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Aircraft Parts, FAA, Policy, Unapproved Parts

FAA’s New Definition of Unapproved Parts

Thought you knew what an unapproved part was? Think again! The FAA has changed the definition of ‘unapproved parts’ in its latest unapproved parts guidance.

On July 22, the FAA issued ‘change one’ to Advisory Circular 21-29C, Detecting and Reporting Suspected Unapproved Parts. Change one alters the definition of an unapproved parts to remove several categories that used to be considered ‘unapproved.’

The old definition included parts that have been maintained or altered and then approved for return to service by someone who was not authorized to perform such services. In a surprising move, this has been eliminated from the list of parts that are presumptively unapproved. While this represents a surprising move on the part of the FAA, it makes a great deal of sense. Such work often represents a violation of the FAA”s Part 43 regulations that apply to maintenance, but if the work was performed correctly notwithstanding their lack of qualification, then another (properly qualified) party may be able to inspect the part and find that it is in an airworthy condition. A good example of where this might happen is the case of a repair station that has the right personnel, housing, equipment, materials and technical data to perform the maintenance work, but that has failed to correctly update its ratings, operations specifications and/or capabilities list so that the work represents a technical violation of Part 43. In light of the likelihood that the work was done correctly, there is a strong possibility that such a part can be examined and found airworthy,

The new definition also eliminates from consideration parts that have been approved for return to service following maintenance or alteration and are subsequently found not to conform to approved data. This prior definition characterized parts in need of repair due to normal wear and tear as unapproved parts, which was not useful to the FAA’s mission to identify and eliminate safety problems related to parts.

For reference purposes, the old and new definitions are reproduced, here:

The Old Definition

m. Unapproved Part. A part that does not meet the requirements of an “approved part” (refer to definition of “Approved Parts” in paragraph 4b). This term also includes parts improperly returned to service and/or parts that may fall under one or more of the following categories:

(1) Parts shipped directly to the user by a manufacturer, supplier, or distributor, where the parts were not produced under the authority of (and in accordance with) an FAA production approval for the part, such as production overruns where the parts did not pass through an approved quality system.

NOTE: This includes parts shipped to an end user by a PAH’s supplier who does not have direct ship authority from the PAH.

(2) New parts that have passed through a PAH’s quality system which are found not to conform to the approved design/data.

NOTE: Do not report as a SUP, parts damaged due to shipping or warranty issues.

(3) Parts that have been maintained, rebuilt, altered, overhauled, or approved for return to service by persons or facilities not authorized to perform such services under parts 43 and/or 145.
(4) Parts that have been maintained, rebuilt, altered, overhauled, or approved for return to service which are subsequently found not to conform to approved data.

NOTES:

1. This would include parts produced by an owner/operator for maintaining or altering their own product, which have been approved for return to service, and found not to conform to approved data.

2. This does not include parts currently in the inspection or repair process, such as, parts removed for maintenance. Consider parts in this status as probably not acceptable for installation.

(5) Counterfeit parts.

The New Definition

o. Unapproved Part. A part that does not meet the requirements of an “approved part” (refer to definition of “approved parts” in paragraph 3b). This term also includes parts that may fall under one or more of the following categories:

(1) Parts shipped directly to the user by a manufacturer, supplier, or distributor, where the parts were not produced under the authority of (and in accordance with) an FAA production approval for the part (e.g., production overruns where the parts did not pass through an approved quality system).

NOTE: This includes parts shipped to an end user by a Production Approval Holder’s supplier who does not have direct ship authority from the PAH.

(2) New parts that have passed through a PAH’s quality system which do not conform to the approved design/data.

NOTE: Do not report parts damaged due to shipping or warranty issues as an SUP.

(3) Parts that have been intentionally misrepresented, including counterfeit parts.

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About Jason Dickstein

Mr. Dickstein is the President of the Washington Aviation Group, a Washington, DC-based aviation law firm. He represents several aviation trade associations, including the Aviation Suppliers Association, the Aircraft Electronics Association, the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association and the Modification and Replacement Parts Association.

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