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MYTH:


Gong! Not quite. While a mechanic does play a part in returning an aircraft to service, the final return to service falls to the pilot, who also is the owner of most small GA aircraft.


The funny thing about this myth is that, out of all those listed here, this one actually has the makings of a good myth because the “return to service” is not well defined within the FARs.


Let’s start at the mechanic end on this one. Per the FARs, Part 43.9(a) (4) to be precise, when it comes to an aircraft a mechanic can only “approve for” return to service. The key words are “approve for.” This is different than “return to service.”


So why no corresponding regulation in Part 91 for aircraft return to service? I don’t know. But it is implied in Part 91.407 as follows:


“(a) No person may operate any aircraft that has undergone maintenance,


preventive maintenance, rebuilding, or alteration unless – (1) It has been approved for return to service by a person authorized under §43.7 of this chapter; and (2) The maintenance record entry required by §43.9 or §43.11, as applicable, of this chapter has been made.”


Part 91.407 does state that the aircraft needs a signed approval for return to service, as we mentioned earlier, and it goes on to require certain aircraft checks including a record entry if the aircraft is flown after maintenance. But nowhere do those three words “return to service” get used separately.


So how do you know I’m not just making this up or simply expressing my opinion? Well, I just so happen to have found the location of one of those obscure FAA references to this subject. Unfortunately that reference has since been cancelled, but it works in this context. Plus, I’ve been told there are other similar references that I haven’t uncovered yet.


72 Mar/Apr 2021


Only a mechanic can return an aircraft to service.


Buried in the former FAA AC 91-67, Minimum Equipment Requirements for General Aviation Operations Under FAR Part 91, in Section 6, Definitions, Item (x), is this dandy short paragraph:


“Return to Service: Return to service has two applications. An appropriately certificated person approves an aircraft for return to service after an inspection or after maintenance. A certificated pilot, in fact, returns the aircraft to service after the pilot conducts an appropriate preflight and accepts the aircraft for an intended flight.”


So there you have it: signed, sealed, and returned to service!


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