For Immediate Release
March 29, 2006
Contact: Alison Duquette or Les Dorr
Phone: (202) 267-3883
The FAA's Aging Airplane Program for transport airplanes includes several regulatory initiatives related to structural fatigue and corrosion as well as aging systems or 'wiring.'
Three major factors prompted the FAA's actions:
- Airplanes are being operated beyond original design service goals.
- Original maintenance plans were not required to address potential age-related issues.
- 1988 Aloha accident.
The agency revised the program in response to the Aging Airplane Safety Act of 1991, the 1996 TWA 800 accident, and the 1998 Swiss Air accident. The Aging Transport Non-Structural Systems program began in October 1998 and is modeled after the very successful aging structures program that's been ongoing since August 1988.
By working with industry, the FAA has achieved safety gains that address aging issues, including: a voluntary fuel tank inspection survey, voluntary implementation of maintenance actions to address both aging structural and wiring issues, and workshops and training seminars.
The FAA has issued more than 700 Airworthiness Directives (ADs) to address specific safety concerns or ‘unsafe conditions' on specific airplane types. Separately, the agency continues to promote far reaching safety measures through general rulemaking that provide a safety net beneath the ADs already mandated.
Of the more than 700 ADs already issued:
- more than 540 ADs were for airplane structural issues since 1990,
- more than 85 ADs were or fuel tank safety issues since 1996, and
- more than 110 ADs were for wiring safety issues since 1998.
Highlights of Aging Airplane and Wiring Rules
Widespread Fatigue Damage (WFD)
On April 18, 2006, the FAA issued a Noticed of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to require design approval holders to develop an operational limit and substantiate the WFD will not occur prior to airplanes reaching that limit. The proposal would also require operators to incorporate those operational limits into their fleets.
Enhanced Airworthiness Program for Airplane Systems (EAPAS)
On September 22, 2005, the FAA issued a proposed rule for transport airplanes carrying more than 30 passengers and having a maximum payload of 7,500 lbs. or more. The proposal adopts enhanced safety requirements for design, installation, and maintenance of electrical wiring and fuel tank systems. It would also require design approval holders to develop enhanced maintenance inspections and tasks for fuel tank systems and electrical wiring system. Operators would incorporate the enhanced inspections and task into their maintenance programs.
Aging Airplane Safety Rule (AASR)
On January 25, 2005, the FAA issued a final rule that requires repetitive inspections and records reviews every seven years for all transport airplanes older than 14 years to ensure that maintenance programs provide the highest level safety for age-sensitive structures. For certain airplanes, operators must incorporate damage tolerance-based inspections of certain airplane structures, including repairs, alterations and modifications (RAMs) into their maintenance programs.
Corrosion Prevention and Control Program (CPCP)
On August 16, 2004, the FAA withdrew a 2002 proposal related to the Corrosion Prevention and Control Program (CPCP) because the FAA's safety objectives were being met without rulemaking. The FAA determined that most CPCPs, either mandated by AD or incorporated through new maintenance practices, were addressing the issues covered in the proposed rule. The FAA will address any remaining unsafe conditions, as necessary.
Fuel Tank Safety Rule (FTS)
On April 19, 2001, the FAA issued a final rule that required that design approval holders (manufacturers and holders of other supplemental type certificates) of large transport airplanes to perform an assessment of the fuel tank systems and develop necessary design changes or maintenance instructions. The final rule also required operators to add the new maintenance instructions to their maintenance programs.
Repair Assessment Program Rule (RAP)
On April 19, 2000, the FAA issued a final rule that required operators of certain transport airplanes certified before 1978 to incorporate repair assessment guidelines for pressure areas such as the fuselage skin, door skin, and bulkhead webs into maintenance programs. The guidelines use damage tolerance to evaluate repairs.
Aging Airplane Safety Rule (AASR) — Design Approval Holder Requirements
The FAA is developing a proposal to require design approval holders to develop damage tolerance-based maintenance inspections to support operator compliance with the AASR final rule. Publication is expected this spring.
In July 2004, the FAA published a notice to inform the public of our intent to align the requirements of current FAA rules and proposals for aging airplane structures, wiring and fuel tank systems, where appropriate. That notice also discussed the agency's intent to propose requirements for design approval holders to develop data and the documents needed by operators to modify their airplanes and maintenance programs. This alignment would ensure that operators have the information they need to comply with the FAA's rules and would allow them to take a more cohesive approach to aircraft maintenance. There is a reduced risk of damage occurring during maintenance because operators can perform more required maintenance actions at the same time. This would reduce the need to expose interior structures for separate maintenance tasks. There is also a potential $200 million savings to operators through more efficient planning of maintenance programs and less "down time" for aircraft.
In July 2005, the FAA published a summary policy statement regarding the FAA's intent to propose requirements for design approval holders and a disposition of comments in response to the July 2004 notice.