FAA-Accepted Repairs vs. DER Repairs. What’s the Difference?

  • What happens when a part fails?

  • The history of FAA repairs.

  • How do FAA-accepted and DER repairs differ?

The Federal Aviation Administration has an especially important responsibility to the public. Not only do its regulations protect the 2 million daily American airline passengers – they protect the millions of Americans living below the flying aircraft. The FAA-ensured airworthiness of a plane aloft protects all of us.

Protecting the safety of pilots, crew, passengers and the general public alike is, of course, an important task. It is the reason every critical system has “fail-safe” features. Aircraft are designed with these features so, in the event of a failure, the plight of the plane won’t become critical. The safety of the airplane is protected by the fail-safe feature that allows the ship to reach its destination safely.

What happens when a part does fail?

Parts do fail. Considering there are between 87,000 and 100,000 flights in the United States every day, the effectiveness of the FAA regulations is incredible. During peak times of the day, 5,000 aircraft are in the sky at once all over the United States. These fail-safe measures and FAA regulations remarkably keep Americans very safe.

In the event of a part failure – and once the aircraft is back on the ground – the aircraft undergoes rigorous inspection. Typically, parts from the aircraft’s original manufacturer (OEM) replace the worn or broken part that failed. Repairs are then made so the airworthiness of the aircraft can be re-established, and the aircraft is again ready for flight.

In some cases, critical parts are readily available (e.g., in stock) or the OEM does not supply an authorized repair (e.g., they are expendable) and therefore need to be built by the original manufacturer. These types of repairs often require months, proving costly both in price and downtime for whoever relies on the out-of-commission aircraft.

The good news is there are other options. In order to reduce delays, the FAA has approved other MRO repairs that allow another option beyond original manufacturer parts.

A brief history of FAA-accepted repairs.

Accepting repairs and parts from suppliers apart from the OEM was a gamechanger for the aviation industry. But certainly, some parts of an aircraft are more critical than others. The FAA divided aircraft repair into two classifications, FAA-approved repairs, dealing with the most critical components and FAA-accepted repairs for minor repairs. FAA-approved repairs have an extensive amount of data, approved by the FAA for airworthiness. FAA-accepted repairs have a similarly large requirement for data, but as the components are less critical, the data is simply approved by the FAA.

The FAA also allows for DER Repairs, or Designated Engineering Representative repairs. DER repairs can fall under either FAA-approved or FAA-accepted, depending on the extent of the repair. The FAA has created strict classes and ratings for each repair, and depending on the nature of the repair, the class or rating will require the appropriate amount of data.

DER repairs, much like PMA parts, are still under FAA regulations. There are several FAA repair stations in the United States, but only a few of them approve data for DER repairs. But while only an FAA repair station can create an FAA-approved repair, DER repairs created elsewhere are accepted by the FAA as FAA-accepted repairs.

These FAA-accepted, DER repairs are created at MRO shops and comprise the majority of aftermarket repairs to non-critical parts of aircraft. DER repairs at our repair stations meet and typically exceed the amount of data needed for an FAA-accepted repair, and in a fraction of the time as compared to FAA-accepted repairs or OEM rebuilds.

How do FAA-accepted repairs and DER repairs differ?

There are relatively few differences between FAA-accepted and DER repairs. FAA-accepted repairs have accepted data that their part or process has been certified. This certification takes months, sometimes years, to create – and is one of the major reasons for the popularity of DER repairs. (In contrast, many DER processes, from design to production, occur in two to three months.) FAA-accepted repairs work on minor systems of the aircraft solely, and are not highly critical processes.

DER repairs, on the other hand, can be a major or a minor repair. The data collected for minor processes are created to fall in FAA-accepted ranges, and turnaround from beginning to end is much shorter. Depending on the complexity, the process could take as little as 30-45 days.

DER repairs for major systems may require up to 9 months to create, approve and implement a part through the DER repair process. Very often, even a nine month process is quicker than getting many parts from the OEM. While these processes and parts happen away from FAA repair stations, the FAA still evaluates these repairs. In fact, over time, many DER repairs go on to the FAA-accepted repairs process.

Over the years, we’ve developed several articles about DER repairs. The process of creating a DER repair is the same as that for an FAA-accepted repair. DER repairs, however, happen to have the benefit of quicker turnarounds and are less costly than an entirely new OEM part. The oversight for DER repairs and PMA parts are all under the jurisdiction of the FAA – but unless a part is critical to the airworthiness of an aircraft, the FAA approval process is superfluous.

If your aircraft needs a large or costly repair, it may be beneficial to you to find an accepted DER repair. They are nearly always less costly than expensive replacements, and for most systems of an aircraft, they have quick turnarounds. Learn more about the DER process here, and contact Aereos to discuss your options.

About Aereos:

Atlas Aerospace is an Aereos division that is a FAA-certified 145 repair stations.  Atlas Aerospace specializes in the repair and overhaul of complex pneumatic, hydraulic, electro-mechanical, fuel and electronic components in support of airlines, MROs and OEMs from around the world.