Aircraft owners concerned about electronic ADs

February 21, 2008

Aircraft owners concerned about electronic ADs

By Alyssa J. Miller

Airworthiness directives and special airworthiness information bulletins are important notices that aircraft owners want to receive, according to 90 percent of AOPA members who responded to AOPA’s Feb. 1 survey, requesting input on the FAA’s plan to transition from paper to electronic distribution of these documents.

The FAA has been asking aircraft owners to voluntarily sign up to receive electronic ADs and SAIBs instead of paper notices. Of the more than 1,000 members who completed AOPA’s online survey, nearly 60 percent have not signed up for the voluntary service. But three-fourths of those who hadn’t signed up yet said they would consider doing so.

At some point in the future, the FAA will only distribute electronic notices, so those who want to receive paper copies will have to pay for a subscription. Nine out of 10 of those who told AOPA they hadn’t made the switch to electronic said they would not pay to continue receiving ADs in the mail.

Satisfaction guaranteed?

So how’s the system working for those who have subscribed for electronic distribution? Half of those signed up for free electronic service said they’re satisfied with it. “It works better than a mailed AD. I can download what I need and print,” a user explained. “It is probably more timely, too.”

“The FAA’s very proactive efforts to put information online in this area is a tremendous benefit to pilots and mechanics,” another aircraft owner wrote.

However, a third aren’t satisfied with the level of service they’ve been receiving. “Since signing up for the service, I have received three ADs, not one of which was even remotely related to my airplane, its engine, or any of its components,” one member said.

Many are concerned about the integrity of the distribution system. They want to be assured that they aren’t missing ADs pertaining to their aircraft. In one case an AD for an Airbus evacuation slide was sent to all 19,000 aircraft owners who had signed up for the service. Another time, a formatting error prevented a propeller AD from going to the correct people.

“The FAA is aware of these glitches, and they are working to correct the problems that lead to the errors,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs. “We do want to make sure that all of the problems are ironed out before the FAA moves to solely distributing ADs and SAIBs electronically.”

Improving the system

AOPA has requested that the FAA look at ways to make its online signup process more user friendly. The survey revealed that many of those who signed up for the service had difficulty. One member said it took nearly an hour to sign up and select what ADs were pertinent.

“When signing up it is VERY tedious to eliminate all the unwanted aircraft, engines, propellers, and narrow it down to a specific aircraft,” another said.

AOPA has shared all of the feedback from the survey with the FAA and will continue to follow up with the agency to ensure that members’ needs are met and concerns answered.

“ADs and SAIBs are notices that pertain to the safety of an aircraft, and we can’t chance that this critical information is going out to the wrong people,” said Hackman. “The FAA will need to convince us and our members that the system is error free and provide a user-friendly interface for pilots to enroll before we can agree to a switch to electronic delivery.”

February 21, 2008