FAA vs. B&C Specialty Products

In the winter of 1997, an Alaskan pilot contacted B&C Specialty Products to inquire about installations of the B&C model L-40 alternator he'd seen on some Super Cubs. He was informed that the parts were NOT STC/PMA and could not be installed on his aircraft (also a Super Cub) without the guidance and approval of his local FSDO.

The gentleman called the Anchorage FSDO and was advised to go ahead and install the alternator. When he was ready, call back and we'll come out for an inspection and to help you with paperwork. When the pilot did call, the gentleman sent to do the inspection was not the person he'd spoken with earlier. Further, the inspector's primary expertise was in large, air transport category aircraft.

When the inspector found a non-PMA part bolted to a type certificated aircraft, he elected to start a suspected unapproved parts violation against B&C Specialty Products in spite of the fact that dozens of TC aircraft in Alaska had been flying with the B&C L-40 alternator for years. This began a saga of sleepless nights, worry, and distractions from daily responsabilities that stretched out for nearly two years.

Bill was invited to pay a $2,000 fine for the privilege of admitting to the FAA that he'd transgressed and as punishment to insure he'd never do it again. Bill declined their offer . . . seems he thought, and about 99% of the aviation community agreed, that he'd done nothing wrong. It finally took the direct intervention of Jane Garvey at OSH '98 to bring the persecution of Bill Bainbridge to an end.

As time permits, we'll publish documents pertaining to this story on this website. The reason for this public display of historical fact is to let people know that the FAA is not infallible. I would hope that anyone who believes they've been unfairly targeted by the FAA will read these documents and take heart. If you're right, you don't have to knuckle under simply because government wields the bigger club. Remember, the FAA works for us . . . the taxpaying citizens who support various institutions chartered with some aspect of public service. At Sun-n-Fun 1998, officials well up in the FAA hierarchy promised Bill that the case would be dropped and that he would receive a letter of apology. By OSH 1998, Bill had not yet received the letter. During a Meet the Administrator meeting at OSH, Ms. Garvey seemed put out that Bill had not received what she understood to be the promised document. When the document was produced at the meeting, it did indeed drop the charges on the incident which initiated the original action. But it also threatened future action pending an investigation of other installations of B&C equipment on TC aircraft. The letter was also lacking in any form of apology. When others in attendance at the meeting (Including Tom Poberezney) read the letter, it was immediately made clear to Ms. Garvey that the letter was unacceptable. Ms. Garvey took the letter under advisement and promised to look into the matter personally. In the mean time, more people are taking notice of the situation an weighing in. Here's a short piece that appeared in Sport Aviation just after OSH 98.

Shamelessly borrowed from Action Update feature of Sport Aviation for September 1998. Our heartfelt thanks for Earl Lawrence and associates at EAA who continue to work this issue for the benefit of us all.


At EAA AirVenture, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey promised the president and owner of B&C Specialty Products an apology for his treatment by the FAA legal department. B&C Specialty Products is a manufacturer of lightweight starters and alternators for experimental and some type certificated aircraft. Because of the popularity and success of B&C products, some owners of standard category aircraft have obtained field approvals for the installation of these experimental parts.

Because of the use of B&C products on certificated aircraft, the FAA filed suit against B&C for production of aircraft parts without a production approval. B&C was taken to task for providing a sample of a previously approved Form 337 to a customer to show a basis for approved data. The practice of using a previously approved Form 337 (as approved data to support another Form 337 modification) is authorized in FAA Order 8300.10. Despite an FAA Flight Standards report supporting B&C and the fact that the parts paperwork clearly indicates the parts as experimental the FAA legal department has pursued the prosecution of B&C for over two years. Using this logic, the FAA would also file suit against Delco electronics because of the many field approvals aircraft owners have obtained to install their automotive products in certificated aircraft.

This situation highlights the lack knowledge within FAA of the rules that apply to experimental aircraft and the concern that as experimental aircraft become more and more popular, situations like the one with B&C will increase. This situation also highlights the extent to which the FAA legal department will pursue a case over suspected unapproved parts. Amateur-built aircraft comprise approximately 20% of the single engine fleet and is growing at a rate four to five times faster than the certificated single engine fleet. In an effort to reduce such circumstances in the future, EAA has asked the FAA to work with EAA to develop a training curriculum for field inspectors on experimental aircraft. EAA continues to work to ensure the future of recreational aviation.

Here's a copy of Mr. Whitlow's letter handed to Bill at OSH '98. Click Here for page 1 . . . and click Here for page 2.

Many folks, including your's truly, wrote to individuals within the FAA and other aviation organizations in support of Bill Bainbridge and to speak out against the erroneous interpretation of B&C's policies and procedures with respect to the FARs.

Here's a copy of a letter I crafted. in response to Whitlow's letter.

A few weeks later, I received a letter from Mr. Tom McSweeny.

Finally, see copy of the O'Brien Report wherein folks within the FAA offered the opinion and supporting facts that the charges against B&C were bogus.

11 FEB 99
revised 6 SEP 05