FAA modifies rule to account for non-essential equipment

 - July 2, 2007, 10:25 AM

With so much nonessential equipment installed in today’s business jets, pilots might wonder if the rules regarding inoperative equipment apply to products that don’t contribute to the safety of flight. Obviously, it doesn’t make sense to cancel a flight because some noncritical cabin equipment doesn’t work (although some owners might insist on having recalcitrant entertainment devices repaired before takeoff), but FAA regulations don’t really distinguish between flight-necessary components and nonessential equipment. However, the agency provides a way to provide dispatch relief for what it calls nonessential equipment and furnishings (NEF).

The FAA issued a global change (GC-138) to December 2005 Policy Letter 116 that allows Part 91, 121 and 135 operators to revise minimum equipment lists using the relief contained in the policy letter. The letter explains that NEF are not already listed on MELs, do not affect safety of flight, are not required by certification or operational rules and have been installed during type certification or as part of a supplemental type certificate or engineering order. According to the letter, operators can also use the NEF process to defer repairs to “worn or soiled” cosmetic items.

Before the NEF policy letter was released, Master MELs did take passenger convenience items into account, but only for equipment located in the cabin, galley and lavatory. The policy extends the same relief to NEF found on the flight deck, maintenance service areas, cargo compartments and crew rest areas. NEFs now replace the passenger convenience items listed in Chapter 25 of all MMELs, and operators can develop their own operator-specific program to permit flight with inoperative, damaged or missing NEF located anywhere on the aircraft.

Commercial operators (including 91 Subpart K) need to obtain approval from their FAA FSDO or CHDO, while Part 91 operators do not need to submit their NEF deferral program to the FAA. Guidance on how to develop the NEF program, including how to list items and explanations of the process and procedures, can be found in FAA Order 8400.10, Volume 4, Chapter 4, Section 7 and FAA Order 8300.10, Volume 2. See www.faa.gov/library/manual/ examiners_inspectors/8300/ or /8400.