Thursday, November 14, 2019
Transport Canada - Aviation Safety Letter Repair and Overhaul Challenges Issue 2/2010

Repair and Overhaul Challenges Issue 2/2010

by Brad Taylor, Civil Aviation Safety Inspector, Maintenance and Manufacturing, Standards, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

The majority of aircraft owners and operators currently enjoy an established product support base that includes the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) as well as distributors and maintenance, repair or overhaul (MRO) facilities. When they require services or spares, aircraft owners and operators have many options to choose from and rarely need to concern themselves with the acceptability of the products or services they receive. Not everyone is so lucky!

During the design and conception phase of new aircraft development, the manufacturer attempts to determine the anticipated service life of new models, including variants thereof, in order to build an airframe capable of lasting that duration. In many cases, aircraft have found niche markets where they are utilized far longer than anticipated and in unpredictable ways. Operators with businesses founded on satisfying these market needs with unique aircraft—which sometimes operate far past any projections—are faced with a unique challenge in keeping their aircraft in the sky and their business afloat. In many cases, the established support industries are long gone or exist in parts of the world where the aircraft is still found in numbers sufficient to warrant their existence.

What would you do if the support network for your aircraft started to shrink as the aircraft model aged and was slowly removed from service? Perhaps, through word of mouth and the Internet, you might discover that the parts and/or services you need are available in another country. You do the research by reviewing Airworthiness Notice (AN) B073 and the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) and by consulting your principal maintenance inspector (PMI) or local Transport Canada office. Through your research, you discover that Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) doesn’t have an agreement to allow for acceptance of parts manufactured or repaired in the country you identified. You’re stuck in a situation where it appears that you cannot maintain your aircraft due to regulatory barriers. Have you exhausted all your options within the boundaries of the regulatory system, or could you have done more? You have four real options that should allow you to achieve acceptable results:

  • Locate a Canadian approved maintenance organization (AMO) capable of performing the work required or willing to add the ability to their existing capabilities list.

  • Locate a foreign MRO facility that is acceptable within the scope of TCCA’s international agreements.

  • Consider modifying your aircraft with newer equipment through one-off approvals or supplemental type certificates (STC).

  • Contact TCCA to discuss other possibilities as a last resort.

When you have exhausted all domestic options and begin to look at foreign sources, you will find that TCCA doesn’t currently have any Foreign Approved Maintenance Organizations (FAMO) outside of the current international agreements. Therefore, a search in this genre should start and end within the current list of countries with which Canada has developed agreements. Companies within the scope of the agreements must also have CAR 573 approval, unless they are Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved repair stations. The bilateral agreement between Canada and the United States is different from the agreements with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and other countries in this regard. In fact, each agreement is different, which means that you must familiarize yourself with the details of the relevant agreement before doing business in that country.

Another common misconception is that foreign OEMs are automatically granted the ability to maintain their product because it has been approved for use in Canada. The distinction between manufacturing and maintenance approvals becomes blurred by the fact that you are dealing directly with an OEM. The person signing the maintenance release assumes complete responsibility for the work performed and the parts used during maintenance under CAR 571.10. Therefore, it is their responsibility to ascertain whether the maintainer of the product is acceptable under the CARs. The origin, condition and supporting documentation that accompanied the product must be evaluated prior to deciding whether or not you will install it on an aircraft. This holds true even if you’re releasing an aircraft with your Aircraft Certification Authority (ACA) approval granted by an AMO. In this particular situation, you must be certain that the MRO side of the OEM has received Canadian approval to maintain the product and that they certify it in accordance with the terms of the applicable international agreement.

Many people believe that simply having a completed Authorized Release Certificate in hand makes the identified part acceptable for installation. In reality, the document must be reviewed closely to ensure that it is completed properly, is actually for the part in question, and has been issued by an acceptable facility. There are many FAA-approved repair stations capable of issuing 8130-3 repair certificates that TCCA does not recognize, simply because they are located outside of the United States. Aeronautical products maintained and certified by these facilities are not acceptable for installation on Canadian aircraft, despite the fact that they have what appears to be acceptable documentation. The reason for this is really quite simple and is explained thoroughly in AN B073, but it bears repeating here. Our bilateral agreement with the United States extends only to the parts of the industry over which the FAA exercises direct oversight. When the FAA enters into an agreement with another country and that country has agreed to perform oversight on behalf of the FAA, the FAA no longer exercises direct oversight with the repair stations located there. The same is true for EASA and any countries with which it has additional agreements.

In reality, the onus is on you to stay abreast of the changes and keep current in your understanding of how to conduct business. It would be convenient if there were a system to throw up red flags anytime changes that affect you and your organization occur, but that just isn’t the case. A keen eye on industry publications will generally assist you in this effort; monthly review of the CARs revisions and international agreements applicable to your operation should do the rest. Only you know where your liabilities lie, and only you can be held accountable in the end for compliance with regulations. You are expected to manage your risk and proactively deal with the challenges of repairing and overhauling your aeronautical products by staying informed.