Signing Your Certificate

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Signing Your Certificate

The FAA came out to inspect a 135 certificate holder that I am DOM for. In the course of the inspection, one of the ASIs (there were three), asked myself, and two pilots for our certificates. After looking at my certificates, he shook his head and said that there was a problem..............He informed me that none of my certificates had been signed by me. He seemed to have a light-hearted demeanor, but as this was the first time I had met him (big turn-over in the office has left us with all new inspectors), I did not want to make any assumptions. I told him that the signatures must have worn off, which he agreed was probably the issue. This is where I screwed up................. As he handed my certs back for me to sign them, He said that after he signs his certificates, he puts a piece of scotch tape over the signature line. I replied..............sounds like an alteration to the certificate. I don't think he liked that statement. The meeting remained non-confrontational, but he did immediately make the comment that he would possibly have to have a look at past mx sign-offs/flight logs that I had made, as they were made while my certificates were ineffective. I was a little disappointed with myself for not signing the certs, but also concerned by his comment about inspecting my past activity. My question is this: I understand that the FAA wants us to sign our certificates as there is a place for it, but where is the regulatory requirement for it? If this inspector wanted to issue a violation, what would his basis be?

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Doug you I rarely agree but here you are 100% correct! Scotch tape is no different than laminating your certificate and both are means of altering your certificate.

I've scanned 135 and didn't find where a signature is required. If it were me, I'd ask for a meeting and be frank. I'd say look, I don't want to start this working relationship on the wrong foot but... and tell him how you feel about your first meeting and his comment.

Maybe their guidance may broach that subject. It wouldn't be the first time that guidance was contrary to regulations...

Haven't found any regulation that says you have to sign your certificate. About the closest thing is that the Application has to be "on a form and in a manner prescribed by the Administrator", while that applies to the application, I don't see where it carries to the actual certificate. I also looked in Advisory Circulars and Orders and didn't see anything there. Perhaps you should ask the ASI for the reference that requires the signature. He should be able to provide it, but most likely won't be able to. Just remember, he works for you, not the other way around. If he insists on something, ask for the guidance that requires it.

I have not been able to find any requirement to sign either. I am aware of several regulations that expressly prohibit alterations to certificates however.

I wish that someone from the FAA (or former FAA) would chime in on this.

I am not at all interested in playing "stump the ASI", and I don't revel in pissing contests with them. That being said, I don't believe that they "work for me" when they are performing surveillance. If they take positions that can have negative effects on my ability to do business, they should be able to substantiate them.

I truly do not think that this guy meant to be heavy handed, but I do wonder what would have happened had I refused to sign my certs.

Doug Hereford

You won't find this in the FARs, this is basic law. The signature of the certificate holder is required for the certificate to be in effect. Same holds true for licenses.

Would make common sense. I do however hold several certifications outside of the aviation realm, on state and national levels. None of them have provisions for my signature.

Are they certifications issued by a governmental regulatory agency? Or, industry training certifications. Big differences.

Here we go again! Another no-name, know-nothing chiming in with erroneous information! The only thing you got right, Anyoneofus, is "You won't find this in the FARs..."

Basic law my (expletive deleted)... The "LAW" is specifically spelled out in Title 14 Aeronautics and Space, Code of Federal Regulations, as defined in specific chapters.

There are no provisions for signatures on certificates because there ARE NO REQUIREMENTS for signatures on certificates! If you choose to scribble your X on a self-drawn line on your certificate you can be violated for altering the certificate. It's not how it was issued to you.

Common sense (I know, government doesn't deal in common sense) should tell you why it's NOT required. Whose name is on the certificate? Your company's! Not yours. Your company can't sign its name. It doesn't say 'signature of representative' or anything of the like. It doesn't say anything! Figure it out...

Bob P,
My original question pertains to airmen certificates such as mechanic, repairman, and pilot. These certificates DO have provision for the signature of the holder.
Your reference to repair station certificates does add a level of ambiguity though. My repair station certificate is as you say.............Company name (not mine), and no place for any company official to sign. Again however, this is not the type of certificate that I was originally asking about.

I would also note that 65.15 specifies that subject certificates remain effective until surrendered, suspended, or revoked (with an exception for repairman certs.). It also requires physically returning ineffective certs. to the FAA.
61.19 has similar (though not exactly the same) language for pilots. No reference to effective status related to a signature. I would think that these rules would be a perfect place to reference signatures if such requirements existed for them.

