Does a Dual-Certificated Part 145 Repair Station Need Documentation for Parts, or Can It Inspect Them, Prior to Installation?

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 “Concerning USED replacement parts intended to be fitted to an engine during the maintenance process, does EASA expect every single one of those items installed during the maintenance process to have a dual-release 8130-3, dual-release TC Form One, or dual/tri-release EASA Form one with it assuming it is not a standard part?  (Reference item 10, Section B, Appendix 1 from US-EU Mag, Chang 6)”

ANSWER: The short answer is that a dual-certificated (part 145) repair station in the US generally need specified documentation for used parts intended to be fitted during maintenance, BUT such a repair station can accept a part without the specified documentation if it inspects the part under FAA Notice 8900.429.

First of all, the reader should note that MAG 6 is DIFFERENT from the EASA regulations and therefore an answer under MAG 6 might be different from the answer to a similar question posed purely under EASA regulations.

MAG 6 explains that when a repair station wants to install used components, those components must meet the following conditions before they are fitted during maintenance:

  • Must be in a satisfactory condition for installation;
  • Must be eligible for installation as stated in the PAH parts catalogue or aviation authority (AA) approval document (like a FAA-PMA supplement);
  • Must include one of these authorized release documents (as a maintenance release for a used component) from an appropriately rated maintenance facility:
    • FAA Form 8130-3 from EASA-approved U.S.-based 14 CFR part 145 repair stations;
    • EASA Form 1 from EASA Part-145 approved maintenance organizations not located in the U.S.
    • Canadian Form 1 from a Canadian EASA-approved maintenance organization;
  • In the case of life limited parts, the life used must be appropriately documented.

The FAA recognized that there are significant problems with this language.  It simply doesn’t cover all of the normal situations typically found in the industry.  So the FAA issued FAA Notice 8900.380 (which expired in 2017), followed by FAA Notice 8900.429 (which effectively extended the policy published in Notice 8900.380).  Each of these Notices permits new and used parts to be inspected by a properly rated repair station (notwithstanding the apparent limitations of MAG 6).  The repair station should have appropriate inspection criteria for conducting the inspection.

FAA Notice 8900.429 will expire August 8, 2018, and is expected to be encompassed in permanent guidance before that date.  If this Notice has not been replaced by appropriate guidance by next summer, then ASA will likely petition to have a third Notice issued in order to protect the industry’s ability to accept and use airworthy parts.

So, in summary, a dual-certificated repair station in the U.S. (and subject to MAG 6) receiving used components that are intended to be fitted during maintenance must either (1) receive them with an appropriate 8130-3, EASA Form 1 or TCCA Form 1, or (2) perform an inspection of the parts and find them eligible for installation.

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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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