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STC holder permissions, and "only dealer installations allowed"

In theory, an STC holder has to give his permission before the STC can be used.

The permission may be individual (and you may have to pay for it) or it can be a blanket permission written into the STC.

Recent Garmin STCs - GNS430W example - are restricted to Garmin dealers only. IMHO, that restrictive practice would/should be illegal here in Europe.

The fact is that loads of avionics, especially used avionics, are installed by non official appointed dealers, and if Garmin (and others) had it their way, only Garmin dealers could touch a used GNS or a GTN box. Obviously that is not what happens...

The Q is who exactly enforces this. On N-regs, it can only be the FAA, and they cannot enforce it unless you are doing a "field approval 337". If you are doing a "STC 337" then the 337 goes straight to AFS-750 Oklahoma for filing and they don't look at it. If you are doing a Minor Alteration then the FAA definitely don't see it.

Similarly for EASA. If you install a GNS430W, as a Minor mod (EASA won't be involved) and if the installer is not a Garmin dealer, the installation is presumably illegal... Or are EASA STCs not limited to Garmin dealers? If they are, I can't believe the EU is supporting this practice.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Peter,

The referenced document is not the STC Permission to use, it just tells people how to obtain it. I asked my dealer to send it to me. I have a copy in my airplane documentation.

KUZA, United States

In theory, an STC holder has to give his permission before the STC can be used.

Rights to use an STC as approved data are the property of whoever did it and funded it, so that is logical to me. How else does government encourage and protect the investor? However, its a free market so if somebody else wants to do a parallel STC to accomplish the same thing, there is nothing stopping them. Auto fuel STCs from multiple suppliers would be a good example.

If OTOH an avionics supplier blackballed you for parts, service or info because you bought a unit (new or used) and installed it under a Field Approval or parallel STC, not their STC/dealer at their price, that would seem to me a legal issue.

Rights to use an STC as approved data are the property of whoever did it and funded it, so that is logical to me. How else does government encourage and protect the investor?

There are perhaps 3 aspects which I think are suspect:

1) The use of an STC being restricted to a dealer network. This is a restraint of trade, except where you can demonstrate that the dealers have special and necessary expertise which a non-dealer won't have.

2) The installation details are in the FAA approved installation manual, so what does the STC mean? It seems that you could submit the IM (and the STC content) as approved data for a field approval, and forget the STC itself. What the STC gives you is that you don't need to do a field approval; you just install the thing and send the 337 to Oklahoma for filing.

3) The STC may not contain any intellectual property i.e. it's all prior art, in widespread use in the business. It's a bit like patents; you can get a patent despite prior art, if you pick a sufficiently specialised area.

The referenced document is not the STC Permission to use, it just tells people how to obtain it

Sure, but only Garmin dealers are able to log in and download it.

Some other Garmin STCs I saw are restricted to authorised dealers, on the STC front page.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Its perfectly reasonable to get a one-off field approval to do the same job as an existing STC. I wouldn't overtly use the STC holders data to do it, but regardless that's why (in my view) an STC holder can restrict his sales to to anybody he wishes without it being a restraint of trade. YMMV

Ultimately it is the STC user that requires permission to use the STC. It does not necessarily involve a Garmin dealer. A newly purchase unit has to be installed by a Garmin dealer unless it is going into a home built aircraft. A used unit does not have to be installed by a Garmin dealer. Below is a quote of the text for the GNS430:

STC PERMISSION:

Consistent with N8110.69 or Order 8110.4, Aviation Authority approved installers are hereby granted permission to use STC’s #SA00705WI (GNS 430 and GNS 430A), #SA00801WI (GNC 420 and GNC 420A), and #SA00800WI (GPS 400) data to modify aircraft.

Aviation Authority is the FAA in the USA. Approved installers are any approved by the FAA to install a GNS430 which would be an IA/A&P or FAA Repair Station along with repairman who construct their own home built aircraft. The installation permission is a blanket permission for all aircraft and is primarily available to satisfy the requirements that permission be provided. In other STC's, the purchase of the STC names the specific aircraft by serial number when the STC holder want's to enforce its financial property rights.

