Clarification on Supervising a Non-Certificated Person Working on Aircraft
Updated: Jan 21
Customers have asked me if they can perform work on their aircraft under my supervision and if I needed to be there to direct them while doing the work. They have told me that other mechanics have allowed them to do work while that mechanic was not present. They also said that they could just send that mechanic a picture of the finished work they had completed and that the mechanic would then sign the work off in their log books. They went on to state that their mechanic had worked with them in the past and trusted their work.
Over the past few months I have been communicating with my FAA FSDO in Spokane, WA, regarding the FAA's Chief Counsel legal interpretation of this regulation. They were finally able to locate and forwarded a letter to me from the FSRO (Flight Standards Regional Office) Renton, WA, which specifically addresses this regulation. The Renton FSRO references their legal source as the FAA Flight Standards Service, Aircraft Maintenance Division, AFS-300, in Washington D.C.
They also sent me a copy of 8900.1 Handbook Vol. 6 Ch. 9 which tells them what non-certificated personal maintenance can be performed under the supervision of a certificated mechanic. Both of these documents clearly address this regulation. I have summarized these at the end of this discussion.
This is addressed under FAR 43.3(d). Here is my interpretation of this regulation
43.3 (d) A person working under the supervision of a holder of a mechanic or repairman certificate may perform the maintenance, preventive maintenance, and alterations that his supervisor is authorized to perform, if the supervisor personally observes the work being done to the extent necessary to ensure that it is being done properly and if the supervisor is readily available, in person, for consultation. However, this paragraph does not authorize the performance of any inspection required by Part 91 or Part 125 of this chapter or any inspection performed after a major repair or alteration.
There are three parts to this regulation that must be met in order for the supervising mechanic to be in compliance.
Part 1 reads:
if the supervisor personally observes the work being done
To personally observe the work is self explanatory. It means the supervisor himself and no other person.
Part 2 reads:
to the extent necessary to ensure that it is being done properly
This is a bit more vague and somewhat subjective. It means that if the work performed consists of multiple tasks or steps (which most work consists of), then the supervisor must personally observe each of those steps that make up the entire process from start to finish. The reasoning behind this is that once a person has completed a step and moved to the next step, the prior step cannot be observed (in most cases) by the supervisor to ensure that it is being done properly.
If the supervisor can observe the finished work and determine, by observation alone, that the work was done properly, then this would satisfy the requirements of the regulation. IE a person assembles a simple piece by drilling holes and installing a few rivets. The supervisor inspects the piece and verifies that it meets the dimensions and that the rivets are properly installed and the correct type/size. By this inspection he can satisfy the requirements of the regulation.
Another example might be when a person installs a propeller. If the supervisor only personally observes the finished work by inspection of the propeller after it has been installed and safety wired, then he could not, to the extent necessary, ensure that it (the installation of the propeller) was done properly.The reason that this would not satisfy the requirements of the regulation is that there are multiple steps to installing a propeller, some of which are critical to the safety of the finished process.
1. Inspection of the crankshaft flange, thread inserts and attaching bolts,
2. Correct indexing of the propeller to crankshaft flange (if the propeller can attach in more then one position)
3. Torque requirements of the attaching hardware (dry or lubricated threads, stretch fit, degrees to rotate, etc)
4. Torque setting and correct procedure to apply torque
5. Torque wrench used.
Inspection of the completed work alone would not reveal that the above 5 steps were done properly and therefore would not satisfy the requirements of the regulation.
Part 3 reads:
if the supervisor is readily available, in person, for consultation
This is self explanatory. The supervisor must be available, in person. The current definition of in person is:
Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “in one’s bodily presence “
Cambridge Dictionary: by meeting with someone rather than talking on the phone, emailing, or writing to the person. This basically means being physically present.
In summary. The supervisor must observe those steps during the work being performed that cannot be observed by the finished work alone, and he must be physically present and readily available (on site) while the work is being performed. Can the supervisor meet the requirements of the regulation without being physically present? No, he cannot. Can the Supervisor inspect just the finished work that was performed? Not likely, unless the task consists of only a few simple steps.
If a mechanic trusts another persons work, does this entitle that person to perform work that would normally require a certified mechanic to perform? Does this “trust” alleviate the Supervisor’s responsibly from complying with the above three requirements of the regulation? The answer is no to both of these. There is nothing within this regulation that allows the Supervisor to waive his responsibilities just because he “trusts” another persons work.
FAA's Legal Interpretation of FAR 43.3(d) is as follows:
We have found the document that specifically addresses this from the FAA, along with our guidance that is available to the public on the FAA website under the 8900.1 as attached. Please read and share with your mechanics as needed.”
8900.1 para 6-1883(b)
A supervisor physically observes and directs a worker when needed.
3) Title 14 CFR part 43 identifies persons authorized to perform maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, and alterations. Part 43, § 43.3(d) states in part that a person working under the supervision of a mechanic or repairman certificate holder may perform the maintenance, preventive maintenance, and alterations that the supervisor is authorized to perform, if: • The supervisor personally observes the work being done to the extent necessary to ensure that it is being done properly, and • The supervisor is readily available, in person, for consultation. NOTE: The definition of “in person” is in one’s bodily presence. An example of this is “applicants are requested to apply in person.”
Letter from Flight Standards Regional Office, Renton, WA, dated February 13, 2017
The FAA Flight Standards Service, Aircraft Maintenance Division, AFS-300, in Washington D.C., concluded that the repair would be acceptable as long as the A&P is supervising the work being performed by the certification entity. Per Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) section 43.3(d), a non-certificated person cannot perform maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding or alterations on an aircraft, airframe, engine, propeller, appliance, or component part unless under the direct supervision of the holder of a mechanic or repairman certificate. The regulation stipulates that the A&P supervising that work must be authorized to perform that work and "personally observe" that work. Additionally, the supervising A&P must be "available in person" for consultation.
Following receipt of our letter, you had asked for clarification on whether the A&P had to be on-site at the location where the work was being performed to observe the work being done, or whether they could make the determination of airworthiness after the work was completed. We again forwarded that question to AFS-300. Specifically, we requested a determination of FAA policy as to the meaning of"personally observe" and being "available in person" for consultation."
In the reply, AFS-300 provided definitions and clarifications for these terms in the context of the regulation and then summarized their determination of policy regarding the regulations to which they apply. Regarding the term, "personally observe" the meaning of that statement is when a certificated mechanic or repairman is in the act of noticing something or a judgment or inference from something seen or experienced by that person.
For the term “available in person” the meaning of that statement is when the certificated mechanic or repairman is focused only on the specific task and physically in the location of the maintenance, rebuilding and alteration task performance.
In summary, in accordance with the current regulation, the certificated mechanic or
repairman will determine the level of his observation, dependent on each task within the
process of the maintenance, rebuilding and alteration. The certificated mechanic or
repairman shall be physically available in the locations of the maintenance, rebuilding and