There seems to be no way to determine if airworthiness directives for your airplane have been complied with. Does anyone know? I found this FAA website but you can type in a type of aircraft and nothing comes up. Also does anyone know where I can find safety bulletins for an aircraft?
Compliance with Airworthiness Directives (ADs) involves an appropriate logbook entry. Examine the aircraft logbooks, or have someone competent in the subject matter—an aircraft mechanic, for example—to determine if applicable ADs have been complied with.
Each AD requires different compliance measures, ranging from a one-time inspection or parts replacement to recurring inspections. In each case, a logbook entry should be made to document compliance. Apart from the logbook entry, the aircraft or components concerned can often be inspected to confirm compliance, such as checking for a marked part ot that a placard installed. The details of what such an inspection could confirm would vary depending on what the AD requires.
In some cases, such as AD 68-17-04, which deals with Cessna stall warning systems, the AD calls for a one-time inspection followed by installation of a placard. The placard calls for the pilot to test the stall-warning system as part of pre-flight. In such a case, compliance with the AD extends beyond the actions of maintenance personnel, and will include pilot compliance with aircraft limitations—the placard.
Now, you seem to be asking three questions, beyond the title question of
How does one determine if an airplane meets airworthiness directives? Let me paraphrase these questions:
- How does one determine if ADs have been complied with?
- How does one find ADs that apply to an aircraft?
- How does one find "safety bulletins" for an aircraft?
The first question I have answered above.
The second question is primarily the purview of aircraft mechanics, especially IAs where applicable. The site you linked is a good way to find applicable ADs. It sounds like you may have run into some difficulty in getting the site to work correctly. A search for "Cessna 172" returns 21 ADs. Since ADs list aircraft or component applicability by make, model, and serial number range, among other criteria, each AD will need to be examined to determine if it is applicable to any given aircraft.
The third question is more difficult. Airframe, powerplant, and parts manufacturers may issue Service Bulletins and disseminate them at their choosing. Some manufacturers are easier to deal with in this regard than others. An exhaustive answer on this topic is beyond what is appropriate here, in part because it is constantly changing. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer for what you need.
In your question you started out asking about airworthiness directives (ADs) and then switched to service bulletins (SBs). They are two different things with different implications depending on which rules you are flying under. For general aviation aircraft that are flown under Part 91 of the FARs you must comply with ADs in order for your aircraft to be airworthy. i.e. if you haven’t complied with the AD (and that includes documentation) then in the eyes of the FAA and your insurance company your aircraft is not airworthy. For Part 91 operators, Service Bulletins are advisory—even though many of them say in their text that they are mandatory.
As Jonathan mentioned, it is a tremendous amount of work to read through all of the ADs that might be applicable to an aircraft to determine whether it applies to that specific aircraft. Several companies make software that IAs can use to simplify the process. (My IAs use Tdata.) The IA puts the serial number of the aircraft, engine, alternator, magnetos, oil cooler, etc. into the software and the software goes through the tedious process of determining which ADs apply to that particular aircraft. The owner or IA can then go through the logbooks and determine which ADs have been complies with. The software prints out a record of compliance that the IA signs and it is incorporated into the logbooks. This process is required at every annual inspection in order for the inspection to be signed off on.
Service Bulletins on the other hand are not issued by the FAA but instead are issued by the manufacturer of the part in question. It is up to the IA and the operator whether or not to comply with them. For example, SERVICE BULLETIN No. TP-14 Rev. 3 claims that replacement of Parker Hannifin vacuum pumps is mandatory. It is not. Only the FAA can mandate replacement of parts and then only by issuing an AD.
In between ADs and SBs are Special Airworthiness Information Bulletins (SAIB) ”They are an information tool that alerts, educates, and makes recommendations to the aviation community. SAIBs contain non-regulatory information and guidance that does not meet the criteria for an Airworthiness Directive (AD).” As an owner/operator you should be aware of them and determine whether compliance is warranted. For example, SAIB: CE-14-23 was issued for Piper aircraft to alert A&Ps to a potential unsafe condition on inlet hoses. The inlet hoses for the carb look a lot like regular scat tubing that is used elsewhere in the engine. Unfortunately, scat tubing isn’t as rigid as inlet hose and it can collapse and cause the engine to quit from lack of air. Piper noticed that they hadn't sold any inlet hoses in a long time and suspected that mechanics were using the wrong hose. My A&P checked, and sure enough I had the wrong hoses. Someone in the past, either through ignorance or cheapness, had replaced the 350 dollar hoses with 10 dollar hoses.
My answer is only for Part 91 Operators. Part 135 Charter Operations are usually required to comply with service bulletins as well as ADs—depending on how their certificate is written. Air Carriers and Freight operations have rules that I am not familiar with, so someone else will have to chime in on those.