As aircraft maintenance providers, we are often called on by our customers to evaluate an aircraft relative to its condition and compliance prior to the purchase of that aircraft.
The evaluation consists of a visual inspection of certain areas of the aircraft and a functional or operational inspection of certain systems. Additionally, the maintenance records are reviewed to confirm the aircraft is being operated in accordance with its maintenance program with respect to Chapter 5 Inspections, Chapter 4 Airworthiness Requirements and Airworthiness Directives. Some customers even elect to perform a compliance review of the Service Bulletins that are applicable to the aircraft.
As the evaluation is performed, we inevitably uncover discrepancies that may or may not be an unairworthy condition. And of course that puts us right in the middle of the dispute between buyer and seller about what is airworthy and what is not. But that's a subject for a future post.
What we do find ourselves in, however, is the dilemma of whether a pre-purchase evaluation is considered a 14 CFR 43.9 event or a 14 CFR 43.11 event. In other words are we approving the aircraft for return to service with respect to work performed (43.9) or are we approving the aircraft for return to service and certifying its airworthiness (43.11)?
If we do uncover an unairworthy condition and the customer elects not to correct that condition do we make a maintenance record entry only for the work we did perform (43.9) or do we make a maintenance record entry that records the pre-purchase and states that a list of open discrepancies has been provided to the owner/operator (43.11)?
One answer is that a pre-purchase evaluation is not an inspection required by 14 CFR part 91 and therefore 43.11 does not apply. But then, 43.11 does state that it applies to any inspection performed "in accordance with" part 91 not "required" by part 91.
Finally, when you look at the definition of Maintenance in 14 CFR part 1, it includes inspection. So therefore, even if the pre-purchase performed is not an inspection that has anything to do with part 91, it is still an inspection and 14 CFR 91.407(a)(2) does require a maintenance record entry required by 43.9 or 43.11, as applicable.
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