Documenting Maintenance and Inspection Records

The primary job of an aircraft mechanic is to service and repair aircraft and their components/systems. And once he or she has completed an inspection or item of maintenance, 14 C.F.R. §§ 43.9(a)(maintenance) and 43.11(a)(inspections) require the mechanic to “make an entry in the maintenance record of that equipment.” Typically, this means writing the information in the aircraft’s maintenance records (e.g. the aircraft’s log books).

But what happens if the aircraft owner or operator does not provide the mechanic with the aircraft’s log books? Sometimes the log books are not with the aircraft or the owner or operator simply forgot to bring them with the aircraft. In other cases, the aircraft owner or operator refuses to bring the aircraft’s log books to the mechanic, preferring to maintain possession of the aircraft’s log books. Can the mechanic require the aircraft owner or operator to deliver the aircraft’s log books before the mechanic will sign off on an inspection or maintenance?

The regulations do not require that the mechanic have physical custody of the aircraft’s log books or maintenance records. While the mechanic may make delivery of the aircraft’s log books a condition for performing the applicable inspection or maintenance, the implications of that business practice are beyond the scope of this article. So, if the mechanic does not have the aircraft’s log books, how is he or she supposed to make the required entry?

Well, according to a recent Legal Interpretation issued by the FAA’s Office of the Chief Counsel, the mechanic does not need to have the aircraft’s log books in order to make the required entry. Rather, a mechanic may simply make the required maintenance entry, even including an approval for return to service, on a piece of paper and provide it to the aircraft owner or operator for inclusion in the aircraft’s log books or maintenance records.

Remember, under 14 C.F.R. § 91.417 an aircraft owner, not the mechanic, is required to keep the aircraft’s maintenance record to document that required inspections and maintenance have been accomplished. However, since making an entry in an aircraft’s log books exposes a mechanic to the potential for both regulatory and civil liability, it is also a good practice for the mechanic to keep copies of all of the entries he or she has made in the maintenance records for customers’ aircraft.

And whether an entry is made in the aircraft's log books or simply written on a piece of paper and delivered to the aircraft owners or operators, it is also important for the mechanic to exercise the same care with what he or she writes, or does not write, in connection with aircraft service and repair as the mechanic does in actually performing the work. After all, by making that entry the mechanic will be responsible for that inspection or maintenance.