two pilots at the controls in flight

Nov. 1, 2017

The FAA has published revised guidance concerning expired databases and minimum equipment lists (MELs).

Notice N 8900.440, “Master Minimum Equipment List (MMEL) Policy Letter 98, Revision 1, Navigation Databases and Associated Aviation Safety Inspector Requirements” provides guidance to the FAA’s Aircraft Evaluation Division (AFS-100) and aviation safety inspectors with MEL oversight responsibility, as well as to aircraft operators authorized to use MELs. Review Notice N 8900.440.

Previously, the FAA allowed MMEL relief and continued use of an out-of-currency navigation database, as long as an operator verified the data used before flight. However, the agency’s new guidance disallows MEL relief for expired navigation databases, but permits operators to implement procedures for using expired navigation databases in another manual, such as a general operations manual, international operations manual or other company manual.

Earlier this year, the FAA published Notice N 8900.424, which required operators to comply with MMEL PL-98, Revision 1 within 180 days, with that 180-day period ending at the end of November. (Notice N 8900.440 cancels Notice N 8900.424, essentially extending the MEL revision deadline for most operators.)

Officials in AFS-100 will revise all MMELs that include navigation database relief to ensure compliance with MMEL PL-98, Revision 1 at either the next due revision of the MMEL, or within 24 months of the effective date of the Notice (Oct. 27, 2017), whichever comes earlier.

Once an MMEL is revised for compliance with MMEL PL-98, Revision 1, operators of applicable aircraft will have 90 days to ensure compliance with the revised procedures.

“This notice gives operators a little more time to deal with the change,” said Tom Atzert, president of Leading Edge ATS and co-chair of the MMEL Industry Group. “Now operators can wait until AFS-100 revises the MMEL; the onus is on the FAA.” The MMEL group is a joint industry and FAA group established to assist Flight Standards when developing MMEL policy and revisions in an effort to improve the quality of the FAA and aviation industry communications.

However, Atzert recommends operators use the compliance date extension to develop alternative procedures for dispatching aircraft with expired navigation databases for inclusion in another company manual. Information for Operations (InFO) 17007, “Navigation Database Master Minimum Equipment List (MMEL) Relief” provides additional guidance for operating with expired navigation databases.

In some cases, such as with the Gulfstream 280, the MMEL has already been revised in compliance with PL-98, Revision 1. Operators of that aircraft type must revise their MEL within 90 days of Oct. 31, 2017, the effective date of G280 MMEL Revision 3.

For more information, review InFO 17007. (PDF)