I’ve received some recent questions about the eligibility marking on PMA parts. This requirement to mark eligibility on PMA parts was removed by a recent rule change, but compliance with the the rule change is not authorized until April 2011. This poses a challenge for current PMA applicants who may be faced with the choice of delaying a PMA application until after April 2011 in order to take advantage of the new (more limited) marking requirements. Obviously, delay is not a preferred approach, because it delays the benefits to the industry that the PMA part would represent. In this article, we examine the regulatory basis for the change, as well as one possible way to address the impending change in the the marking requirements in a way that maintains compliance while also permitting the part to easily take advantage of the marking changes that take effect in April 2011.
Under the earlier version of the FAA’s manufacturing rules, 14 C.F.R. 45.15(a)(4) required that each PMA part be marked with “The name and model designation of each type certificated product on which the part is eligible for installation.”
That rule was changed in a rulemaking that was published in the Federal Register on last October. Production and Airworthiness Approvals, Part Marking, and Miscellaneous Amendments, 74 Fed. Reg. 53368 (October 16, 2009).
The preamble to the rule explains that the rule is effective 180 days after publication in the Federal Register, but that the compliance date for such of the rule is not until 18 months after publication. Certain elements of the rule have a compliance date that was the same as the effective date (180 days after publication, or April 14, 2010) but the change to the marking requirement of 45.15 is not one of them.
The Federal Register publication expresses FAA policy by stating that “Prior to the effective compliance dates of this final rule, compliance with any portion of this rule that conflicts with an existing rule is not allowed. However, it is possible to comply with the former part 21 requirements and the requirements of this rule concurrently.” Production and Airworthiness Approvals, Part Marking, and Miscellaneous Amendments, 74 Fed. Reg. 53368, 53380 (October 16, 2009).
Thus, prior to April 16, 2011, the FAA cannot issue a PMA unless it complies with the currently existing regulations; and those regulations include the section 45.15(a)(4) requirement that each PMA part be marked with “The name and model designation of each type certificated product on which the part is eligible for installation.”
Does this mean that there is no way to be relieved of the eligibility marking requirement until next April? Not necessarily.
There is a provision, found in 14 C.F.R. 45.15(b) of the current regulations, that states:
“If the Administrator finds that a part is too small or that it is otherwise impractical to mark a part with any of the information required by paragraph (a) of this section, a tag attached to the part or its container must include the information that could not be marked on the part. If the marking required by paragraph (a)(4) of this section is so extensive that to mark it on a tag is impractical, the tag attached to the part or the container may refer to a specific readily available manual or catalog for part eligibility information.”
The key language here is that the Administrator may “find that … it is otherwise impractical to mark a part with any of the information ….” In such a case, the Administrator may permit the manufacturer to rely on a tag attached to the part or its container that includes the information. At the FAA’s discretion, the FAA could make the impracticality finding based on the fact that it is impractical to mark a part for less than a year based on a regulation that has already been changed, and permit the eligibility marking to be placed on a tag or container until the compliance date of April 16, 2011. The tag/container marking would serve as the method of compliance to section 45.15(a)(4).
It is important to recognize that such an impracticality finding would be at the FAA’s discretion, and that the FAA is under no compulsion to make such a finding.
If the local FAA ACO is willing to make such a finding of impracticality, the this would mean that the PMA part design would not need to include a part marking, but could reference the tag as the source of compliance with 45.15(a)(4). After April 16, 2011, the PMA holder could then apply at anytime for a minor change to the design to discontinue issuing the tag once the regulations no longer required it.
The true value of this approach is that the post-April-2011 design change would not require any changes to the manufacturing processes, so there would be no need to disturb the manufacturing processes associated with the part.