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NTSB Chairman Says Lack Of Oversight Is The Issue With Aging Planes

Rosenker Says Recent Accidents Share Common Themes

In a speech before the Aging Aircraft Conference now underway in Palm Springs, CA, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark V. Rosenker reiterated the agency's concern with aging aircraft. 

"We have investigated several accidents and incidents that have highlighted the safety implications resulting from aircraft aging and these accidents repeatedly demonstrate the importance of effective airworthiness programs throughout the service life of aircraft," Rosenker said. "With the proper maintenance program, these accidents involving aging aircraft could have been prevented."   

Rosenker stressed there is no single criterion that defines an aircraft as 'old'. The age of an aircraft depends on a number of factors that include, but are not limited to the chronological age, number of flight cycles, number of flight hours and the environment in which the aircraft operates. Furthermore, determining the overall health of an aircraft is complicated by the fact that individual aircraft components can age differently in different portions of the same aircraft and by the nature of certain aging mechanisms, such as fatigue.

Some common themes identified in each of these accidents involving aging aircraft have been:

  • Unknown service histories as is the case with military surplus aircraft
  • Poor fatigue design details... The regulations did not require fatigue analysis for these airplanes
  • Most older airplanes have no inspection program
  • The continued operation of airplanes beyond their useful lifespan.

"The Safety Board feels that the continued commercial operation of these 50 to 60 year old airplanes that were not certified to the standards of today's modern airplanes is not safe -- all passengers should have the same level of safety," Rosenker said.

"The FAA should require records reviews, aging airplane inspections, and supplemental inspections for all airplanes operated under Part's 121, 129 and 135 regardless of the year they were type certificated, the number of passengers they carry or their maximum payload, and has issued related safety recommendations to that effect."

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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