Finding Spare Parts for Vintage Aircraft Easier Under New FAA Program

The VARMA program clears the way for mechanics to use off-the-shelf replacement parts.

The EAA used this Cessna 150 for testing spare parts under the new VARMA program [Courtesy: EAA]

A new FAA program should reduce the difficulty of finding spare parts needed to keep vintage aircraft flying, according to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).

The Vintage Aircraft Replacement and Modification Article, or VARMA program, allows maintenance personnel to validate that “low-risk,” off-the-shelf replacement parts are suitable for use in type-certificated aircraft without requiring a complicated, time-consuming FAA approval process. Previously there was no legal basis for installing the parts even though they were “perfectly safe and functional alternatives,” EAA said. 

FAA officials have not responded to requests for comment.

Under VARMA a number of existing FAA rules come together to form the parts program without the need for new regulations, EAA said. The program applies to type-certificated aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds and built before 1980.

"This is great news for those of us who own and fly vintage aircraft,” said Jack Pelton, EAA’s CEO and chairman of the board. “There could easily come a time when a classic airplane that would otherwise be grounded for want of a part that’s no longer available will fly again thanks to the parts substitution enabled by VARMA.”

EAA said that while the program does not include safety-critical components, it does cover parts whose failure would not “prevent continued safe flight and landing.”

For the trial, EAA tested an off-the-shelf starter solenoid as a substitute part in a Cessna 150, noting that a starter failure is not considered a critical safety item. There is an increasing number of parts included under the program, EAA said.

“EAA has had a longstanding commitment to maintainability and modernization in the legacy aircraft community,” said Tom Charpentier, EAA’s government relations director. “Our EFIS and autopilot STCs broke new ground in affordable avionics, and it is our hope that VARMA opens many new doors for easily found replacement parts. As with the STC programs, we blazed the trail with the first application. Now we’re excited to see the program grow in the GA community.”

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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