One of the challenges of owning a vintage aircraft is getting the information needed to do required maintenance. This is especially true of so-called “orphaned” aircraft — those no longer in production or supported by a factory.
For years, aviation advocacy groups, such as the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and the Vintage Aircraft Association (VAA), have been asking the FAA to make available to owners the data necessary to care for these aircraft. Progress has been made, as included in the FAA’s reauthorization bill recently submitted to Congress is a component asking for the release of abandoned type certificates or supplemental type certificate data to individuals in order to maintain aircraft airworthiness.
“This is a major step in the right direction to preserve unique vintage aircraft,” said H.G. Frautschy, VAA executive director. “The owners of these aircraft want to maintain them to the highest possible standards, but could not do so because the original factory data were regarded as intellectual property —even though the companies have not existed for decades and no other entity offered technical support for these aircraft. EAA and VAA support approval of this regulatory change as a way to safeguard the future of these aircraft, as well as making continued safe operation practical and affordable.”
Frautschy emphasized that this proposal is designed to address the problem of abandoned type certificates, such as those for aircraft built by long-defunct companies prior to World War II. It would not block any rights of current companies or holders of aircraft type certificates that offer support for vintage models.
Part of the challenge, noted Frautschy, is determining who owns a type certificate at this time.
“You also have to understand that when it comes to a type certificate there are corporate heirs and individual heirs,” he explained. “Some of those type certificates may be sitting in someone’s attic somewhere.”
Under the proposal, the data would be released only if the type certificate has been inactive for at least three years, the owner or owner’s heir cannot be located and the release of the data will enhance aviation safety.
“Finding the type certificate for some airplanes is particularly difficult because TCs were not issued sequentially,” said Frautschy. “The last airplane that had a sequential type certificate was the Fokker F-27, which was issued Oct. 29, 1957. It was number 817. After that they were issued out of individual areas, so they don’t make sequential sense. If you are looking for the type certificate for your aircraft, it helps if you know which city, or at least the region, that it originated from to locate the information.”
Frautschy noted that aircraft owners also need to realize that if and when the FAA decides to release the information, there will most likely be a fee for obtaining copies.
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