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FIELD MODIFICATIONS


In the case of field-modifying an aircraft, an initial determination will be made by a mechanic as to whether the modification is a major or minor alteration.


If it’s considered a minor alteration, only acceptable data and a logbook entry by a mechanic is required. But if it’s a major alteration, then we will need FAA-approved data, a Form 337, and a mechanic with IA privileges to complete the project. However, the process doesn’t stop there.


Once the mechanic submits the proposed alteration data to the FAA, they will assess the complexity of the alteration and make a separate determination on whether this major alteration is considered a major or minor change to the aircraft type design. A major/ minor change to type design is not the same thing as a major/minor alteration.


Even the feds concur in an attempt to clarify that point in FAA Order 8300.16:


“The use of the terms ‘major’ and ‘minor’ are sometimes inappropriately applied or misunderstood. A major change in type design can be approved only by an ACO as an amended type certificate (ATC) or Supplemental Type Certificate (STC). A major alteration requires the use of FAA-approved technical data.”


In other words, if the FAA determines our major alteration is a major change to type design, we are now required to use an STC approval process instead of using the FAA Field Approval process.


So whether defined as a design approval or as a major change to type design, an STC plays no direct role in the determination of a major or minor alteration. That determination falls solely to a mechanic under Part 43, or in some cases, to a pilot installing replacement parts under Part 43 Appendix A(c).


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