Aircraft Owner/Operator Responsibility


by: Aviation Airframe Power Plant Mechanic Litigation Expert Witness

If you own or fly an aircraft…know your AD’s

It seems that a lot of aircraft owner/operators are not completely aware of all the AD’s that affect their aircraft. They will usually know when the last Annual was performed and when it will expire, but most likely do not know if there are any AD’s that require compliance within that one year period between Annuals. According to the FAR’s it is the owner/operators responsibility to make sure that their aircraft is in an airworthy condition prior to any flight.

Personal aircraft

It is the responsibility of the mechanic performing an Annual to research all applicable AD’s and to document their compliance in the aircraft records. It is also required that he record any recurring AD’s as to when they were complied with and when they will require the next compliance, whether that be by calendar time or flight hours. We call this the AD COMPLIANCE REPORT and it should be in a format that is easy for any pilot to understand.

The Regulations require that all aircraft are maintained in an airworthy condition if that aircraft is flown. If an AD is due and has not been complied with, then the Regulations are very clear. The aircraft is NOT airworthy, and there are no exceptions. This usually isn’t a problem until something goes wrong.

A major concern here is if you have an incident or accident. The FAA will get involved and so will your insurance company. If there is a substantial claim the insurance company will possibility look for a way to not pay off, and flying an unairworthy aircraft is the perfect out for them. Most insurance policies will spell out that the aircraft must be airworthy for the coverage to be valid.

I had a client who was flying one of his little bush planes and ended up putting it on its back in a pasture. Fortunately he was unhurt, but the plane was wrecked. Someone saw it happen and called 911, so now the cat was out of the bag. Too make a long story short; the plane was out of Annual. One call to his insurance company and it was confirmed, his coverage was null and void. The insurance company could also do the same thing if they found out, via the FAA report, that the plane was not in compliance with an AD.

So there are three issues here that could adversely affect you if you are not aware of all applicable AD’s that require compliance between the scheduled Annuals. One is the safety issue of the AD, especially if it is of a critical nature, another is the potential of a FAA violation and the last is the insurance coverage. Talk to your mechanic and have him point out to you those requirements that you need to be aware of. This will payoff in the long run.

I have 40+ years experience in the Aviation profession. I hold an ATP pilot certificate with MEL, SEL, Helicopter ratings with over 8,500 flight hours. I also hold the A&P and IA mechanic certificates. I do aircraft restoration on my own projects and do consulting and expert witness services for the legal profession. The following are the types of cases I can render an opinion about:

  • Divorce case involving aircraft parts manufacturer dispute
  • Experimental aircraft accident, serious injury
  • Fatal accident of DHC-3 aircraft
  • Bell 206L3 helicopter engine failure accident, fatality & multiple serious injuries
  • Cessna engine failure, multiple serious injuries
  • Piper aircraft accident, multiple serious injuries
  • Gulfstream G650 jet maintenance dispute
  • Aircraft accident Cessna 206 float plane, catastrophic engine failure
  • Fatal Helicopter Accident, Hughes 500D with RR 250C20B gas turbine engine
  • Multiple fatality helicopter accident, Sikorsky S-61 helicopter
  • Fatal Aircraft Accident, Cessna 340 twin engine aircraft
  • Fatal Aircraft Accident, Hong Kong, Military CASA 212 twin turbine aircraft
  • Aircraft maintenance dispute, Cessna 340 twin engine aircraft