The install manuals and repair manuals and all other documentation are only obtained thru the dealer network, but they are readily available to any truly interested party. My point is that I haven't seen any enforcement of restricting this or other dealer only obtained documents. If a dealer sells a unit directly to a customer who installs the GPS on their own, the only one at risk is the dealer for violating their agreement with Garmin not to do so for a new unit unless the unit is being installed in a owner built aircraft. As a previous dealer, we would occasionally get used but refurbished units at a reduced price from Garmin, and on these units we were not restricted who we could sell them to. Many of these were warranty returns that the customer chose to obtain a new replacement unit, leaving Garmin with an essentially new unit that could not be sold as new. I truly believe you are reading entirely too much into this.

KUZA, United States

Ultimately it is the STC user that requires permission to use the STC. It does not necessarily involve a Garmin dealer. A newly purchased unit has to be installed by a Garmin dealer unless it is going into a home built aircraft. A used unit does not have to be installed by a Garmin dealer. A used unit does not have to be installed by a Garmin dealer.

I think that paragraph is mixing up legal and commercial issues. Yes, the user of an STC as approved data must legally get permission from the holder. And yes, Garmin as a commercial practice requires its dealers to install new units. But surely there is no legal requirement for Garmin to install the unit, new or used, nor to use Garmin's STC in support of the installation.

If a dealer sells a unit directly to a customer who installs the GPS on their own, the only one at risk is the dealer for violating their agreement with Garmin not to do so for a new unit unless the unit is being installed in a owner built aircraft.

That would be my understanding. And the risk would be commercial only, the FAA couldn't care less as long as the installation was supported by an approved 337 based on any approved data.

A newly purchased unit has to be installed by a Garmin dealer unless it is going into a home built aircraft

Objectively, why should that be so?

Honeywell etc try to operate such a policy but in reality anybody can buy their new stuff, from any of the well known US outlets. Garmin make it difficult, but one can still get it.

the FAA couldn't care less as long as the installation was supported by an approved 337 based on any approved data.

Check out AC43-210, page 11. It tends to suggest that the FAA check for the STC holder's permission.

When I was doing the SN3500 install (337 field approval) the FAA inspector explained to me that I can reference anything in the content of an STC but - given the STC in question was for a 421C - not the STC number.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

But surely there is no legal requirement for Garmin to install the unit, new or used, nor to use Garmin's STC in support of the installation.

I agree fully.

Garmin's requirement is a dealer agreement issue and does not involve the end user.

Garmin's permission to use their STC is not limited in any way. The document doesn't even assert that it may not be copied.

Other vendors require the aircraft make, model, and serial number be provided to them prior to sale and a custom "permission to use" is created by the vendor making it clear that they are only providing permission to use the STC on a specific aircraft.

When I was a Garmin dealer, I would always make a copy of the permission to use document and include it with the 337 submission to the FAA for field approval. In those days, we installed GPS using field approvals and the STC was referenced as a follow on installation to support the data requirements. We also provided a copy to the customer. Now it is simpler in that many installations can be accomplished either as a minor modification or via a STC with an AML.

KUZA, United States

Check out AC43-210, page 11. It tends to suggest that the FAA check for the STC holder's permission.

The document supplies a list of all forms of FAA approved data for a Major Mod and the associated 337. If the A&P IA chooses to use an existing STC as approved data for a 337, the FAA will want the STC owners permission granted. As NC Yankee points out with most STCs this is documented by the STC holder issuing a certificate referencing the specific aircraft serial number (after you pay him for it :-) In the case where blanket permission is given to a group by the STC holder because they have a wider business relationship, I can see it gets a little more fuzzy but the principle holds true.

I imagine the exemption for homebuilts in Garmin's commercial philosophy is because its a big slice of the market and they judged that homebuilders will go elsewhere if forced to use a dealer for installation. How do you move a half built aircraft to an avionics dealer, and why would you?

Regardless, there is no requirement to use a specific STC for installation of a piece of equipment in a certified aircraft, because the FAA approved sources for engineering data are broad. As you (Peter) wrote above the advantage of the STC is the relative ease of submission - which is likely the only reason Garmin created an STC for their dealer network's use.

If I had by whatever means (including lying and cheating ;-) arranged to have one of these Garmin units in my hangar, brand new in the box, I could call my avionics A&P buddy and my IA buddy and they would get it FAA approved and installed in my certified aircraft... in my hangar, without referencing Garmin's STC.

As it is I just bought a used 720 channel comm radio for $350 and I stuck it in myself... :-) It works fine. Now I have two identical radios, one in the aircraft and a spare on the shelf... With that plus Mode C, my iPad and Foreflight I'm all set until I need ADS-B out and UAT someday. Kind of on another (lower) level from the Garmin issue, but it works for me!

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