U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

10801 Pear Tree Lane
Suite 200
St. Ann, Missouri 63074


December 2003 




Thought for the month..... ..."You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there." - Yogi Berra

I have often wondered just what part of §91.7 that says; “No person may operate a civil aircraft unless it is in an airworthy condition”, that pilots don’t understand. It wasn’t until recently when I spoke at a safety seminar that I started to understand what I think is the underlying reason for this. Although this rule stands on its own merit the whole picture on the issue of airworthiness doesn’t present itself unless we look at other rules that compliment the basic premise of what operating “airworthy” aircraft means.

When I talk about airworthiness responsibilities, I begin my presentation by stating that the regulations identify the operator as the responsible individual. Aircraft owners or operators who delegate the airworthiness of their airplane to a mechanic seem to think that if the airplane isn’t in compliance with all the airworthiness rules it must be the mechanic’s fault because he is supposed to make it that way when he works on it. The problem is, the mechanic doesn’t just work on that aircraft. He doesn’t work on it until it is brought to him. There is the rare mechanic who does make it his business to keep up with his customer’s aircraft. But when push comes to shove and the FAA is looking for someone to point the fickle finger of fate at, there is normally only one person who will be held accountable.

Part 91 is divided into ten subparts. Seldom do we have to worry about all of them on any given flight. Human nature being what it is, we normally make ourselves familiar with only those sections in Part 91 that directly apply to the environment that we are going to fly in. Many pilots think that only the first two subparts affect them directly. Consequently we may only have a basic understanding of Subparts A and B that cover the general operating and flying rules. What I have found is that many pilots don’t know or understand that there is one more subpart that is always applicable and has direct bearing on us when we act as pilot-in-command. Subpart E of Part 91 is as applicable to us before and during flight as any of the flying rules in the first two subparts.

I guess that most pilots ignore Subpart E because it is titled, “Maintenance, Preventive Maintenance, and Alterations.” Thinking that this subpart applies to mechanics because of the title of it is flawed thinking. Within this subpart there are eleven rules. Only one of those rules (§91.421) is enforceable against a maintenance person. One other rule is advisory in nature and is non-enforceable. The remaining nine rules are enforceable against either the owner of the aircraft, the operator, or both.

I have heard some aircraft owners say that they don’t really pay much attention to the maintenance (airworthiness) of their airplanes. If they get any notification from the FAA that there may be something wrong with the type of airplane they own they just turn everything over to their mechanic to take care of. It is these owners who can’t understand why the mechanic isn’t held accountable for missed deadlines on AD’s, or transponder and ELT inspections. They feel that the FAA is unfair to hold them accountable if their maintenance records show that required events are overdue.

Part §91.403 says that the owner or operator is primarily responsible for maintaining the aircraft in an airworthy condition. It doesn’t imply that we do the work, but that we ensure any required work or inspections have been accomplished and properly documented. It is not the mechanic’s responsibility to maintain the airworthiness of the aircraft. The maintenance technician’s responsibility is to verify the aircraft is either airworthy or unairworthy after an inspection, and to accomplish and record any maintenance in an approved manner. The mechanic can only fulfill his obligation when the owner, the person with operational control, or the person who will be flying the aircraft, presents the aircraft to him when equipment becomes inoperative, inspections are due, or when Airworthiness Directive compliance is required. Failure to understand the responsibility placed on the operator by the regulations could easily result in confusion and cause us to head in the wrong direction. And as Yogi Berra clearly says......

Upcoming Events

January 17th
Balloon Instructer Clinic
Spectrum Balloon Port
Chesterfield, MO

January 24th
Super Safety Seminar
Maryland Heights Community Center
8:30AM to 1:30PM

February 6-7th
IA Renewal Seminar
Collinsville Holiday Inn
Collinsville, IL

February 21-22nd
Greater St. Louis Flight Instructor Association
Flight Instructor Renewal Clinic
St. Louis University

Airworthiness Safety Program Manager
1-800-322-8876 extension 4830