NTSB Recommends Broadening Aging Aircraft Rule

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended the Federal

Aviation Administration (FAA) require records reviews, aging aircraft

inspections and supplemental inspections for Parts 121 and 135 aircraft older

than the 1958 cut-off date of the aging aircraft rule. The recommendations (A-

06-52) result from the crash last December of a 55-year-old Chalk's Ocean

Airways Grumman G-72T Turbo Mallard Seaplane when the right wing sheared off in

Miami, Fla. All 18 passengers and two crewmembers were killed.

The Board recounted the history of FAA's aging aircraft rule, which, in

its proposed form, would have captured the Mallard and required damage-

tolerance-based supplemental inspection programs. By the time the final rule

emerged in February 2005, it only applied to transport-category, turbine-powered

equipment, type certificated after 1958 with 30 passengers or more. The Mallard

was made in 1947; an exemption for Alaska aircraft remained in the final rule.

The proposed rule also would have captured Part 135 aircraft with nine or fewer

passengers or in cargo operations. NTSB wants damage-tolerance inspections

extended to those aircraft. The board said that exemptions in the final rule are

contrary to the single-level of safety ordered by the FAA in the mid-1990s as

well as the Aging Airplane Safety Act passed by Congress in 1991.

The NTSB noted that damage-tolerance inspections may be impractical

because of a lack of support from the type-certificate holder. However, an

equivalent program can be developed based on structural fatigue analysis,

fatigue tests and/or field experience.