FAA Extends Policy Patching MAG Tag Challenges

Today the FAA notified ASA that it will extend for another year the MAG policy patch, Notice 8900.380, which allows repair stations to inspect and approve parts for return to service that are not accompanied by the MAG-mandated documentation. The extension technically cancels notice 8900.380 and reissues the policy as Notice 8900.429 (as opposed to literally extending 8900.380).

Although this doesn’t solve all of the problems wrought by MAG 6, it gives distributors and repair stations another year while the FAA works with EASA on a permanent solution to the documentation problems created by MAG 6.

On August 2, ASA spearheaded a petition joined by 12 other industry groups to seek an extension of the policy, which was scheduled to expire on August 26, 2017.  ASA is thankful to have the support of industry in seeking to solve the challenges of MAG 6’s 8130-3 tag requirements, and is appreciative of the FAA’s efforts to work with us.

We previously wrote on the blog about the ways in which notice 8900.380 (now notice 8900.429) helps distributors with un-tagged inventory sell to repair stations by explicitly recognizing repair stations’ right to receive, inspect, and approve for return to service any article for which they are rated.

The inspection authority in the notice still recognizes the original October 1, 2016 date distinguishing between parts already in inventory, and parts received on or after that date, but as we are well beyond 2016, that should not change any procedures or outcomes:

b. Inspections. For the purposes of this notice, inspections may be performed on:
(1) New parts received before October 1, 2016, that are not accompanied by FAA Form 8130-3, a dated certificate of conformance, or similar documentation issued by a U.S. PAH or supplier with direct ship authority in accordance with the notes in the MAG CHG 6, Section B, Appendix 1, subparagraph 10k)(1)(a) and Section C, Appendix 1, subparagraph 7c)(1)(a); and
(2) New parts received on and after October 1, 2016, that are not accompanied by FAA Form 8130-3.

We encourage you to review Notice 8900.429 to re-familiarize yourself with the policy, its requirements, and its limitations.  The notice has a duration of one year and is set to expire August 9, 2018.  It is the expectation of the FAA that this policy will ultimately be incorporated into MAG 7 when that document is ultimately issued.  ASA will continue to work with industry, the FAA, and EASA to craft a permanent and workable solution to this issue.

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As the MAG 6 Implementation Date Looms, Repair Stations Adopt MAG 6 Documentation Limits

We have received multiple copies of an email from AAR from a number of ASA members. It is obvious that the letter has just gone out today (based on the number of ASA members forwarding it to us).

The AAR letter concerns “expectations around MAG 6.”  It confirms that AAR’s understanding is that they need FAA 8130-3 or EASA Form One with anything that is not a standard part.  The letter permits no deviations.

AAR is a leading company in the aviation repair station industry so their interpretation of the MAG 6 provisions is quite important.

The FAA issued FAA Notice 8900.380 to temporarily reopen the safety valve that was closed by MAG 6.  It specifically authorizes dual-certificated repair stations in the United States to accept parts without 8130-3/Form One and to inspect the parts to ensure airworthy condition (and then use them).

ASA has expressed concern to the FAA that efforts like FAA Notice 8900.380 could be ineffective because (1) repair stations already submitted their changes months ago at the behest of their PMIs and they may be unable to once again change their systems, and (2) many industry participants view the MAG as operating at a “higher level” than the Notice and therefore discounted the Notice’s effect (right or wrong – this is still a popular industry perception).

There are parts that are necessary to safe operation of aircraft, but that will not have 8130-3 tags, despite the fact that they are susceptible to airworthiness determination under normal FAA Part 43 standards.  Remember – it only takes one small part to interfere with an entire maintenance function.  I fear that firm documentation positions like those expressed by AAR could lead to one of two possible resolutions:

  • Air carriers will have to ground aircraft because the airworthy part does not have an 8130-3 tag (or Form One), and therefore can’t be accepted and installed by the repair station; or,
  • Repair stations will circumvent their own written systems in order to bring in parts without 8130-3 tags, despite language in the system requiring such a tag.

Neither of these options is desirable.  I am afraid that the (B) option will be the one that occurs most in the real world.  I fear that this will occur because the parts are thought to be good and the maintenance needs to be performed.  I am afraid of this occurrence because once companies start circumventing their written systems, those written systems start to lose their integrity.  At a time when the industry and FAA are examining greater reliance on Safety Management Systems, anything that undermines the safety culture of following the company’s written system is detrimental to the future of aviation safety.

