There is A Lot Going on with Documentation!

FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have been discussing new ways to document and transfer aircraft articles across international borders. This ends up affecting the rest of the world, because it sets standards for how both of those authorities will operate that they then incorporate into their other international relationships.

Many of the recent changes have their roots in the FAA-EASA Maintenance Annex Guidance (MAG). This document is meant to reflect that working procedures for shared maintenance oversight between FAA and EASA. In theory, it should not add any new legal requirements. But in practice, it has recently evolved into a document that is setting new legal standards that do not exist in the regulations of either FAA or EASA. Because inspectors for the two authorities are requiring compliance to the MAG, it is important to review it and understand what new standards are included in that document.

The MAG changes are motivated in part by a recent change in US law that has permitted US production approval holders (PAHs) to issue their own 8130-3 tags for their articles. Those who take advantage of this option would no longer need to rely on the legal fiction of designees. This was meant to ease the process of creating 8130-3 tags, which have recently been viewed by the FAA as an administrative matter that merely documents a finding of airworthiness that is made whether the tag is created or not. This change also helps to harmonize with EASA, which has permitted European manufacturers to issue EASA Form One since EASA’s inception.

Although this new privilege should permit more manufacturers to issue 8130- 3 tags, thus creating a wider pool of documented articles, the fact remains that many existing aircraft articles do not bear EASA Form One or 8130-3 tags. Real-world implementation hurdles have mean that manufacturers needed some time before they could start issuing the tags. In addition, there is a huge quantity of existing articles in distributors’, air carriers’, and repair stations’ inventories. Many of those existing articles do not bear EASA Form One or 8130-3 tags.

The industry has struggled for the last twenty years to obtain these documents, or in the alternative to find ways to receive aircraft articles into inventory without these magic documents. In many cases, the easiest path has been to find a way to determine airworthiness without the Form One or 8130-3 documentation – this is a path that remains legal under United States law because we have no general documentation requirements for articles under the FAA regulations.

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