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...

Congress also instructed the Administrator to encourage governments of foreign countries and relevant international organizations to develop programs addressing aging aircraft concerns. Most foreign air carriers and foreign persons engaged in common-carriage operations have maintenance program requirements adopted by their governments. The FAA issues the airworthiness certificates for U.S.-registered airplanes. By including part 129 in this proposed rule, foreign air carriers and foreign persons operating U.S.-registered multiengine aircraft within or outside the United States would be required to include damage-tolerance-based inspections and procedures in their maintenance programs and be subject to aging aircraft records reviews and inspections.

This proposal would also revise current 14 CFR 183.33(a) to expand the authority of the Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR). The DAR would be authorized to conduct the proposed records reviews and inspections on behalf of the Administrator.

The FAA intends to verify that each operator has records to show that they have accomplished all required maintenance tasks, as well as the damage-tolerance-based inspections and procedures that would be required by this proposal. The FAA would validate that these records are correct for each affected airplane during the records review and inspection required by this proposed rule. Section 44717 of 49 U.S.C. specifies that the records reviews and inspections be carried out as part of each aircraft's heavy maintenance check after the 14th year in service.

For airplanes that have already completed 14 years in service, the proposal would require the first records review and inspection within 3 to 5 years of the effective date of the rule. This proposal would generally require the first records review and inspection to be accomplished no later than 5 years after the 14th year in service. The FAA realizes that the first inspection required 5 years after the 14th year in service may not be consistent with current operator maintenance schedules. As a result, the records reviews and inspections carried out by the Administrator or the Administrator's designee may significantly affect these maintenance schedules because the reviews and inspections may not coincide with current maintenance schedules.

In formulating this proposal, the FAA considered options for setting repeat intervals. Among those considered were the heavy maintenance check interval, heavy maintenance visit interval, or the "letter check" (e.g., 'C', 'D', or 'E') interval or other equivalent check interval an operator may use.

This proposal would establish a new requirement for "total years in service." The FAA has determined that this new requirement is essential for the Administrator and the operator to determine the compliance time for the initial and repetitive inspections. To meet this requirement, the operator would retain records validating when the initial certificate of airworthiness was issued for each airplane. In addition, the FAA is aware that an airframe's flight cycles are not currently being collected by operators of small airplanes under part 135. This proposal would require that the operator make certain records and reports available to the FAA during the proposed aging airplane records review inspection.

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