Paperwork Matters; be careful!!!

aircraft maintenance records faa matt lawson
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Aircraft Maintenance Records

Failure to Assiduously Make Every Entry Could Kill Your Livelihood

aircraft maintenance records cessna faa matt lawson

  • “Paperwork is a pain in the a__.”
  • “All that time filling out records takes time away from the real work.”
  • “As long as I get it mostly right, it’s okay. Only the FAA cares about crossing “t’s” and they can’t tell the difference if I forgot to dot the “I”.
  • “I wait until the end of the day to fill out the records. Stopping in the middle of work makes it hard to get the engine out on time. Yea, after 8 hours on the floor, I’m tired and sometimes forget. Who cares?”

These are comments that can be heard in an MX hangar any day. An AMT or an IA or anyone who twists wrenches for a job. Unfortunately, those are not the sentiments of FAA PMIs, Safety Inspectors and others surveilling all types of aviation. While it may appear to the folks on the floor to be form over substance, there are good reasons why paperwork is sacrosanct.

Circuit Judge Thapar Lawson v. HuertaCircuit Judge Thapar, who wrote the opinion for the Sixth Circuit, Lawson v. Huerta, USCA 6th Cir., sided with the FAA:

The FAA is a stickler for record keeping.  Any time a mechanic works on an airplane or performs an annual inspection, FAA rules require him to make and certify accurate records of the work performed in the airplane’s maintenance logbook.  Whether the mechanic replaces an engine or simply tinkers with a gauge, the logbook must collect its due.

faa logbook aircraft maintenance records

The facts of this case involved an owner taking his Cessna to mechanic who holds an Aircraft Mechanic Certificate and Inspection Authorization for major alterations (installing a G-model engine and a 78-inch propeller). Instead Lawson installed a K-model and an 80-inch propeller. He signed

(1) inspected the Aircraft and deemed it airworthy;

(2) installed a G-model engine pursuant to the field approval and Cessna STC; and

(3) repaired the Aircraft’s lower firewall with parts from a plane of the same year and model.

(4) He also completed and certified two Form 337s reflecting the alterations he had made.  On Form 337(I)—the same one Moore approved—Lawson certified that he had installed a G-model engine and a 78-inch propeller.

(5)  On Form 337(II), Lawson certified that he replaced the lower firewall in compliance with the applicable Cessna manual.

faa form 337 major repair

The mechanic believed that the two engines were “the same”; so, it was opinion that the alteration was airworthy even though the approved Form 337 did not reflect the work which he did. Each of these entries, the Board determined, was intentionally false and thus a violation of FAA regulations.  See 14 C.F.R. § 43.12(a)(1) (prohibiting any person from “mak[ing] or caus[ing] to be made . . . [a]ny fraudulent or intentionally false entry in any record or report that is required to be made, kept, or used to show compliance with any requirement under this part”).

The Judge repeated the level of proof which the FAA must demonstrate to prove intentional falsification:

(1) made a false representation,

(2) in reference to a material fact,

(3) with knowledge of its falsity. Hart v. McLucas, 535 F.2d 516, 519 (9th Cir. 1976).

The FAA need not, however, prove that Lawson specifically intended to deceive or that someone relied upon his misrepresentation—those are elements of the distinct offense of fraud.  Cassis, 737 F.2d at 546 (“Fraud and intentional falsification are distinct concepts for purposes of this regulation.”).

The mechanic responded that on this evidence he is guilty, at most, of poor wording and carelessness—not intentional falsification.

Intent is not an easy matter to prove and the Respondent stated that his intentions were not to be fraudulent. Under settled law, the papers must be read to determine if any discrepancies were excusable “ambiguities” or “omission.”

The opinion reviewed the facts and found that Mr. Lawson fraudulently signed the documents. The concluding paragraph is most compelling:

The FAA and the NTSB have staked out a consistent position in their intentional falsification casesFor good reason, they are serious about enforcing compliance with their maintenance rules and preserving the integrity of their records-keeping system.  See Helms v. Cassis, 4 N.T.S.B. 555, 557 (1982) (“The maintenance of the integrity of the system of qualification for airman certification, which is vital to aviation safety and the public interest, depends directly on the cooperation of the participants and on the reliability and accuracy of the records and documents maintained and presented to demonstrate compliance.”), aff’d, 737 F.2d 545 (6th Cir. 1984).  Thus, the Board’s cases make clear that even a single incident of intentional falsification constitutes a “lack of qualification” and justifies revoking the violator’s credentials.  See, e.g., Adm’r v. McCarthney, 7 N.T.S.B. 670, at *2 (Dec. 28, 1990) (“[E]ven one intentional falsification compels the conclusion that the falsifier lacks the necessary care, judgment and responsibility required to hold any airman certificate.”); Olsen v. NTSB, 14 F.3d 471, 476 (9thCir. 1994) (concluding that one “intentionally false logbook entry regarding [an aircraft] tachometer” was “sufficient to justify the FAA’s revocation of [the mechanic’s] airframe and powerplant mechanic certificate”). Those who fail to comply with these rules do so at their own peril.  And where, as here, they openly flout them, revocation is hardly arbitrary or capricious.  It is to be expected.

Those are words, written by an impartial judge, which should make it clear to all that PAPERWORK MATTERS!

faa logbook entry

The judge’s explanation goes part way towards full comprehension of the FAA reliance on records.

  • First and foremost, there are not {nor have never been} enough inspectors to watch every AMT perform the work; consequently, the required forms are a surrogate for an inspector’s presence.
  • Second, in placing reliance on the certificate holders’ recording the critical steps, the FAA is depending on the honesty of the person signing. If the professional exercising that privilege is not able to accurately report the work performed, that trust is broken and the rights accorded by that certificate or authorization are invalidated.
  • Third, it is important to remember that “intent” can only be inferred. What you may think is nothing but mere sloppy entries or what you honestly believe is the “same” (as it well may be), the FAA can and may determine to be fraud and courts are likely to agree with the government.

It may be a “pain in the a__”. but the pain resulting from a failure to assiduously make every entry could kill your livelihood.

aircraft maintenance record keeping logbook


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4 Comments on "Paperwork Matters; be careful!!!"

  1. He lied when he put the wrong engine and prop assy on the aircraft! He make us all look bad!

  2. paperwork really matters. Because once the airplane is released for operations, only the paperwork stands to reveal what transpired during the cause of maintenance and who does what in accordance with the approved data OR otherwise.

  3. How can the FAA let 25 workers work under one a&p on airplanes in 3rd World Countries,and let that A&P sign off on all of their work.American Airlines does this and Southwest Airlines, you know one guy can’t watch all of things the other 25 are doing.

  4. After being out of aviation field for over 2 years due medical condition.I would love to return to work on the aviation field.have 25+years experience in heavy transport aircraft, I was told my A&P was not valid.this is not an accurate statement, was told if I worked undera current A&P mech.for 6mos. or more to become current.They use to call this recurrent training, what’s your take on this issue.thank you Edgar.

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