Bits and Pieces: The world of aviation

Be advised that working in Washington, D.C., during the summer, is like having a big hairy dog breathing on you. For the pass nine weeks, we staunch bureaucrats have endured day after day of oppressive heat and humidity. Every other day has its own ozone alert, in which city and state health officials recommend that you don't breathe. Temperatures have hovered in the 90s and a couple times even broke a hundred. It's even worse outside the FAA building.

Puddles of sweat are forming on my keyboard as I type these words. It doesn't take a long time before you are reduced to a mental and physical wreak. I am 59, I don't bounce back from this kind of abuse as fast as I did when I was 58. So instead of presenting you with a long tome on regulations or the latest pronouncements of FAA policy, today all I can offer you in my weakened state are bits and pieces of what is happening in the dynamic world of aviation.

Accident data
First some good news. Congratulations! According to the latest National Transportation Safety Board accident data, fatal accidents in which maintenance was determined to be a probable cause have declined again for the fifth year in a row. In 1997 maintenance-related fatalities totaled 16. In 2001 there were none. There was also a decline in maintenance accidents in which there were serious or minor injuries.

To give you an overview of all maintenance problems by regulation, Part 91 accident data in 1997 logged 98 maintenance-caused accidents; in 2001 this number dropped to 32. Part 121 maintenance accidents dropped from four in 1997 to none in 2001. The Part 135 accident rate declined from four in 1997 to one in 2001.

Reviewing the data on probable causes. The No. 1 cause of maintenance-related accidents for the last five years remains our failure to install parts and equipment properly. The second remains missed safety of flight defects during inspections.

Recurrent training
Mechanics, air carriers, and repair stations might want to review use of maintenance manuals and operational checks as well as do a little recurrent training on inspection techniques.

The FAA safety program has put out two compact discs that you might find helpful. The first CD is called FAA Taxi 101. It is a two-hour course on taxiing a large aircraft but many of the lessons can be used for taxiing small General Aviation aircraft at a tower-controlled field. If you ever taxi an aircraft and looked at a runway sign or flashing wig-wag lights and did not have a clue of what they mean, then this is the course for you. The Taxi 101 course is not easy; there is a written test you have to take.
However, if you pass the test, you will get instant gratification, because your printer will print a Certificate of Training, which is good for two hours toward the AMT award of your choice.

The second CD is called 2002 FAA Key to the Internet FAA Publications. This warehouse of information was designed and built by Rodger Holmstrom from the Birmingham, FSDO. This is a resource CD that has a billion bits of information such as FAA ACs, Orders, Inspector handbooks, FARs, CARs, Forms, TCs, STCs, and on and on. The menu itself covers two pages of good information. Both CDs can be picked up for free from your local FSDO.

FCC waiver
On July 15, 2002, the FAA received from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a waiver from 47 CFR, section 87.107(a) of the FCC rules to allow alternative identifications of aircraft being operated by mechanics who are moving the aircraft from point A to point B on the airport. The FCC will now allow the mechanic to give Ground Control the name of the company operating the aircraft (United or Atlantic Aviation) add the word "maintenance" and any alphanumeric characters (e.g. 987P) to further identify the aircraft. This change is designed to facilitate communications with ground control, reduce runway incursions, and generally enhance airport safety. However, before you taxi an aircraft and say "maintenance" make sure your local Air Traffic folks are aware of the waiver so they don't put you in the penalty box.

FAA and Canadian owner maintenance
In July, the FAA Aircraft Maintenance Division manager sent a letter to EAA denying their request for a waiver because of safety concerns to allow Canadian experimental, owner-maintained aircraft to fly into U.S. airspace. To give you a little background on this subject, this year the Canadians changed their rules to allow former Type Certificated aircraft (Beech, Piper, Cessna) to be put into a new category, experimental — owner maintained. Under Canadian rules, the new category of experimental aircraft no longer has to have an annual inspection performed by a certificated person, or has to comply with new or recurrent ADs. The owner does not have to have any maintenance training but he can sign the aircraft off as safe to fly. He can use parts other than aviation approved PMA or TSO parts to repair his aircraft. In addition there will be no regulatory oversight by Transport Canada to ensure operational reliability or a minimum standard of airworthiness.

Aviation Maintenance Technician Day
The 100th Anniversary of Flight starts January 2003. Low and behold, we mechanics and technicians are starting to get some recognition. Don Green, FAA regional airworthiness safety program manager for the Western Pacific region petitioned the State of California early this year for our own special day and on April 25 a resolution was passed by the California State Senate declaring May 24 of each year, "Aviation Maintenance Technician Day." The May 24 date was picked because it is the birthday of Charles Taylor, the Wright Brothers' mechanic. On the East Coast, Phil Randall the FAA safety program manager from the Greensboro, FSDO, worked with several other dedicated folks and got the General Assembly of North Carolina to pass a similar resolution on July 16, 2002, declaring every May 24 "Aviation Maintenance Technician Day."

While this is great news, if memory serves there are 48 states left that do not recognize us. Wouldn't it be nice if all 50 states recognized mechanics and technicians on May 24? Impossible you say? Not so my friends, this is a doable thing! Now some mechanics out there probably figured you don't have the clout to pull something like this off in your state. Oh contraire! All it takes is one mechanic to get a petition with 50 plus names of mechanics or other interested persons on it. The individuals who signed the petition should reside in a particular voting district in your state. Then the mechanic should submit the petition to your district's state representative along with a request to make May 24 of each year, a day of recognition for mechanics. The congressman's job would be to get the State's General Assembly to vote on a joint resolution. If he or she does not come through, or balks at the idea of recognition, remind him or her that re-election occurs every two years and we mechanics have long memories.

Well that's enough bits and pieces, its 4:30 p.m.; I am going home to put my head in the refrigerator.