OEMs Attack FAA-approved PMA Parts in Data Licenses

 - July 6, 2011, 10:30 AM

Operators that subscribe to Goodrich-Messier publications must sign an agreement that precludes the use of FAA-approved wheel and brake parts manufactured under FAA parts manufacturer approval (PMA) regulations. The agreement also notes that use of PMA parts voids Goodrich-Messier warranties and that any operators using FAA-approved PMA parts instead of Goodrich-Messier-made parts “do so at their own risk and take full responsibility for all property damage, personal injury or death caused by such replacement parts.” PMA parts are FAA-approved modification and replacement parts manufactured to the same quality standards that apply to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

The restrictions in Goodrich-Messier’s subscription agreement are a problem, according to Jason Dickstein, president of the Modification and Replacement Parts Association (Marpa), because FAR 145.109(d) mandates use of maintenance manuals by repair stations. Mechanics and repair stations can use FAA-approved PMA parts, but if they subscribe to Goodrich-Messier’s manuals, then they must agree not to use PMA parts. So maintainers effectively cannot comply with FAA regulations to use the manuals while using FAA-approved PMA parts. “The FAA’s regulations should not be used as a fulcrum for leveraging companies into unnatural monopoly positions in existing competitive markets among competitors who are all in full compliance with the FAA’s regulations,” Dickstein wrote in a recent Marpa blog post.

“There seems to be an explosion of OEM contracts along this line,” Dickstein told AIN. Manufacturers are using the licensing of their component maintenance manuals to prevent maintainers from using PMA parts. “This is an outright anti-trust violation,” he said. But unless one of the maintainers is willing to file a lawsuit, an expensive proposition for a small company, this effort by OEMs is not likely to change.

Dickstein expects to see the FAA respond to the issue later this summer. “I do know that the FAA is not happy with this. [It’s] working on guidance to remind people that this is illegal.” Dickstein explained that the FAA requires that Instructions for Continued Airworthiness must be acceptable to the FAA Administrator and the method of distributing these instructions must be acceptable. “A method of distribution that is violating anti-trust laws cannot be acceptable,” he said.

While OEMs might express the opinion that PMA parts cannot be maintained the same way as their own parts, because they didn’t manufacture or test the PMA parts, this argument doesn’t make sense, according to Dickstein. FAA Policy 8110.42 covers this issue and reflects the FAA’s philosophy that safety is better served by avoiding duplication of maintenance instructions. Instead of requiring one set of instructions for the OEM part and one set for the PMA part, an engineering analysis must be done during development of the PMA part to show whether the OEM maintenance instructions should apply to both parts or whether alternative instructions need to be developed for the PMA parts. “The FAA understands how important it is to avoid complications that don’t add value and can adversely impact safety,” he explained. “The FAA’s preference is to use a uniform set of OEM manuals.”