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Opinion: Restricting Airworthiness Info Access Is Against FAA Policy

MROs need to “just say no” to any requests from design approval holders that restrict access to air carrier customer instructions for continued airworthiness.

Printed headline: Just To Be Clear

Reading Lee Ann Shay's editorial in last month’s issue (Inside MRO October, p. MRO 3), it appears that Airbus is attempting to restrict access to air carrier maintenance information by imposing a fee for its use despite the FAA’s policy on such practices. While MRO companies should worry about their financial well-being, and type certificate holders should ensure that proprietary information is protected, airlines must understand the FAA’s position on the requirements for and availability of the maintenance information required to comply with continued airworthiness responsibilities.

Policy Statement PS-AIR-21.50-01, “Type Design Approval Holder (DAH) Inappropriate Restrictions on the Use and Availability of Instructions for Continued Airworthiness,” was released by the agency on March 23, 2012. The regulation the policy is explaining—14 CFR §21.50(b)—states that:

The holder of a design approval . . . must furnish at least one set of complete Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (ICA) to the owner of each type aircraft, aircraft engine, or propeller upon its delivery. . . . Thereafter, the holder of a design approval must make those instructions available to any other person required by this chapter to comply with any of the terms of those instructions. In addition, changes to the ICA shall be made available to any person required by this chapter to comply with any of those instructions.

The agency’s policy provided a nonexhaustive list of design-approval-holder practices deemed unacceptable under the rule:

  1. Requiring the owner/operator to install only parts, articles, appliances or materials that are produced or authorized by the design approval holder (DAH).
  2. Requiring that alterations or repairs must be provided or otherwise authorized by the DAH.
  3. Requiring the use of only maintenance providers or other persons authorized by the DAH to implement the ICA.
  4. Establishing, or attempting to establish, any restriction on the owner/operator to disclose or provide the ICA to persons authorized by the FAA to implement the ICA.

ARSA understands the reluctance of MROs to ask their owner/operator customers for the maintenance information that is supposed to be available from design approval holders and is required by repair station (and approved maintenance organization) regulations—but the necessity is at hand.

Air carriers in the U.S. are required under 14 CFR §121.368(e) to “develop and implement policies, procedures, methods, and instructions for the accomplishment of all contracted maintenance, preventive maintenance and alterations.” These instructions must be included in the certificate holder’s maintenance manual required by 14 CFR §121.369(b)(10), which must be followed by the contract maintenance provider under 14 CFR §§121.1(b) and 145.205. Certainly, similar regulations exist under other national aviation authority requirements.

Maintenance organizations need to “just say no” to any requests from design approval holders that restrict access to air carrier customer instructions for continued airworthiness. Air carriers must understand and fulfill the obligation to provide to their chosen maintenance providers the maintenance instructions that must be followed to comply with the continuous airworthiness maintenance programs. 

Sarah MacLeod is managing member of Obadal, Filler, MacLeod & Klein and a founder and executive director of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association.

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