue its 8130-3 tags (such as a DMIR, DAR, or an organizational delegation known as an ODA). Each designee is required to follow the instructions in Order 8130.21 (latest revision, which is currently the “H” revision).

Originally, industry requested the “domestic 8130-3 tag” as a work-around to circumvent outdated rules that prevented anyone other than a manufacturer from requesting an export 8130-3 tag for a (“class III”) aircraft part. These outdated rules were impeding US exports and undermining safety (because the 8130-3 tag is used to distinguish known airworthy parts).  I know this history because I proposed the “domestic 8130-3 tag” to the FAA as just this sort of work-around, after FAA management explained that they could not modify the regulations in a timely fashion to support exporters.  As time went one, this tag quickly began to serve other uses (including documenting actual domestic shipments) and the FAA ultimately revised the regulations to permit any exporter to apply for an export 8130-3 tag for an aircraft part (which eliminated the original NEED for the tag as a work-around).

Critical Components and the EU Bilateral

The PMA “criticality statement” is something that is requested under the technical implementation procedures (TIPs) that accompany the US-EU bilateral aviation safety agreement (BASA). It is not intrinsically necessary for domestic shipments.

Under the US-EU TIP, a “Critical Component” is defined as:

“a part identified as critical by the design approval holder during the product type validation process, or otherwise by the exporting authority. Typically, such components include parts for which a replacement time, inspection interval, or related procedure is specified in the Airworthiness Limitations section or certification maintenance requirements of the manufacturer’s maintenance manual or Instructions for Continued Airworthiness.”

The TIP directs that PMA parts being exported from the United States to the European Union bear appropriate language in block 12 (the remarks block). For a PMA part which is not a critical component, the remarks block of the 8130-3 should state:

“This PMA part is not a critical component.”

But if the PMA part is a critical component, then there are two options for the language in the remarks block. In the first option, if the PMA holder also holds an EASA STC design approval which incorporates the PMA part into an EASA certified or validated product, then the language should say:

“Produced by the holder of the EASA STC number [INSERT THE FULL REFERENCE OF THE EASA STC INCORPORATING THE PMA].”

In the second option, if the PMA holder holds a licensing agreement from the TC or STC holder (giving the PMA holder the rights to use the TC/STC design for the PMA parts), then the
following statement should be written in the remarks block:

“Produced under licensing agreement from the holder of [INSERT TC or STC NUMBER].”

These are the only two options for exporting FAA-PMA critical components from the US to the EU.

Who Determines Whether a Component is Critical?

Section 4.4(c) of Order 8130.21H states that “The determination of a PMA article’s criticality, as required to be entered in Block 12 when exported, can only be determined by the actual design approval holder (that is, the FAA-PMA holder).” This is important language because certain parties (foreign governments and competitors) have attempted to gainsay the FAA-approved “critical part” decisions of the FAA-PMA holders. But this language is not meant to prevent a designee issuing an export 8130-3 tag from making a PMA “criticality statement” on the 8130-3 tag that is consistent with the determination of the design approval holder. Thus, any subsequent designee issuing an export 8130-3 tag for an FAA-PMA part may rely on the design approval holder’s determination as to whether the PMA part is a critical component.

Can We Place this Language in Block 12?

Block 12 is a free-form remarks block. The specific instructions of the block are that the block should state any information “necessary for the user or installer to determine the airworthiness of the product or article.” There is a list of examples in the FAA guidance, but this list is not exclusive. A replacement time, inspection interval, or related procedure specified in the Airworthiness Limitations section would certainly be necessary information, and the fact that there is no such limit (e.g. that the part is not critical) could likewise be useful to the installer. Thus, there seems to be no legal bar to adding this language to block 12 in a domestic 8130-3 tag (e.g. “This PMA part is not a critical component.”). When such text is added to the first domestic 8130-3 tag that is generated at the production approval holder’s facility, this would seem to be useful information that is preserved to support subsequent DARs who might later produce export airworthiness tags, which reflects additional value in the use of this language on a domestic 8130-3 tag.

Note that the language we are discussing, “This PMA part is not a critical component,” is not required language on a domestic tag.  Therefore, addition of this language to block 12 would be at the discretion of the designee, who is creating this tag.  Thus, the designee would be within his or her rights to refuse to add this specific text to a domestic 8130-3 tag, to the same extent that he or she would be permitted to do so. It is simply a matter of discretion.

