As an aircraft mechanic, we all know that after completing a maintenance tasks we are required by the Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs) to make a record entry. As an former Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI) I often had to review aircraft records for compliance and as a mechanic we all know some aircraft records are written better than others.
The CFRs in Part 43.9 - Maintenance Record Entries
Except as provided in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section, each person who maintains, performs preventive maintenance, rebuilds, or alters an aircraft, airframe, aircraft engine, propeller, appliance, or component part shall make an entry in the maintenance record of that equipment containing the following information:
(1) A description (or reference to data acceptable to the Administrator) of the work performed.
(2) The date of completion of the work performed.
(3) The name of the person performing the work if other than the person specified in paragraph (a)(4) of this section.
(4) If the work performed on the aircraft, airframe, aircraft engine, propeller, appliance, or component part has been performed satisfactorily, the signature, certificate number, and kind of certificate held by the person approving the work. The signature constitutes the approval for return to service only for the work performed.
Knowing we must write a description or reference the data is where this is a lot to be desired. Mechanics who do not reference the data, which is always the best course. However, sometimes a short description of the work performed is easier and this is where confusion comes in.
In many of the aircraft record’s you will see acronyms being used such as R&R, C/W, PCW, N/A or a statement “All ADs complied with”. In an aircraft records what do this acronym mean and should they be used?
Many times in aircraft record’s you will see this acronyms used with no further explanation this is wrong.
A description means - a statement that tells you how something or someone looks, sounds, etc. : words that describe something or someone. (reference Merriam-Webster)
A description should be sufficient in detail to permit a person unfamiliar with the work, to understand what was done, and the methods and procedures used. You don’t have to write a book.
I think an acronym means something a person may not mean the same to another person and this is where confusion comes in using them in aircraft maintenance record keeping. Mechanics should spell out “R&R” removed and replaced leaving no doubt the item by part number was removed and replaced. This is especially true when performing inspections “C/W” is NOT the correct terminology for documenting Airworthiness Directives (ADs) method of compliance. Stating complied with section bla bla, item number 1 as an example is the appropriate manner referencing the AD itself to show compliance and the method used.
Improper documentation of maintenance is too frequently cited in FAA enforcement actions. Part 43.9 and 43.11 are among the most common regulations cited. Maintenance records will either convict you or absolve you when the FAA and/or legal professionals come calling. Using acronyms has always been an issue trying to determine what the mechanic did or did not do.
Because of confusion with acronyms all Advisory Circulars (ACs) will have a list of acronyms that will be used in that document. All FAA manuals, orders, AC’s and AD’s will have a list of acronyms individually for that document only. In other FAA documents the acronym may mean something differently. Using acronyms in record entries is a liability that mechanics need not place himself or herself.
In addition, to not using acronyms sloppy writing that is not legible is unacceptable. If a record entry cannot be read clearly to describe what maintenance procedure was accomplish it is like it did not happen. In my career there have be many record entries, I could not decipher or understand as a mechanic. If a record entry cannot be understood the maintenance task may have to be repeated to show compliance and a new record entry in accordance with section 43.9 performed.