Unfortunately, the word “current” does not necessarily mean the same thing in each of the regulations in which it is used. Which makes some sense, since different regulations address different issues and situations. So, let’s take a look at a few maintenance regulations to see what the FAA means when it references “current” in each.
14 C.F.R. § 43.13(a)
In the context of Section 43.13(a), “current” means what the dictionary says it does, i.e., “belonging to the present time.” So, current refers to the latest version of the Manufacturer’s Maintenance Manual or Instructions for Continued Airworthiness in effect at the point in time of use. It means “the latest” or “the most current version” of a Manufacturer’s Maintenance Manual or Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (“ICA”) for the aircraft or its components.
14 C.F.R. § 91.409(f)(3)
Section 91.409(f)(3) provides an aircraft owner or operator with the option of selecting “a current inspection program recommended by the manufacturer” for the aircraft. If an inspection program is selected that is “current” at that moment in time, then the selected program would be acceptable to the FAA for future inspections of the aircraft unless some part of the selected program was later deemed unacceptable because of changes required by an Airworthiness Directive (“AD”) or some other FAA rule.
It is also important to distinguish between “selection of an inspection program” for current and future inspections of an aircraft, and “maintenance to be performed on the aircraft using a maintenance manual.” If a program is selected (making it mandatory for subsequent inspections) and the manufacturer later revises the program, the originally selected program would no longer be the manufacturer’s “current” inspection program as of that later date, but it would still be an acceptable inspection program to use because it was current at the time the aircraft owner or operator selected it for use with the aircraft.
As a result, a manufacturer may issue changes to its recommended maintenance and inspection programs, but those changes do not unilaterally have future effect on aircraft owners and operators. However, an aircraft owner or operator could voluntarily choose to adopt those changes. Or the aircraft owner or operator could simply exercise Section 43.13(a)’s option of using “other methods, techniques, and practices acceptable to the Administrator” rather than those of the manufacturer.
However, in the context of performing maintenance using a Manufacturer’s Maintenance Manual, which is different than simply selecting an inspection program, an earlier version of a manual is no longer “current.” But that doesn’t mean that version of the manual may no longer be used. Depending on the circumstances, it may be acceptable for use by the aircraft owner or operator. In fact, a repair station may use a “prior” version of a Manufacturer’s Maintenance Manual that was applicable to the model of aircraft that was being maintained, unless the FAA shows that the prior version has somehow become unacceptable.
14 C.F.R. § 145.109(d)
Section 145.109(d) requires a repair station to maintain certain specified documents and data including ICAs, ADs, maintenance manuals, overhaul manuals, and service bulletins. These items must also be “current” and accessible when the repair stations performs its work on an applicable aircraft. In the context of this regulation, a repair station would have to keep versions of the listed documents and data “up-to-date.” This requirement exists even though Section 43.13(a) permits the use of a prior version of the document or data when performing maintenance, so long as the portion being used is still acceptable to the FAA.
As you can see, it is important to understand the context in which the FAA is using the word “current” in order to know what it means in each regulation. Understanding the differences will ensure that you are able to comply with the applicable regulations.
For more information on this topic, you can read my article Complying With A Manufacturer’s “Current” Maintenance Instructions and also a recent Legal Interpretationissued by the FAA. And, of course, if you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.