Doug Hereford

Poor Bob, again you get all apoplectic without even comprehending the original post wherein the poster is referring to AIRMAN CERTIFICATES,

Yes, they DO have provisions for the Airman's Signature and NO, they are not valid without being signed. This is basic law 101, contracts.

Now then, why not get back over the STC ICA thread and regale us with more of your legal expertise.

One might argue, there is in fact a Federal Law currently in place prohibiting the signature on a certificate. FAR 65.20 paragraph a), 4 states “Any” alteration of any certificate or rating under this part;

A signature is in fact an alteration. When the FAA uses the word “Any” that’s pretty clear. They could have included a statement such as “With expectation of airman’s signature”’; however, it was their choice to stick with the word “Any”.

Doug, I totally misread your original question. I read "The FAA came out to inspect a 135 certificate holder that I am DOM for." as wanting signatures on the 135 certificate-my bad...

Apologies to Anyoneofus!

No Buddy, no one having any basic understanding of the regulatory system would argue that. The intent of the reg is any alteration AFTER the certificate is put into effect, which doesn't occur until after the signature of the holder is applied.

A couple of notes. FAA Medical Certificates also require the signatures of the issuing Physician AND the Holder.

Some of you may also hold FCC Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permits which are required for international operations.

It clearly states; "Not Valid Unless Signed"

For some reason the FAA did not include this verbiage but the requirement is nonetheless in place.

Well, I am not necessarily disagreeing, just asking for proof. As I stated earlier, I hold several state and national certifications (certificates which happen to be wallet sized like airmen certificates are) which have NO provision for signatures of the holder. So a blanket statement that all certificates must be signed to be effective, does not hold water. I happen to have a birth certificate which is also not signed by me.
I also don't believe that language on any certificate can, by itself convey any requirement. Just because a certificate says "not valid unless signed" is meaningless without supporting regulatory basis.

As for the alteration; Buddy, I may have not been clear. I am referring to airmen certificates, not air agency certificates. I do not believe that signing the back of an airmen certificate would constitute an alteration (65.20 ref.) in its strictest sense, but putting scotch tape over that signature (as my ASI suggested) might.

Doug Hereford

So Mr. Anyoneofus made reference to the FCC certificate and the statement "Not Valid Unless Signed". That may be the case for FCC certificates, but not so with FAA Certificates. All mine have a lace to sign, and note "Signature of Holder", but nothing that says it is not valid unless signed! Hell the stupid plastic ones are barely readable since all the letters rub off in the little wallet sleeves! You would have thought FAA could have invested in a better machine for making the certificates!

Even my IA certificate only says "Signature of Authorized Mechanic" with nothing indicating a requirement to sign it.

To state further, the FCC certificate may very well not be valid unless signed, but it is not the statement on the certificate that make this so.................rather specific regulatory language.

Same would apply to airmen certificates. The certificates themselves are not regulations.

So I am back to the fact that, I thought I knew what it took to keep my airmen certificates "effective". Apparently I may not actually know.

Doug Hereford

Ok guys. Agreed that the plastic certificate signatures don't last, however it is a moot point.

Following the faulty logic here, a signature is also not required for any FAA application for airman certification. Try and see how far you get without signing. The signatures are legal formalities.

The FSDO inspectors look for these trivial things when inspecting your certificates because they have been trained to so so by the legal team while they were at the academy and they are easy pickings.

If you are seeking the root of the requirement for interests sake, that's fine, a lawyer can explain it to you. If you formulate logic that leads you to believe it isn't required based on not being able to find it in the FARs, then you have a larger issue.

Doug, I clearly understood exactly what you were addressing. My reference was far 65.20 paragraph a, 4. You might want to read it, it is as clear as anyone could possibly ask for. So I ask you and anyoneofus, what part of the word “ANY alteration” do you find wiggle room?

If I handed you a document that had spaces for your name, address, phone number, and email address, and asked you to return the document to me without “Any Alterations”. You would hand me the document back with your personal information? This is a very common test in college and if its filled out you fail. Ask an attorney how they would interpret “Any Alterations”.

