Distinguishing Contracted Party From Maintenance Provider

It can be difficult to parse the distinction in some FAA Code of Regulation items; this could help.

FAA Part 121 and 135 air carriers are required to keep lists of contract maintenance providers. Among other things, the list required by §121.368(h) and §135.426(h) must include the name, contact information and description of maintenance functions performed. Various disagreements led the FAA to issue a legal interpretation attempting to clarify just who the contracted maintenance provider is for purposes of the Maintenance Provider List (MPL). The central concern focuses on when air carriers must include individual Part 65-certificated mechanics on the list. In this case, ask: “Who are the ‘persons’ authorized to perform maintenance in the first place?”

The only people who can perform work on U.S.-registered aircraft (and components) and approve that work for return to service are: (1) certificated and rated mechanics who possess the requisite knowledge and experience; (2) a repairman working for an air carrier or repair station; (3) a noncertificated worker directly supervised by a certificated one; (4) rated repair stations; and (5) properly trained air carrier employees. 

Using that information, we can correctly analyze who qualifies as a “maintenance provider” and therefore must be included on the air carrier’s MPL. Parts 121 and 135 define a maintenance provider as someone who performs maintenance, preventive maintenance or alterations for the air carrier and is not directly employed by it. Because air carriers can contract only with people qualified to perform and approve return-to-service work on their aircraft, the certificate holder that issues the approval for return to service must be the maintenance provider, regardless of who turns the wrench.

The FAA’s legal interpretation presents five scenarios where an air carrier contracts with a mixture of certificated and noncertificated “persons” who use Part 65-certificated mechanics to perform (and approve for return-to-service) maintenance.

Throughout its analysis, the agency struggles to distinguish between the company hired by the air carrier and the certificate holder actually performing the work and/or issuing the approval for return to service. By failing to start with the right question, the interpretation has mistakenly left many thinking that all Part 65-certificated mechanics must be listed on the air carriers’ MPL. 

—Ryan M. Poteet, ARSA Regulatory Affairs Manager

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