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Airplane Parts Importer Says Fabric for Landing Gear Is 'Aircraft Parts,' Not 'Other' Fabrics

Honeywell, an importer of chordal, radial and web brake segments used in aircraft wheel and brake assemblies, said in a March 5 motion for judgment that its goods were classifiable under Harmonized Tariff Schedule heading 8803 rather than heading 6307, as CBP ruled (Honeywell International Inc. v. U.S., CIT # 17-00256).

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At the time CBP ruled on the goods' classification in 2017, the former subheading covered “parts of goods” for aircraft or nonpowered aircraft; the latter represented “other” in a fabric section for “other made up articles, including dress patterns.”

The brake segments are made of one or more layers of nonwoven polyacrylonitrile fiber fabric material, Honeywell said. They are “cut to a specific shape and size that is dedicated for use within aircraft braking systems,” and are not usually interchangeable between different aircraft braking systems, it said.

The importer argued that brake segments are classifiable under 8803 due to HTS General Rule or Interpretation 1, which prioritizes analyzing whether the goods fall under more specific headings -- such as heading 8803 -- before turning to basket provisions such as heading 6307.

Heading 8803 even provides certain examples of aircraft parts, including “envelopes and parts thereof” and “rigid frames and sections thereof,” Honeywell said. Envelopes, it said, are the balloon portions of hot air balloons, “typically made of fabric.”

That's "substantially similar to the relationship between the Brake Segments and the aircraft brake discs as the Brake Segments are fabric pieces (segments) that will be used to make an aircraft part (brake disc),” it said.

The term “part” is not defined in the tariff schedule, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal District has developed a specific two-part test to determine whether a textile piece should be classified under fabrics or as a “part” of another whole object, the importer said. First, it said, the item in question must be “dedicated solely or principally for use in those articles [of which it is said to be a part] and must not have substantial other commercial uses.” Second, if, as imported, it can be made into multiple parts, it must “identify and fix with certainty” what will be made from it.

Honeywell’s goods meet both of these requirements, it said. It said its products are not interchangeable and are solely intended to be used in certain airplane braking systems.

Likewise, it said that the brake segments’ uses are “fixed with certainty at the time of importation,” especially as they are not imported in material lengths to be cut down later, as in another case, but have been customized for particular aircraft.

“The specific radius, angle, fiber composition, and layering for each imported Brake Segment is specifically engineered to provide the strength, friction, heat absorption, and heat transfer capabilities to meet the braking needs and tolerances for specific disc sizes and respective aircraft brake assemblies,” it said.

Two other CAFC tests relate more broadly to parts of whole articles, Honeywell said. The first test asks whether a whole article cannot function without the particular part in question, it said. The second asks if the part is dedicated for use in the whole and “once installed, the article will not operate without it.”

If these tests instead are used, Honeywell’s goods still pass, the importer said. It said the brake segments are also integral to the brake discs used in aircraft braking systems, “which are an integral part of the aircraft themselves.” They are part of the landing gear, which all aircraft must have, it said.

Second, it said, the brake segments are “in an advanced stage of manufacture having been cut to a specific size and shape for production of a specific brake disc for use on a specific aircraft.” They have no other commercial use, it said.