Gregory J. Reigel
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Aircraft Mechanic Liability: If You Sign, Your Certificate Is On The Line
A recent NTSB Opinion and Order reaffirms the responsibility of a mechanic who signs off on an aircraft’s logbook for work performed by another.

In Blakey v. Adili, the FAA alleged that the mechanic violated 14 C.F.R. 43.13(a) by failing to perform a gear retraction test after changing a flat tire on a Cessna 402. That FAR generally provides that aircraft maintenance must be performed in accordance with the aircraft’s manual.

In that case, the tire was changed and documents were completed indicating that the tire was changed and the system was bled, but with no reference to any gear retraction test. The mechanic signed the aircraft’s logbook and returned it to service.

The FAA later alleged that the gear drop test required by the aircraft manual following a tire change was not completed prior to returning the aircraft to service. It sought to suspend the mechanic’s certificate.

Although there was conflicting testimony in the case as to whether the mechanic actually performed the tire change on the airplane, the law judge held and the NTSB affirmed that the mechanic was responsible for any work performed, or not performed, by virtue of his returning the aircraft back to service.

The NTSB noted that although “respondent did not perform the work involved, [but] he signed as mechanic and is, therefore, held accountable for the work and the manner of its performance.” The NTSB then affirmed the law judge’s 60-day suspension of the mechanic’s certificate.

This case presents a good lesson as to the responsibility and risk associated with a mechanic’s signing of an aircraft logbook and returning the aircraft to service when the mechanic doesn’t actually perform the work. In that situation, the mechanic will be held accountable for the work that was, or was not performed; regardless of who did or did not perform the required work.

The moral of the story is that a mechanic needs to confirm that all work required by an aircraft’s manual was actually performed and satisfy him or herself that the work that was performed was done in accordance with the manual. If this isn’t done, a mechanic takes a chance that he or she could be held responsible for improper or omitted work. Don’t let this happen: Be diligent and be safe.

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