• David Botich

Parts Produced by an Owner or Operator. Are They Legal?

May, 2010

The answer to this question is yes, so long as that part meets certain criteria.

This is a subject that has a very profound affect on maintaining and modifying aircraft, and yet is widely unknown or misunderstood. It offers an alternative solution to the owner/operator, whereas it allows a person to produce a part to be installed on a type certified aircraft. Such a person need not be an FAA approved manufacturer. Of course this does not mean that a person may produce a part for an aircraft without following any requirements. It does mean that a person may produce a part, and that part will be eligible (read legal) to be installed on an aircraft, if he follows the FAA requirements for the production of that part.

Here is an exert from Federal Aviation Regulations


Subpart K – Approval of Materials, Parts, Processes, and Appliances

21.303 Replacement and modification parts.

a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no person may produce a modification or replacement part for sale for installation on a type certificated product unless it is produced pursuant to a Parts Manufacturer Approval issued under this subpart.

(b) This section does not apply to the following:

  1. Parts produced under a type or production certificate.

  2. Parts produced by an owner or operator for maintaining or altering his own product.

  3. Parts produced under an FAA Technical Standard Order.

  4. Standard parts (such as bolts and nuts) conforming to established industry or U.S. specifications.

This is stated in FAR 21.303 (b) (2) above but does not explain how this can be accomplished, only that it can. The intent of this is to allow owners a way to keep their aircraft airworthy if parts are unavailable or otherwise unobtainable. This does not mean that your needs must meet any specific requirements, such as the part is no longer produced or it takes six months to get it, but only that you follow the requirements of producing that part.

As this has been a subject that many have asked “how do I do this?”, the Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations, AGC-200 of the FAA has written a Memo addressing this issue. I will summarize the main points of concern here.

  1. Only the owner/operator can produce the part for their aircraft. They cannot produce that part for sale or for another aircraft.

  2. The owner/operator doesn't need to actually produce the part but must be the “producer” by overseeing and directing the production process. This means that he may hire another person to make the part so long as he is directly responsible for the process by participating in the design, manufacturing and quality control.

  3. The part must be produced using the same design data, material, process, etc. that was used to produce the original part. This can be done by using the original FAA approved design data or by reverse engineering the part.

  4. The part is an FAA approved part as it meets the requirements of FAR 21.303

  5. The producer must properly document the production process. All approved parts require this documentation process.

  6. The part can be manufactured by either a certificated or non-certificated entity

Once the part is produced it will require the installation by a certificated mechanic or facility.

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