Quality control is a full-time job for MRO providers, some of which undergo an external audit of one sort or another for most days of the year.
AAR, for instance, received 169 FAA audits in 2016, as well as 50 additional inspections from customers and other agencies.
It is vital to keep on top of the rules governing maintenance procedures and documentation. In the first quarter of last year the FAA withdrew maintenance approvals from four companies and collected $150,000 in fines from eight others.
Yet compliance with national regulations is sometimes only half the battle. International MRO providers must also gain certification from other countries’ aviation authorities, and then pass their audits.
Lufthansa Technik holds 130 authority certificates from 70 countries, despite the fact that most regulation is based on FAA and EASA standards.
“More and more national authorities require that MROs hold their approval, whereas in the past they accepted FAA and JAA/EASA certification. This not only generates fees, but also substantial examination of their regulations and showing of compliance,” observes Werner Luehmann, head of regulatory compliance at Lufthansa Technik.
“Less oversight is needed in areas where many regulators do audits or inspections at the same MRO,” he adds.
The ICAO is trying to address the issue via measures to promote regulatory harmonization, and efforts to convince countries to accept the certification of others, but these may not come to fruition until 2024.
In the meantime more bilateral air service agreements are needed like those concluded between Europe and the US, Canada and Brazil. These agree on common standards for the approval of maintenance providers.
To find out more about the challenges of compliance in aircraft maintenance, pick up the next issue of Inside MRO.