Inspections Who is Responsible?

Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) provide for the inspection of all civil aircraft at specific intervals, depending generally upon the type of operations in which they are engaged, for the purpose of determining their overall condition. Some aircraft must be inspected at least once each 12-calendar months, while inspection is required for others after each 100 hours of flight. In other instances, an aircraft may be inspected in accordance with an inspection system set up to provide for total inspection of the aircraft over a calendar or flight-time period.

In order to determine the specific inspection requirements and rules for the performance of inspections, reference should be made to the Federal Aviation Regulations, which prescribe the requirements for the inspection and maintenance of aircraft in various types of operations in Part 91 Section 91.409.

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs) are very clear about who is responsible for the airworthiness and condition of aircraft. This responsibility is the pilot in command as well as the owner or operator of the aircraft.

Part 91 Section §91.3 Responsibility and authority of the pilot in command.
(a) The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.

Part 91 Section §91.7 Civil aircraft airworthiness.
(a) No person may operate a civil aircraft unless it is in an airworthy condition.
(b) The pilot in command of a civil aircraft is responsible for determining whether that aircraft is in condition for safe flight. The pilot in command shall discontinue the flight when unairworthy mechanical, electrical, or structural conditions occur.

Part 91 Section §91.403 General.
(a) The owner or operator of an aircraft is primarily responsible for maintaining that aircraft in an airworthy condition, including compliance with part 39 of this chapter.

The determination of airworthiness during an inspection is a serious responsibility. For many general aviation aircraft, the annual inspection could be the only in-depth inspection it receives throughout the year. In view of the wide ranging authority conveyed with the authorization, the FAA Inspection Authorization test examines a broader field of knowledge than required for the A&P certificate and reflects the emphasis that is placed on the holder of the certificate in perpetuating air safety.

In order to determine the specific inspection requirements and rules for the performance of inspections, reference should be made to the Federal Aviation Regulations, which prescribe the requirements for the inspection and maintenance of aircraft in various types of operations in Part 91 Section 91.409.

Basic Functions of an IA The basic functions of the holder of an inspection authorization (IA) are set forth in 14 CFR Part 65, section 65.95. With the exception of aircraft maintained in accordance with a Continuous Airworthiness Program under 14 CFR parts 121 or 127, an IA may inspect and approve for return to service any aircraft or related part or appliance after a major repair or major alteration. Also, the holder of an IA may perform an annual inspection and he or she may supervise or perform a progressive inspection.

There are additional requirements for annual and progressive inspections listed in 14 CFR Part 43, section 43.15. The scope and detail of 100-hour and annual inspections are the same. Record entries are very important, as they are the only evidence an aircraft owner has to show compliance with the inspection requirements of 14 CFR Part 91, section 91.409.

The owner should be made aware that the annual or progressive inspection does NOT include correction of discrepancies or unairworthy items and that such maintenance will be additional to the inspection. A person authorized to perform maintenance if agreed on by the owner and holder of the IA may accomplish maintenance and repairs simultaneously with the inspection.

The regulatory scheme recognizes that the mechanic with inspection authorization is required to posses a higher degree of skill and experience than in the person who may only repair and maintain aircraft, without the ability to conduct the required inspection.

The A&P/IA in the course of certifying an aircraft to be airworthy, may be laying their certificates on the line for work of unknown quality, done at unknown times, and in some cases by unknown persons, and at times that may not be known.

When exercising the privileges of an IA, the holder may:
1. Inspect and approve for return to service major repairs and major alterations, if the work was done according to technical data approved by the Administrator.
2. Perform an annual inspection.
3. Perform or supervise a progressive inspection.
4. Perform inspections on Aircraft Approved Inspection Program (AAIP) 9 or less Part 135.

An IA holder shall not approve, for return to service, major repairs, major alterations, or inspection on an aircraft maintained in accordance with a continuous airworthiness maintenance program (CAMP) under 14 CFR Part 121.

IA Required Functions The holder of an IA MUST personally perform the inspection. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR’s) do not provide for delegation of this responsibility.

Approving major repairs and major alterations is a serious responsibility. The approval action should consist of a detailed investigation to establish, at least that:
1. All replacement parts installed conform to approved design and/or have traceability to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM).
2. As installed, the installation conforms to approved data that is applicable to the installation.
3. Workmanship meets the requirements of 14 CFR Part 43, section 43.13 (the aircraft or product is equal to its original or properly altered condition).
4. The data used is appropriate to the aircraft certification rule (e.g. CAR 3, 14 CFR Part 23).
5. Work is complete and compatible with other structures or systems.

By just looking at the Code of Federal Regulations we know in accordance with part 91.403 (a) The owner or operator of an aircraft is primarily responsible for maintaining that aircraft in an airworthy condition. And this means scheduling required inspections and tracking them.

However, during the Annual or 100-hour inspection of the aircraft the mechanic and owner both take on a dual responsibility. Now the mechanic is put in a situation to check the history of the aircraft and verify all the required inspections have been accomplished. We all know AD’s must be complied with as well as ELT battery inspections and replacement per part 43, pitot static and etc. depending in the inspection program the owner chooses their aircraft to be inspected to that may require many more detailed inspections by hour, months or years.

It is very important for the mechanic to have a sit down meeting with the owner/operator and discuss the maintenance program the owner wants their aircraft inspected with. The owner is responsible for airworthiness and this includes having all the required inspections accomplished. I know many owner will just give the mechanic the aircraft records (log books) and tell them when they are done with their inspection sign them off and give them back. This is setting the mechanic up for failure as how does the mechanic know what inspection program the aircraft is on.

It is the owner’s responsibility to provide the mechanic hopefully in writing what inspection program the aircraft is on. In addition, provide the current equipment list, weight and balance, and Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) current by date and serial number and all major repairs and alterations forms 337’s.

As we all know any Annual or 100-hour inspection is a conformity inspection to determine two things does the aircraft meet the type design this is where the TCDS, POH, & weight and balance and all 337’s will come in to determine type design. Without these documents you cannot properly determine type design and the owner is responsible to have them.

Second, with all the above documents the mechanic has inspection the aircraft for safety of flight. What this means is the mechanic has to determine if all the parts on the aircraft are within their wear limits in accordance with the TCDS, POH (placards) and Service Manuals.

If the aircraft has parts that are not within their wear limits mechanics requirements are to provide a list to the owner of those items that need to be fixed or replaced to meet the wear limits. It is the owner responsibility to have those item fixed or replaced. Upon agreement with the owner this can be accomplish at the same time during the inspection. But make no mistake it is the owner’s responsibility to have stuff fixed NOT the mechanics.

As mechanics we do NOT want to take on the responsibility of the owner’s as it is a huge liability. Our responsibility is inspect and find things that do not meet the standards and notify the owners. If the owners want mechanics to fix items we are now charged to fix or replace unairworthy items and provide an aircraft back to the owners in an airworthy condition in accordance with part 43 Section §43.11.

NOTE: The airworthy inspection is only good until the ink dries. Once the aircraft leaves the mechanic they do not have any control over its condition.


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I can sign off an airworthy annual inspection with the pitot/static systems and transponder checks due they are not grounding items if not complied with.
Those are operational inspections and only affect how the aircraft is operated, not necessarily an airworthiness issue. This is why those checks are required by Part 91. This is also true of the airworthiness certificate and registration certificate. The airplane is airworthy because those are required to be carried when the aircraft is operated.
This is the same as a GPS system that does not have the latest database revision installed.