FAA Mandates Inspections for Safety of Older Airliners

WASHINGTON, DC; Taking a critical step
to ensure that aging aircraft remain
just as safe as the day they were first
certificated, the U.S. Department of
Transportation’s Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) has mandated age-
related inspections and records reviews
for most aircraft that have been in
scheduled commercial service for 14
years or more.

Another feature of the new rule is a
provision that operators cannot keep an
airplane in service more than four
years from the effective date unless the
maintenance program for the aircraft
includes “damage-tolerance-based”
inspections and procedures for certain
parts. These inspections identify
locations and types of damage due to
corrosion, accidental damage or fatigue.

Certain models of aircraft listed in
the rule have a “design life goal”
established by the FAA. Any of these
planes is subject to the damage-
tolerance-based inspection requirement
when it reaches its design life goal—
expressed in flight hours—or no
later than December 20, 2010.

“We work closely with industry to make
certain up front that we operate the
safest, most durable and most reliable
commercial fleet in the world,” said
Nicholas Sabatini, FAA associate
administrator for regulation and
certification. “This rule establishes
adequate and timely maintenance of age-
sensitive parts and components to
prevent age-related accidents and
extend the airworthy life of the

The FAA`s aging aircraft rule is being
published as an interim final rule with
comments and will go into effect one
year from today. The rule affects
operators of multi-engine airplanes in
scheduled operations under Parts 121,
135, and 129 of the Federal Aviation
Regulations, as well as type
certificate holders (for example,
aircraft manufacturers). This covers
the majority of the U.S. commercial
fleet. The rule does not apply to
airplanes operated within the state of


The comment period for the new rule
closes in 60 days. After analyzing the
comments, the agency may modify the
interim rule.

Under the new regulations, the time for
the first required inspection and
records review will depend on the age
of the airplane:

áAircraft in service more than 24
years must have their first age-related
check no later than four years after
the effective date of the rule; áAircraft in service more than 14
years but less than 24 years must be
initially checked no later than five
years after the rule`s effective date; áAircraft not yet in service for 14
years must be checked initially no
later than five years after the start
of their 15th year in service;  áRepetitive examinations are
required every seven years thereafter
for all three classes of aircraft.

The rule also lets operators continue
to fly an airplane for which an FAA
airworthiness directive (AD) requires
review of a plane`s service history
instead of damage-tolerance-based
inspections. The cutoff for operating
those aircraft under those AD
provisions is December 20, 2010, after
which the damage-tolerance-based
inspections will be mandatory.

Operators of airplanes certificated
with nine or fewer passenger seats may
incorporate inspections based on
service history instead of
damage-tolerance-based inspections and
procedures in those airplanes’
maintenance or inspection programs.

The FAA estimates that it will cost
Part 121 operators $173.5 million to
comply with the new rule. The estimated
cost to Part 135 operators is $1.7

Established by law in 1991, the FAA’s
aging aircraft program has improved
aviation safety in the United States
and around the world through the
cooperative efforts of government and
industry. This proactive program
requires regulations that ensure the
structural airworthiness of aging
aircraft. It focuses on defining
requirements for maintaining aircraft
through improved inspections and repair
practices. It ensures that the
structural safety level assumed to have
existed at the time the aircraft was
first FAA-certificated is maintained
for as long as the aircraft operates.

In October 1998, the FAA began an aging
transport non-structural systems
program to expand the aging aircraft
program. This effort addresses critical
safety issues in aircraft wiring (i.e.,
connectors, wiring harnesses, and
cables), mechanical, hydraulic and
pneumatic systems.

The new rule can be viewed by clicking
on the “Recently Published Documents”
link at http://www.faa.gov/avr/arm.