Finding replacement parts for legacy aircraft has become increasingly difficult over the years, but owners can now breathe a sigh of relief. The FAA has approved a new program called the Vintage Aircraft Replacement and Modification Article program (VARMA), which will allow the use of certain off-the-shelf parts in type-certificated aircraft. The new rules apply to non-safety-critical parts used in planes weighing less than 12,500 pounds built before 1980.
Currently, parts must pass rigorous FAA engineering approvals and standards to be legally installed, even though safe, functional parts already exist outside the system. The new program has been adopted to reduce barriers to maintaining and repairing vintage planes, recognizing that a whole generation of planes are at risk of permanent grounding to unavailability of parts.
VARNA relies on existing FAA policies to create a streamlined process that requires no new regulations, orders, or advisory circulars. According to EAA, which worked with the FAA to develop the program, it “allows ordinary maintenance personnel to validate that certain low-risk replacement parts are suitable for installation on aircraft, without the need for extensive engineering analysis or complex and time-consuming design and production approvals from the FAA.
“The program applies to parts whose failure would not ‘prevent continued safe flight and landing.’ While this means that safety-critical components are not subject to this program, there are plenty of hard-to-find parts that meet VARMA’s criteria.”
As part of the testing for VARMA, EAA applied for permission to use an off-the-shelf starter solenoid in a Cessna 150, as the part is considered non-safety critical. The solenoid successfully passed the review process within several weeks using a Form 337 approval. Since then, EAA has also gained approval for alternators and voltage regulators in VFR aircraft.