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Pulling the Cord on Parachute ADs

Update: On May 17, ARSA provided a copy of its comments to to the Department of Transportation Office of General Counsel as follow up to its Dec. 3, 2021 letter requesting assistance untangling the FAA’s refusal to consider its authority to issue an airworthiness directive against a parachute. To read the letter, click here.


On April 14, ARSA commented on an Airworthiness Directive (AD) issued by the FAA against certain MARS A.S. emergency parachutes. The association questioned the agency’s authority to issue such an AD and requested its withdrawal.

The AD became effective on April 5 (superseding a previous release), issued as a final rule with request for comments. It addressed an unsafe condition related to the ripcord that could cause a malfunction of the emergency parachute. ARSA’s comments were unrelated to the technical matter, instead highlighting the limitations placed on the agency by the applicability of part 39.

Citing a 2021 exchange with the agency regarding a previous AD, the association explained such a parachute fails to meet the statutory or regulatory definition of “appliance” as required by § 39.3. Regardless of confusion caused by the statute’s use of examples, both the rules and the law require that to be an appliance the item must:

(1) Be used, capable of being used, or intended to be used in operating or controlling aircraft in flight.
(2) Be installed in or attached to aircraft during flight.
(3) Not be a part of an aircraft, aircraft engine, or propeller.

After recognizing the possibility that some parachutes may meet those requirements, ARSA’s comments conclude that the MARS ATL-15 SL does not: “Since such ‘personal parachute assemblies’ are not installed in or attached to an aircraft nor are they used, capable of being used or intended to be used in operating or controlling an aircraft in flight, the device at issue fails to meet either the statutory or regulatory definition of ‘appliance.’ Based on this analysis, the FAA does not have authority under § 39.3 to issue the subject ADs and must withdraw them.”

To read ARSA’s complete comments, click here.

To review the association’s previous exchange with the FAA, see the update below.

12/3/21 - Unpacking a Parachute AD

December 3, 2021

Update: On Dec. 3, ARSA sent a letter to the Department of Transportation Office of General Counsel. The association requested assistance from DOT after the FAA refused to consider the substantive question of its authority to issue an AD against a parachute. Click here to review the letter and attachments; ARSA members can find analysis in the November edition of the hotline.


On July 2, ARSA requested clarification of the FAA’s authority to issue an Airworthiness Directive, questioning the April 22 posting of an AD against certain Uninsured United Parachute Technologies, LLC Parachutes.

According to 14 CFR § 39.3: “FAA’s airworthiness directives are legally enforceable rules that apply to the following products: aircraft, aircraft engines, propellers, and appliances.” The association’s letter reviewed the relevant definitions in § 1.1 against this applicability, concluding a parachute could not be included under the definition of an aircraft, aircraft engine, propeller, or appliance.

“Considering the fact part 39 does not include parachutes in its applicability, please explain the FAA’s authority to issue the subject AD,” the letter requested.

ARSA followed up after the FAA’s initial response was unsatisfactory. Click here to review the exchange.

Learn more about ADs…

ARSA Training: Airworthiness Directives

And test your ability to define “appliance”…

Can You Define “Appliance”? (15 min. sessions)

 



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