I recently received an email from someone who wanted to know if carpet requires a PMA to produce it for installation in an aircraft. This is a more complicated question than a simple “yes” or “no.”
U.S. legal standards identify a category of things known as “articles.” An article includes any material, part, component, process, or appliance. The FAA’s regulations require that anyone that produces an article, and who knows, or should know, that the article is reasonably likely to be installed on a type-certificated product, must either have an FAA production approval, or must meet one of the FAA’s specific exceptions to that requirement.
Under normal circumstances, carpet that is intended to be installed in an FAA-type certificated aircraft and is produced in the US is an interior article that must be approved under typical FAA approval standards. The most fundamental manner for producing an aircraft article intended to be sold as a replacement or modification part is for the producer to obtain PMA. A PMA is the FAA’s approval vehicle for approving the design and production quality system associated with an aircraft article, just as the type certificate and production certificate are the approval vehicles for complete aircraft, engine or propeller (a production certificate holder is also allowed to produce the replacement and modification parts associated with its product).
But there are a variety of exceptions to this rule (as described in 14 C.F.R. 21.9). For example, you can structure a transaction to characterize the articles as owner-operator produced parts). There are a number of conditions to such parts, including the installer’s obligation to ensure the airworthiness of the part at the time of installation. Even interior parts have airworthiness standards that apply to them, like flammability.
Another business model could be a supplier to the production certificate holder who has direct shipment authority from the production certificate holder – in such a case, the supplier is producing under the supervision of the production certificate holder, and falls within the written parameters of the production certificate holder’s FAA-approved quality assurance system. A good rule of thumb on this is that if the production approval holder does not know that the supplier has direct ship authority (e.g. the production approval holder denies that the supplier has direct ship authority), then the supplier does not have direct ship authority; this is because the essence of direct ship authority is that the supplier’s activities are controlled within the production approval holder’s written quality assurance system, and the articles are actually being released under the authority of that production approval holder’s system.
There is no broad exception in the US regulations for merely being a supplier to the TC/PC holder, and being listed in the illustrated parts catalog does not exempt a manufacturer from the FAA’s production regulations.
The FAA has issued policy on the regulatory exceptions, so it is important to understand the conditions for claiming an exception before you seek to claim exception or exemption from the PMA requirements. If you intend to take advantage of an exception, then you should study the regulation and policy carefully, as divergence from the FAA’s expectations can result in enforcement action. Note also that the exceptions to the general rule of production approval can be slightly different in other countries.
Looking to produce aircraft articles? Need guidance on how to structure your business to mitigate compliance and liability risks? I’ve been advising companies on compliance issues for over 25 years. Drop me a line!