FAA Removes Updating of Air Traffic Control Navigational Software Databases from Preventive Maintenance

The Federal Aviation Administration amended the maintenance regulations regarding the loading of aeronautical database updates by removing, from the preventive maintenance category, the task of updating databases used in self-contained, front-panel or pedestal-mounted navigation equipment. To read the final rule, click here.

With certain limitations, the final rule allows all pilots operating aircraft equipped with certificated avionics equipment to perform updates of aeronautical databases.

14 CFR Part 43, Section 43.3 (g) authorizes pilots to perform preventive maintenance on any aircraft owned or operated by the pilot; however, pilots of aircraft operated under Part 121, 129 or 135 are specifically prohibited from performing preventive maintenance on these aircraft. As a result, pilots were prohibited from performing navigational database updates, even when on a trip away from home base. The motivation to facilitate the change in the regulations was simply to allow pilots of aircraft, regardless of the type of operation, to be able to upload aeronautical navigational databases when they become due, no matter the location of the aircraft.

While the task has been removed from preventive maintenance, there is no functional difference for aircraft operated under Part 91. Pilots had the authority to update the databases before, and they retain this authority. Operators may continue to use authorized maintenance personnel or facilities to perform the database updates, even if the avionics meet the criteria of the new rule.

Under the final rule, if performing an update would require special access to installed equipment, use of tools or special equipment, then the task must still be performed by authorized personnel under the provisions of Part 43 as maintenance, and all pertinent maintenance regulations would apply.

Contact Ric Peri, AEA vice president of government and industry affairs, by email at ricp@aea.net or by phone at 202-589-1144.