Aviation Safety Letter 2/2004

COPA Corner - Who Is Responsible for Aircraft Maintenance?

by Adam Hunt, Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA)

The COPA office gets many interesting questions each month from pilots, aircraft owners and people who work on aircraft. One of the most topical questions I received recently, from a safety perspective, was that of "who is responsible for aircraft maintenance? Is the aircraft owner responsible or is it the person who does the maintenance?" On certified aircraft the person doing the maintenance could be an aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) or apprentice, or it could be someone else if "elementary work" is the action being carried out.

This question is important from a safety perspective because if it is not clearly understood who is responsible for what, then maintenance may get missed. Some AMEs will tell you that under the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs), the owner is responsible for all maintenance on the aircraft, not the AME. Aircraft owners will point out that they cannot be responsible for the torque on each bolt or the workmanship of lockwiring, because they lack the expertise in those technical areas. If they had to know all that, then only AMEs could own aircraft! Both arguments are partly right, but the answer is in the CARs, of course!

Maintenance Schedule

605.86 (1)  .no person shall conduct a take-off in an aircraft, or permit a take-off to be conducted in an aircraft that is in the person's legal custody and control, unless the aircraft is maintained in accordance with

(a)  a maintenance schedule that conforms to the Aircraft Equipment and Maintenance Standards.

This CAR clearly indicates that the aircraft owner is responsible to make sure that the aircraft is maintained to a maintenance schedule. If the aircraft wasn't sent for an annual inspection, the owner is responsible.

So what are the people who do the actual work responsible for?

Maintenance and Elementary Work Performance Rules

571.02 (1)  . a person who performs maintenance or elementary work on an aeronautical product shall use the most recent methods, techniques, practices, parts, materials, tools, equipment and test apparatuses that are

(a)  specified for the aeronautical product in the most recent maintenance manual or instructions for continued airworthiness developed by the manufacturer of that aeronautical product;

(b)  equivalent to those specified by the manufacturer of that aeronautical product in the most recent maintenance manual or instructions for continued airworthiness; or

(c)  in accordance with recognized industry practices at the time the maintenance or elementary work is performed.

CAR 571.02 makes it pretty clear that the person carrying out the actual maintenance or elementary work is responsible to do the work that the owner asks them to do, correctly and as specified in the appropriate publications cited.

A further indication that the person carrying out the work is responsible for the work that they actually do is contained in this CAR:

Maintenance Release

571.10 (1)  No person shall sign a maintenance release required pursuant to Section 605.85 or permit anyone whom the person supervises to sign a maintenance release, unless the standards of airworthiness applicable to the maintenance performed and stated in Chapter 571 of the Airworthiness Manual have been complied with and the maintenance release meets the applicable requirements specified in section 571.10 of the Airworthiness Manual.

(2)  . a maintenance release shall include the following, or a similarly worded, statement:

"The described maintenance has been performed in accordance with the applicable airworthiness requirements."

So, who is responsible for the maintenance carried out on an aircraft? The CARs are clear that the aircraft owner is responsible to make sure that the maintenance required is scheduled and the aircraft is made available to the person who will do the maintenance or elementary work. The person who actually does the work is responsible for the actual work that they have been asked to do and that they carry out. Both have responsibilities!

Aircraft owners and maintainers need to work together to make sure that aircraft are properly maintained, airworthy and safe to fly!

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