Is there a requirement for a written signature on an aircraft work card or log entry, when the operator is using an electronic system?
ANSWER: NO, hand written signatures are not required. YES, a signature is required by FAR 43 to document a maintenance action, but there is no requirement for that signature to be a hand written signature.
For us old folks like me, we are used to seeing handwritten initials or signatures on aircraft records. Then stamps were allowed to indicate completion of a task as long as you could trace it back to a signature. Now there are computer-generated documents with bar codes and the like. It has slowly evolved to where we are today.
For your convenience, I have included a link to download a copy of Advisory Circular AC 120-78. "Acceptance and use of electronic signatures, electronic recordkeeping systems, and electronic manuals." This AC provides details on the FAA’s acceptance of electronic signatures.
The FAA provided three definitions of a signature in the advisory circular:
Signature. Any form of identification used to acknowledge completion of an act and authenticate a record entry. A signature must be traceable to the individual making the entry, and it must be handwritten or part of an electronic signature system or other form acceptable to the FAA.
Electronic Signature. The online equivalent of a handwritten signature. It is an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by an individual. It electronically identifies and authenticates an individual entering, verifying, or auditing computer-based records. An electronic signature combines cryptographic functions of digital signatures with the image of an individual’s handwritten signature or some other visible mark considered acceptable in a traditional signing process. It authenticates data with a hash algorithm and provides permanent, secure user-authentication.
Digital Signature. Cryptographically generated data that identifies a document’s signatory (signer) and certifies that the document has not been altered. Digital signature technology is the foundation of a variety of security, electronic business, and electronic commerce products. This technology is based on public/private key cryptography, digital signature technology used in secure messaging, public key infrastructure (PKI), virtual private network (VPN), web standards for secure transactions, and electronic digital signatures.