Aging Aircraft

Aging Aircraft New rules proposed By Greg Napert June 1999 Although the FAA and the industry has been dealing with aging aircraft regulation for years in the form of numerous ADs and inspection requirements, no rule has yet been passed...

Section 44717 of 49 U.S.C. specifies that these inspections and reviews must be carried out as part of each aircraft's heavy maintenance check conducted "after the 14th year in which the aircraft has been in service." It also states that the air carrier must "demonstrate to the Administrator, as part of the inspection, that maintenance of the aircraft's age-sensitive parts and components has been adequate and timely enough to ensure the highest degree of safety." Section 44717 of 49 U.S.C. further states that the rule issued by the Administrator must require an air carrier to make its aircraft, as well as any records about the aircraft that the Administrator may require to carry out the review, available for inspection as necessary to comply with the rule. It also states that the Administrator must establish procedures to be followed for carrying out such an inspection.

On August 6, 1993, the FAA revised the airworthiness standards for small metallic airplanes to incorporate Amendment No. 23-45 (58 FR 42163) into 14 CFR Part 23. Those revisions provided an option to use damage-tolerance-based inspections and procedures as a means for achieving continued airworthiness of newly certificated normal, utility, acrobatic, and commuter category airplanes.

On Oct. 5, 1993, the FAA published Notice No. 93-14, "Aging Airplane Safety" (58 FR 51944). The proposals contained in that notice would have required operator certification of aging airplane maintenance actions and would have established a framework for the Administrator to impose operational limits on certain airplanes.

Other specific proposals related to operator certification of aging airplane maintenance actions were included in the notice. Those proposals included: (1) A definition of the terms "heavy maintenance check" (HMC) and "years in service;" (2) a requirement for certificate holders to establish an HMC interval for each airplane they operate; (3) a requirement for certificate holders to make a maintenance record at the start of each airplane's 15th year in service and at all subsequent HMCs to certify that the airplane met all maintenance program requirements; and (4) a requirement for certificate holders to notify the FAA at least 30 days before the start of an airplane's HMC (with the release of the latest rule, the 1993 the Aging Airplane Safety NPRM, Notice No. 93-14 (58 FR 51944, October 5, 1993) is withdrawn).

Finally, on February 9, 1996, the FAA revised part 23 by Amendment No. 23-48 (61 FR 5148) to require damage-tolerance-based inspections and procedures on all newly certificated commuter category airplanes. Other airplanes were not affected by the described rule changes and thus do not have prescribed damage-tolerance-based inspections and procedures.

These airplanes fall into four basic categories: (1) Airplanes with non-damage-tolerance-based SIPs, based solely on service history, as prescribed in AC No. 91-60, "The Continued Airworthiness of Older Airplanes;" (2) airplanes that were certificated with design- life limits on the entire airplane or on major components such as the wing, empennage, or fuselage; (3) airplanes that were designed to "fail-safe" criteria to comply with fatigue requirements; and (4) airplanes that were certificated with limited consideration being given to metal fatigue.

The latest proposal
As a result of requirements stipulated by Congress, the FAA proposes to prohibit the operation of certain airplanes in scheduled service unless the Administrator or the Administrator's designee has determined that maintenance of the aircraft's age-sensitive parts and components has been adequate and timely.

All airplanes operating under Part 121, all U.S.-registered multi-engine airplanes operating under Part 129, and all multiengine airplanes conducting scheduled operations under Part 135 would be affected. Air carriers would be required to make each airplane and certain records related to the maintenance of age-sensitive components of the airplane available to the Administrator. Also, each affected airplane would be prohibited from operating unless damage-tolerance-based inspections and procedures are included in the maintenance or inspection program used on each airplane in accordance with a specified schedule.

Damage-tolerance-based inspections and procedures would be required on all affected airplanes no later than December 20, 2010. The airplanes affected by this proposed rule transport a significant proportion of those passengers carried in scheduled passenger service and are the most prevalent airplanes operating in such service. This notice does not propose requirements for rotorcraft or single- engine airplanes, nor does it propose requirements for on-demand passenger- or cargo-carrying operations under 14 CFR Part 135. The scope of this proposal includes the preponderance of aircraft the Congress intended to cover under the AASA. In a future notice, the FAA will propose aging aircraft requirements necessary to cover the operation of all the other aircraft used by air carriers to provide air transportation.

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