Aviation Investigation Report A98H0003

4.3.8  Role of the FAA's Aircraft Evaluation Group

Title 49 United States Code section 44702(d) provides the FAA Administrator with the authority to delegate matters related to the examination, testing, and inspection necessary to issue certificates as part of its type certification process. The Administrator has determined that there exist certain aspects that are not to be delegated. One such function is the role of the FAA's Aircraft Evaluation Group (AEG), which is responsible for providing operations and maintenance input to all facets of the type certification process. For STCs, the FAA has determined that no delegate may make determinations regarding operations and maintenance issues; that role is reserved for the AEG.

For STC ST00236LA-D, the impact on the operations and maintenance of the MD-11 was determined by the STC applicant without direct AEG involvement. A survey of similar "non-essential, non-required" IFE system STCs revealed that approximately 10 per cent had been designed, installed, and certified in such a way that the flight crew could not remove electrical power from the IFE system without also interfering with essential aircraft systems. The survey results indicate that the operational review conducted as part of the STC ST00236LA-D approval process, was not unique in not detecting operational shortfalls.

The Board is concerned that a de facto delegation of the AEG's role has evolved with respect to the type certification process, which has resulted in less-than-adequate assessments of the operations and maintenance impact of some STCs, particularly those STCs designated as "non-essential, non-required."

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