Minimum Equipment Lists: For those of you not familiar with them,  is a document submitted by the operator and approved  the Air Agency (FAA in the US). All airlines and most corporate aircraft have them.  The purpose intially, was to fly an aircraft with an inoperative component back to base where repairs can be made.

There is much redundacy on modern aircraft and certainly they can fly a limited amout of time with reduce redundacy.  The question is how long should they fly and are you willing to give up the extra safety factor the manufacturer has built into the aircraft.  The FAA allows various time frames for repair depending on the item.  For example there are 24 hour items, 3 day and even 7 day items. In todays poor economic environment the Airlines have smaller parts inventory and fewer maintenance people. Under these conditions they are fyling more MEL’s longer.  There are even some unscrupulous repairmen and carriers that remove a placard for a leg and reinstall them the next in order to reset the clock on them. By the way the FAA is very good on catching this illegal behavior however it is usaully months after the fact.

In my opion the MEL’s are by abused by operators that fly them to the eleventh hour.  The purpose is to get the aircraft to base where it can be repaired. An Airline should never depart a hub where repair can be made just to avoid a delay.  Yes this will cause more delays but isn’t safety our primary concern.

Many corporations and private individuals are already practicing this enhanced safety procedure and do not leave an airport where repairs can be made.  MEL’s should be used prudently not just to the minumum standard required by law.

Capt. Ivan Klugman