To Comply, or Let Slide: A Phoenix Pilot’s Dilemma with Service Bulletins and Arizona Aviation Safety and Liability

For many Arizona pilots and aircraft owners, service bulletins serve as one of the greatest internal debates they face on a regular basis. While most people have the instinct to choose safety over cost, when it comes to service bulletins, it is not always clear that the action outlined is in any way directly related to safety. For many owners, the choice to comply with a service bulletin does not come down to an issue of safety at all, but rather the avoidance of potential administrative issues should an accident or incident occur.

So…What are Service Bulletins?

Service bulletins are notices sent out to aircraft owners by manufacturers. These bulletins typically address a safety concern, available improvements, or possible defects or errors in parts or manuals, and offer guidance on the appropriate action to take. Sometimes the manufacturer will advise that a certain part be replaced, a certain inspection be performed, or certain operating limitations be put in place.

It all sounds fairly black and white, until we delve a bit deeper. Federal Aviation Regulations do not require that service bulletins are complied with unless they are accompanied by an Airworthiness Directive, or AD. This puts owners and A&Ps alike in a precarious situation—is it better to blindly comply, or is it simply not “worth it?”

When the service bulletin directly addresses a safety issue, it is always prudent to comply. Most pilots, owners, and maintenance personnel will agree—safety is paramount. What remains in a “grey area,” however, is the absence of an AD. If the Federal Aviation Administration has not mandated a service action, is the issue one of concern?

Dissection: Take the Time to Investigate

If it is unclear whether or not the service bulletin is truly related to a relevant safety issue, there is one resource that you need to have a heart-to-heart with—your primary A&P mechanic. While maintenance professionals are just as concerned as manufacturers about possible liability, only they can offer you the true cost/benefit analysis (and not just the financial costs) of complying or not complying with a service bulletin.

If you have questions or concerns about current or potential liability regarding a service bulletin you have received, our experienced Arizona aviation accident lawyers are here to help. Call Curry, Pearson & Wooten today at 602-258-1000 to discuss your case with an attorney.