EASA Takes Another Step Toward Formal Recognition of Accreditation

Europe has taken the next step towards formal recognition of the distributor accreditation program.

On December 10th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued its Comment Response Document (CRD) for “Control of suppliers of components and materials used in maintenance.”  This CRD contains the comments received on the Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) for the Supplier Control rule.

This changes would require EASA 145 organizations to have a method for assuring the satisfactory condition of the aircraft parts that they receive, and would recommend receiving inspection and supplier control as methods to achieve that end.  Related guidance explains that reliance on accredited distributors (explicitly including ASA-100 accredited distributors) would be a satisfactory way to meet the supplier control element.  A complete discussion of the proposal can be found in an earlier blog post on the NPA.

This is not yet law in Europe.  The next step will be for the European Commission to issue an amendment that features the regulatory changes, and then EASA would issue a Decision that adopts the changes to the advisory/guidance materials.

EASA 145 outside the EU: New Guidance Open for Comment

The European Aviation Safety Agency has issued for comment a Notice of Proposed Amendment, NPA 2013-12, that is meant to clarify the process of issuing Part-145 approvals to maintenance organizations outside of EASA’s Member States.  The guidance is targeted at both base and line maintenance organizations, and as such has the potential to affect anyone who holds EASA Part-145 certificates for such organizations, as well as distributors doing business with those organizations.

The stated purpose of the NPA is to provide and update Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC) and Guidance Material (GM) to address inconsistencies that have arisen when the EASA acts as a competent authority for Part-145 organizations located outside of Member States.  Some of the amendments will also touch maintenance organizations within Member States.  Organizations that perform maintenance on aircraft (or components) registered in a Member State or used by an operator overseen by a Member State must be approved in accordance with Part-145 (also known as Annex II).

One area targeted for clarification is AMC 145.A.30.(d) addressing personnel requirements.  The new proposal reiterates the importance of having adequate personnel to perform an organization’s planned scope of work. However, the proposed new language seems vague and unhelpful in terms of providing useful compliance guidance:

The objective of this provision is to ensure the stability of the maintenance organisation approved under Part-145 in order to perform their planned scope of work.

If most of the staff were contracted, the organisation which employs those persons may decide to remove them from the maintenance organisation approved under Part-145 and relocate them to another organisation if, for example, there is a better offer. In such a case, the maintenance organisation approved under Part-145 would suffer a sudden and very significant reduction of the workforce until they are able to recruit new staff, with the corresponding negative effect on its activities.

However, if most of the staff are employed by the maintenance organisation approved under Part-145, the risk of this happening is much lower.

Nevertheless, there are cases where a percentage higher than 50 % contracted staff may not negatively affect the stability of the maintenance organisation approved under Part-145 and could be allowed by the competent authority. This may be the case where the maintenance personnel are employed by a parent company of the maintenance organisation approved under Part-145.

Such language does not provide guidance (in fact it appears somewhat contradictory) but rather presents hypothetical scenarios that are commercial in nature and should be addressed by the organizations themselves, not by regulators.

The NPA also provides new guidance pertaining to the qualification of certifying staff at facilities registered in non-Member States.

Certification of maintenance performed on aircraft is another area that is clarified.  The new guidance explains that the requirements apply only to aircraft covered by the Basic Regulation, and specifically lists those to which it does not apply:

  • aircraft carrying out military, customs, police, search and rescue, firefighting, coastguard or similar activites or services;
  • aircraft listed in Annex II of the Basic Regulation;
  • aircraft registered in a non-Member State and not being used by a Community operator;
  • aircraft for which the regulatory safety oversight has been transferred to a non-Member State and which are not used by a Community operator.

Such clarifications are helpful in establishing which regulations govern certification of maintenance performed on the aircraft.  The proposed change also helpfully clarifies that for engines, propellers, and other components, an EASA Form 1 may generally be issued due to the fact that the next aircraft on which the part will be installed is often unknown.

The NPA also adds a new AMC describing a proper corrective action plan to perform a root cause analysis of Level 1 findings- those findings of non-compliance that are a serious hazard to flight safety.

Finally, the proposed amendment makes small changes to guidance related to initial approvals, changes, and revocations, suspensions and limitations.

As with all NPAs, these changes warrant a close review and comment to ensure your business is protected.  Comments for this NPA may be submitted through EASA’s Comment-Response Tool (CRT) at http://hub.easa.europa.eu/crt/, and please share your comments with ASA as well.  Comments are due October 11, 2013.

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