Industry continues to battle documentation requirements imposed on European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)-certificated, U.S.-based repair stations through the U.S.-EU bilateral agreement’s Maintenance Annex Guidance (MAG). MAG revisions released in the fall of 2015 created what industry representatives call an impossible situation for many repair stations and aviation suppliers: requiring an FAA 8130-3—equivalent to EASA Form 1— for new parts installed in a repair subject to the MAG when the production approval holder (PAH) is not required to provide it under FAA regulations.
The latest initiative came in the form of a letter signed by a coalition led by the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) concerning the definition of commercial parts. Under the MAG, commercial parts used in maintenance are subject to the 8130-3 requirement, further exacerbating an already tenuous situation. “In the U.S. system, commercial parts, often produced and sold for nonaviation use, do not typically receive an FAA Form 8130-3,” explains ARSA Managing Director and General Counsel Marshall Filler. “But when commercial parts are used in maintenance subject to the MAG, the form is required.” The letter asks the FAA to work with EASA to reconsider the inclusion of commercial parts in the documentation requirement.
This latest initiative follows in the wake of an Aviation Suppliers Association (ASA) petition asking the Washington D.C. Circuit Court to strike down the MAG language. ASA, led by its general counsel, Jason Dickstein, asserted that U.S.-based repair stations are required to comply only with the special conditions specifically provided for in the U.S.-EU bilateral and that the documentation requirement imposed by the MAG falls outside the purview of those special conditions. The brief also asserts that since EASA regulations allow repair stations to accept certain classes of undocumented parts into their quality system, the MAG puts U.S.-based repair stations at a disadvantage to their European counterparts. (Circuit Court Judge Stephen F. Williams seemed to agree, observing during closing arguments that the Europeans “snookered the U.S.”)
The court dismissed ASA’s motion based on standing and redressability, citing its inability to change EU regulations. In its request for a rehearing, Dickstein argued that the court can provide the requested relief by prohibiting the FAA from enforcing the MAG language. Without counterargument, on March 9 the court denied the motion for a rehearing.
ASA remains steadfast in its resolve to address what President Michele Dickstein says is the biggest issue for new-parts suppliers: moving current inventory. The organization estimates the requirement will cost distributors $50-500 for each inventoried part without the required tag, making the effort cost-prohibitive. “Sales are down. Manufacturers are slow to provide assurances that they will provide the tag, and FAA officials have admitted that the agency doesn’t have the system or resources needed to provide the required documentation for parts already in the system,” ASA contends. Suppliers, ASA asserts, are left holding the bag for inventory parts lacking an 8130-3.
In August, at industry’s behest, the FAA released Notice 8900.380, confirming a repair station’s privilege to inspect and approve a new part for return to service when it is not accompanied by Form 8130-3, so long as the repair station establishes traceability to the PAH. (While the notice expires one year from its effective date, the agency has stated that the language will be incorporated into MAG change 7.)
The concession provided another means to establish that a part meets its approved design and is suitable for installation in a MAG repair. The notice, together with an ARSA-produced, FAA-accepted procedure, provides a pathway for repair stations to accept new parts absent an 8130-3 into their quality system. “Notice 8900.380 and ARSA’s New Part Inspection Form (E-100) are critical for maintenance providers because, in spite of the FAA’s efforts to facilitate production approval holders’ issuance of Form 8130-3, it is still not required under the FAA system,” stated Filler. “And while we strongly encourage ARSA members to include specific language requesting this form in their purchase orders to U.S. PAHs, they now have an alternate path to compliance if the required documentation is not provided.”
EASA rulemaking task 0018 is reviewing the part-documentation requirement, and some EASA regulators have informally indicated their support for eliminating the Form 1 condition for most parts while retaining the need to establish traceability to the PAH. Although it is a cumbersome and lengthy process, the anticipated rulemaking would provide more flexibility than exists today. In the near term, industry groups like ARSA and ASA say they will continue working with the regulators on revising current guidance, while requesting (as in the case of commercial parts) additional relief where appropriate.
The FAA is requesting comment on draft Advisory Circular (AC) 43-ARTS, which provides instructions for use of the airworthiness approval tag.
If issued in its current form, the new AC would address requirements for a single and dual release as well as recognize electronic generation and digital signatures. Initial industry feedback suggests that the draft document is a significant departure from current regulatory interpretation and policy.
The original deadline to provide comment was extended in response to an industry coalition request. Comment is due by June 12.