Well Buddy in my opinion, this conversation is going to drift a bit off topic. If I understand you correctly, you purpose that the FAA provided a place for the certificate holder to sign, and would then subsequently take the position that his/her act of signing would be a rule violation.............In this case, an alteration of the certificate.

I have read the relevant reg. If I understand you correctly, you are taking the position that anyone who signs their airmen certificate is actually in violation of the FAR?

I cannot get my mind around that logic.

Doug Hereford

There is regulatory language to cover signatures on applications (ref. 61.13 and 65.11)......................"form and manner acceptable/prescribed by the administrator". The logic is not faulty.

I am NOT interested in this for the purposes of debate. I have posted several times to that effect. In my original post, I explained that the inspector made reference to my past mx activity as invalid since my certs were not signed. I take this comment very seriously.
As I also stated, mu FSDO office has had an almost complete turn-over in recent past with regard to ASIs. I would never put it past a new inspector to try and make a name for himself. I knew what to expect from the older twenty some years of dealing with them, I never once had them ask to physically view my certs.

I have spoken to several lawyers on this subject, and they are in general agreement that in the case of the airmen certificate, a signature is NOT required.
At this point however, I am not convinced of anything for sure on this subject.

Doug Hereford

Fair enough, I'd be interested in hearing the lawyers legal references for their opinions that airman certificates having provisions for the bearers signature are not required to be signed.

The FSDO inspectors comment regarding the legality of previous work you signed off on without having a signature on your certificates has no merit and was pulled right out of his backside. Unfortunately, we are overloaded with such FSDO personnel these days, they give the good guys a bad rep.

Yes, I would be tempted to afford that inspector an opportunity to eat those words. If I were still a DOM at a 135, or 121, I might use more discretion in pursuing that.

While is it legally required, it is a viewed as a formality. No one is going to use the fact that it was, or was not signed as meaningful in any legal action.

Not signing a certificate will result in nothing but a reminder that you need to do it, which by the way you did, didn't you. 9 out of 10 inspectors will call you on it. Like I said, they have been trained to do so. Occasionally, it will be overlooked if they are distracted by other low hanging fruit.

I'll try to find the legal root which is the basis for government issued licenses/certificates being signed by the holder, it has something to do with closing the legal contract loop.

I forgot to mention, you legal beagles might note that Temporary Airman Certificates have provisions for the bearers signature, and I can GUARANTEE that one will not be issued without being signed.

Simple way to solve it, ask for a legal interpretation from the chief counsel.

Simple way to solve it, ask for a legal interpretation from the chief counsel.

Perhaps, but each one of you certificated Airman signed your original issuance of your first temporary Airman's Certificate, in triplicate, guaranteed.

And a copy is in your file at Oklahoma City.

And he didn't stutter...

And he didn't stutter...

Luv ya Dave!

I only have a little over 40 years in the business, 30 years as an IA, 7 yrs as a MX DAR, 8 yrs as a DME, and did FAA accepted IA renewal seminars for 19 years. DOM, Dir of Quality, blah blah blah…

I didn’t write the regulations, but what I have learned is to read them, word or word without putting any conjecture or common sense into them, NONE. Because the “Regulations” are in fact Federal Law, I attempt to read them as an attorney would read them, and NOT as a mechanic would read them.

Here is what I assumed happened: that regulation I quoted you has been in place for many years. When they designed the new certificate, they did not go back and read that regulation at all, let alone to that depth, they spit out the new card with a signature provision.

Despite anyone’s common sense approach, a signature is in fact an alteration to the original document, PERIOD. Do I believe anyone will be fined or suspended for signing their certificate, no I do not.

The more commanding issue here is the ignorance in thinking one can read the regulations from a mechanics perspective. If you don’t believe the regulations were written by attorneys, look up the definition for the word “Person” in FAR 1, and tell me a mechanic wrote that definition.

Must have hit the save more than once!

Couldn't agree more. You need to be a good Philadelphia Lawyer to read the Code of Federal Regulations. Only when you put that lawyer hat on can you begin to comprehend what they are talking about within those paragraphs and subparagraphs. Like you, over 40 years and an A&P, IA, and 12 years as a DAR and 5 years as a DER. To read the regulations as a lay person will get you in trouble as you will try and "interpret" then rather than just use the words as presented, nothing more, nothing less.

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