Distributors who are supporting dual-certified (FAA/EASA) repair stations should remind those customers that FAA Notice 8900.380 explicitly permits receipt of parts without 8130-3/Form One when the repair station inspects them for airworthiness (as has always been the case); and guidance like FAA Advisory Circular 20-62E still is effective in recommending reliance on other indicia of airworthiness, such a manufacturer’s certificate of conformity.  The Notice is temporary but we are still working with FAA to establish a better resolution to the issues facing the industry.  Ask your affected business partners to ensure that their systems are consistent with FAA Notice 8900.380, and ask them to announce their willingness to accept parts for inspection when those parts bear other indicia of airworthiness.

More FAA Guidance Creates More Confusion

The FAA has issued new guidance that interprets the Maintenance Annex Guidance (MAG).  At first, it looks like it is going to fix some of the problems.  And just when it looks like the problems might be fixed, it throws us a curve ball with a limitation that appears to once again work to the disadvantage of distributors with new and new surplus parts.

The new guidance is FAA Notice 8900.380.  The key language in this new guidance states:

“b. Inspections. For the purposes of this notice, inspections may be performed on:

(1) New parts in inventory prior to October 1, 2016, that are not accompanied by FAA Form 8130-3, a dated certificate of conformance, or similar documentation issued by a U.S. PAH or supplier with direct ship authority in accordance with the notes in MAG CHG 6, Section B, Appendix 1, subparagraph 10k)(1)(a) and Section C, Appendix 1, subparagraph 7c)(1)(a); and
(2) New parts released by a U.S. PAH on and after October 1, 2016, that are not accompanied by FAA Form 8130-3.”

The problem language is the “in inventory” phrase in section (b)(1).  Does it mean parts in a repair station’s inventory?  Or is it broader, applying to parts in anyone’s inventory? If it is limited to parts in a repair station’s inventory prior to October 1, 2016, then this still seems to prevent a distributor from selling a part without an 8130-3 or Form One to a repair station as of October 1, as implied by the MAG.  Repair stations would not be able to accept new parts with manufacturer’s certificate of conformity (but no 8130-3) and inspect them to confirm airworthiness, as they have done for many years in the past.

In essence, aircraft parts that were released by a U.S. PAH before October 1, 2016 (today, this means ALL parts) and that are ‘not in the right inventory’ as of October 1, 2016 would not be eligible to be inspected by a repair station.

On the other hand, if the terminology is broader, and it applies to all inventories, then this would return us to the position that we’ve always been in – where EASA 145 repair stations can accept parts without an 8130-3 as “unserviceable” parts and then inspect them to satisfactory condition (which inspection can be supplemented by review of the PAH certificate of conformity or other PAH documentation).  This interpretation would be much better for the industry.

So which one is it? Unfortunately, this phrase, “in inventory,” was discussed in a June meeting among FAA, EASA and industry.  The meeting was called to discuss the MAG.   ASA raised the term and suggested that it be interpreted to include parts in a distributor’s inventory.  This suggestion was soundly rejected by EASA.  EASA explained that the context of the MAG was that it applied to repair stations and therefore “in inventory” must be read to only include repair station inventories (and not distributor inventories).  ASA explained that such an interpretation closed an important safety valve for parts in distributors’ inventories.  The matter seemed final in the meeting, with the FAA acquiescing to the EASA interpretation.

In recent conversations, an ARSA representative suggested that the term “in inventory” should apply to any inventory, anywhere.  He suggested that the prior EASA interpretation might be ignored for the Notice because the Notice is a separate document.  The problem is, the Notice interprets the MAG (and explicitly states that it will be incorporated into the MAG in the next revision).  It therefore appears to be subject to the same interpretations and limitations as those associated with the MAG.

On the same day that we received a copy of this FAA Notice, ASA made a request for interpretation to the FAA, asking how to interpret the term “in inventory.”  The request remains pending.  We are hoping that the FAA will issue a response explaining that parts in a distributor’s inventory are “in inventory” and can be sent to a dual-certified repair station for purchase and inspection by that repair station.  To do so, though, might require the FAA to exercise some political courage, because such an interpretation would contradict the EASA statements. We also hope for a rapid response from the FAA, because these questions are interfering with commerce in aircraft parts from the United States.

But even if we get the interpretation that we want, there will still be perfectly good aircraft parts that remain ineligible for inspection under the peculiar limitations imposed by the MAG and Order 8900.380.  We continue to hear stories from members about necessary and safe aircraft parts that are excluded from the system by the new rules.  ASA will continue to work with the FAA and the courts to obtain a remedy that returns some sanity to the system.

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