Airlines’ DIY Option: Make Your Own Parts

Owner-operator-produced parts are almost a DIY approach for airlines to get quality parts faster and cheaper.

Airlines' DIY Option: Make Your Own Parts
Rashad Taylor, a technician with EulessAero, is shown assembling one of the shrouds for a business-class seat for a Sheffield Aerospace customer. EulessAero is an approved vendor of owner-operator produced parts for Sheffield Aerospace and an end-user customer.

As airlines grapple with parts availability and costs, some are taking remedial action through owner-operator-produced parts (OOPP)—also known as owner- produced parts (OPP).

There are three primary reasons why airlines are choosing OOPP, explains Michael Beck, senior business development specialist at Airworthy Aerospace, a cabin interior parts fabricator in Hudson, Wisconsin: “One is time constraints, impacting the aircraft’s return to revenue service; an overall savings on parts that must be replaced regularly; and to improve a part that continues to fail or cause issues.”

In actuality, OOPP could avoid the expense—and possibly long lead times—involved when ordering a specific part from an OEM or PMA source. For U.S. operators, the FAA permits a part already owned by the airline to be reproduced as a single unit, or in quantity, as a replacement part or for modification purposes, as long as it meets all requirements and characteristics of the original FAA-approved part.

The part’s owner, according to FAA regulations, must also function as the part’s producer by controlling the part’s design, along with some level of participation in its manufacturing process to assure quality control. That applies whether fabrication is done in-house or by an outside shop. The regulations also state that installation of OOPP are limited to the aircraft owned or operated by the party responsible for the production of the part. In other words, the part cannot be installed on another operator’s aircraft.

In the U.S., OOPP is approved under each individual air carrier’s Part 121 authority and used exclusively by the specific carrier, reports Teddy Gil, senior vice president of engineering for Austin, Texas-based Sheffield Aerospace. He adds that for airlines functioning under European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) rules, the approval process is similar; the difference is that EASA requires an airline to use a DOA/POA (Design Organization Approval/Production Organization Approval) to provide the approval of the OOPP for the airline.

“Parts typically targeted for OOPP are Category 3 high-usage, high-cost, high-lead-time items, which are small and not safety-of-flight sensitive.” However, as Gil notes, the regulations do not prevent OOPP from being more flight-safety significant Category 2, or even Category 1 parts, although he stresses that is not the norm.

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