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FAA adopts most AOPA recommendations on aircraft certificationFAA adopts most AOPA recommendations on aircraft certification

FAA adopts most AOPA recommendations on aircraft certification

The FAA has adopted AOPA recommendations in its final rule changing the regulations for issuing airworthiness certificates to certain new aircraft manufactured in the United States.

For aircraft owners, the most significant AOPA recommendation adopted would allow mechanics to continue to maintain and repair older aircraft, including those without current manufacturer support.

And the FAA changed its position on restoring aircraft that have been declared destroyed or demolished by the NTSB. Owners will still be able to restore or rebuild aircraft from spare or surplus parts, a common activity in the antique and military surplus aircraft communities.

The FAA also clarified an AOPA concern and confirmed that once an aircraft, engine, or propeller is built (or modified under a supplemental type certificate), the owner doesn't need additional permission from the type certificate (TC) or STC holder to maintain or rebuild the product.

Unfortunately, the agency didn't concur with AOPA's request concerning "orphaned" TC and STCs.

Under the new regulations, no one will be permitted to build a type-certificated aircraft without permission from the TC holder nor modify an aircraft without the written approval of the STC holder.

AOPA argued that when a holder of record for a TC or STC can no longer be found, the certificate should fall into the public domain for any and all to use.

But the FAA said it had no choice; Congress had ordered it to protect the certificate holder's intellectual property rights.

"Although the original holder of a certificate may no longer exist, the holder's intellectual property rights are not automatically extinguished but rather are passed to the legitimate successors or heirs by operation of law," the FAA said. "They do not automatically revert to the public domain."

The agency agreed that the inability to locate the TC or STC holder could affect an owner's ability to perform maintenance because he couldn't get specific technical data, but that issue was beyond the scope of the rulemaking.

And in response to another AOPA concern, the agency made it clear that imported aircraft could be partially assembled in the United States without the need for a production certificate.

For more information, see the final rule, Standard Airworthiness Certification of New Aircraft.

September 14, 2006

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