FAA-Approved Parts: What Does This Mean?

by Jason Dickstein

What is an approved part? Many mechanics rely on their company’s receiving inspection systems to ensure that they have the parts that they need, when they need them. But the real responsibility for airworthiness rests in the hands of the mechanic, so an understanding of what the FAA considers to be “approved parts” can be important to making sure that the job gets done, right.

When we are installing parts, we often refer to those installed parts as replacement or modification parts. That is, they are either directly replacing a prior part, or they are modifying the configuration with a different part that accomplishes the intended goals. It is normal for us to refer to the “good parts” that we want to use as “approved parts,” but what does this term really mean? Which aircraft parts are really “approved parts?”

In 2009, the FAA created a new regulation for replacement and modification parts. That regulation greatly expanded the scope of who is covered by the FAA’s production regulations.

The old rule only applied to persons who produced parts for sale for installation on a type certificated product. This mean that many categories of parts were not covered by the old FAA rule, including parts produced for installation by a repair station (not offered for sale) and parts made for other industries (not intended for installation on a type certificated aircraft).

The new rule applied to any person who knows, or reasonably should know, that at least one of their parts will end up on type certificated aircraft. This much broader scope was intended by the FAA to better cover the wide gamut of parts that are produced and used in civil aviation.

In the preamble to the rule, the FAA confirmed that “[t]he provisions of § 21.9 apply to the producer of any part that may be used as a replacement or modification article, not just parts that were produced.” The FAA stated that their regulatory intent was to ensure that installers only install parts for which a suitability determination has been made (either by the producer or by the installer).


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