The Duncan Download Blog: Business Aviation Advice & Observations

Aircraft Paint Alternatives: A Tale of Two Regulatory Agencies

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Wed, Aug 25, 2010 @ 10:52 AM


who has the bigger stick
Regulations can contradict one another, leaving you asking "who has the bigger stick?"
Once upon a time, a regulatory compliance manager for an aircraft service provider sat between representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The topic of discussion was aircraft painting regulations.

The FAA rep said "you must apply aircraft paint according to the manufacturer’s maintenance manual." The EPA rep said "the chemicals required by the maintenance manual aren’t environmentally friendly. You must paint aircraft using other, safer chemicals."

The compliance manager asked: "Now wait a minute, who has the bigger stick?"

Turning to the FAA rep he asked: "If I don't use the processes specified in the maintenance manual, you’ll slap my hand?" To which the FAA rep said: "Yes, absolutely."

Turning to the EPA rep he asked: "If I continue to use the chemicals specified in the maintenance manual, you’ll slap my hand?" To which the EPA rep said: "Oh yes, definitely."

Before he could ask, both reps said at the same time: "And I’m the most important agency!"

Long story short, the compliance manager, the FAA rep and the EPA rep reached a conclusion that all parties could drink to. If an aircraft paint shop had an FAA-approved paint process, it would provide an acceptable alternative to the paint process specified in the maintenance manual.

By using an FAA-approved process, the service provider would be in compliance with FAA regulations, which made the FAA rep happy. The service provider would also be using more environmentally friendly products, which made the EPA rep happy. And no matter what a maintenance manual would require, the paint shop would be able to use one standard paint process, which made the compliance manager happy.

Everyone went home without any hand-slapping and the paint shop manager rejoiced.

That was 15 years ago, but the story holds true today. Ask Mike Mertens, Regulatory Compliance Manager at Duncan Aviation’s Lincoln, Neb. facility. He says for an aircraft paint shop to be a FAA certified repair station, they must apply aircraft paint according to the processes specified in an aircraft’s maintenance manual, no matter what.

This poses a unique problem for manuals that do not specify a paint process. According to FAA regulations, those aircraft technically can’t be painted. Service providers seeking to provide chrome-free aircraft paint also find themselves caught between the two regulatory agencies.

Using a paint manufacturer’s process is not an FAA-accepted alternative, says Mike. The only legal way to provide a paint process that differs from the maintenance manual is to have an FAA-approved aircraft painting procedure. Not many service providers have them.

Duncan Aviation is among the few business aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul companies with a FAA-approved, chrome-free aircraft painting procedure. So no matter what’s specified in an aircraft’s maintenance manual, the paint procedure meets federal regulations.

Tags: Regulations, Paint Refurbishment


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