By Kate Sarsfield in London

The US Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is fighting what it says is a “potentially catastrophic” National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendation that a manufacturers’ service bulletin (SB) carry the same legal weight as an airworthiness directive (AD) on piston-engine aircraft operating under Part 91, which governs private general-aviation aircraft.

The recommendation follows a recent enforcement action against an aircraft mechanic whose engine repair did not comply with instructions issued by engine and parts manufacturers. Luis Gutierrez, AOPA’s director of regulatory and certification policy, says: “The NTSB’s ruling in that case changes the SBs from an advisory nature to mandatory under the law and this could prove extremely costly for thousands of owners and operators of aircraft that were built under the older CAR [Commercial Aviation Regulation] 3 certification standards.“ CAR 3 was replaced with the current Part 23 certification regulations more than 30 years ago, he explains, “but the average age of [a piston-engine aircraft] in the US is around 35 years”.

Many older designs such as the Cessna 172/182, which entered service before the introduction of Part 23, continue to be produced under the CAR 3 requirements, Gutierrez says. “This ruling could impact around 85% of the US general aviation fleet,” he says.

Many service bulletins, he adds, are simply product improvements that some owners choose to ignore if there is no impact on the safety or airworthiness of their aircraft.

“AOPA and the FAA believe that responsibility lies with the FAA and not with individual companies,” says Gutierrez. “The FAA has issued several clear statements on the issue and we have asked our lawyers to thoroughly research this so that we have all the ammunition to reinforce these longstanding rulings.” If SBs become mandatory, he adds, “it could become so costly that some operators will be forced to ground their aircraft”.

Source: Flight International