U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

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


March 2001 




Thought for the month....
Tact is the ability to say the nastiest thing in the nicest way.

Is he certified?.... How often have you taken your airplane to your regular mechanic for its annual inspection and only looked at the bill. Never looking at the log book entry for things he fixed, his annual inspection entry, or all the other stuff required by the regulations. Many airplane owners have mechanics that they have been working with since they acquired their airplane and rely on that mechanic to do what needs to be done.

How do you choose your mechanic? Is he recommended to you by a friend? Is he a friend of a friend? Maybe he has a reputation of not fixing things unless they need fixing just so he can save you money. Or, his reputation is one that his care of your airplane is absolute and you never have to worry about its airworthiness.

Do you really know your mechanic? Have you ever seen his mechanic certificate? Federal Aviation Regulation Section 65.89 only requires a certified mechanic to present his certificate to a law officer, NTSB representative or the [FAA] Administrator. But if you were to ask to see it, I doubt he would take offence as long as the spirit in which you asked is not with suspicion. I have even heard of an instance where a mechanic stated, "In all the years I have had this certificate you are the first person who has ever asked to see it." Upon saying that he proudly pulled it out of his wallet and showed his customer. And why shouldn't he feel proud? Don't you feel the same way when you are asked to show your pilot's certificate? All too often the only people who ever ask mechanics to produce their certificates are FAA Inspectors. The real purpose of this article however, is not to get aircraft owners out making mechanics feel good, but to enable you to feel good about who is tinkering with your baby.

Some time ago I offered to give a friend a complimentary review of his airplane's maintenance records. The real reason for this freebie was because I was going to ride in the aircraft and I wanted to assure myself that I was in an airplane that was airworthy. Because I am an airworthiness inspector, I often see things in log book entries that sort of jump out at me and beg me to dig deeper. So it was with the sign-off of an annual inspection on this aircraft. What I found was that a mechanic who had performed some annuals a few years back did not hold an inspection authorization (IA).

Part 65 of the CFR's state the privileges of a mechanics certificate. The performance of an annual inspection is not one of those privileges. In order to perform an annual inspection a mechanic must hold an inspection authorization. This authorization is renewed yearly and its renewal is predicated on either work activity or training. As long as an authorized inspector is actively exercising his authority he can use that activity to justify his application for renewal. If his inspection activity falls below the required number he can either obtain at least 8 hours of technical training, or he may schedule with an FAA Airworthiness Inspector and renew by an oral evaluation.

A person who wishes to be granted this authorization must apply and be tested. Without testing for issuance of the authorization that mechanic is not legally permitted to perform an annual. After passing the test he is issued a card showing his authorization. The front of the card will show its issuance. Renewals are indicated on the backside. The other privileges of the inspection authorization granted to mechanics are inspections of major alterations and major repairs as well as supervising progressive inspections. The only other legal entities who may perform the inspections mentioned above are certified repair stations and the airplane manufacturer.

Regarding the airplane in question, subsequent annual inspections were performed by a legitimate authorized inspector and the airplane was returned to an airworthy condition. However, that leaves the question about the use of the airplane when it did not have a legal annual. Section 91.409 states that the annual inspection must be done by a person authorized to perform that inspection. In addition, the conditions of the Airworthiness Certificate state that it is in effect only as long as the airplane is maintained in accordance with Parts 21, 43, and 91. Any operation of that airplane before being inspected by a real authorized inspector was contrary to the rule that says the owner or operator is responsible for the airworthiness of the airplane (91.7).

Airworthiness is a responsibility shared by the owner/operator and the maintenance technician. How do I ask to see the certificate of the mechanic who has been fixing and inspecting my airplane all these years without offending him? Use tact - and lie. "Ya know Bob, I've never seen an IA certificate. What does it look like?" Even nasty things can be said in a nice way.

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