Do airplanes age gracefully? The FAA wants to know. The agency has called another public meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, to "discuss technical issues related to problems associated with the increasing average age of the general aviation fleet."
AOPA will be a top presenter at the March 22 and 23 meetings.
"Our goal is to make sure the 'cure' is not worse than the 'problem,'" said Luis Gutierrez, AOPA director of regulatory and certification policy. "We want to keep our older aircraft safe, but we also want to keep them affordable."
AOPA believes that owner education will provide greater long-term benefits than excessive new regulations. The association plans to work with the FAA, industry, and aircraft type clubs to develop or update best practices guides and owner preventive maintenance guides. AOPA believes that the process and guidance to facilitate the repair and alteration of older GA aircraft must be streamlined or improved.
"It's critically important to include owners, maintainers, and aircraft type clubs in the process of identifying problems and solutions," said Gutierrez. "These people know the airplane the best and are frequently the most knowledgeable about cost-effective methods of preventing age-related problems."
Gutierrez said AOPA would urge the FAA to carefully examine manufacturer-supplied data and compare it to operational and service history. "Sometimes a manufacturer's motives for pushing the FAA for an airworthiness directive appear to go beyond pure safety concerns."
The FAA last held a conference on aging GA aircraft in 2000. But since that meeting, there have been several fatal GA accidents attributable to aging aircraft issues. "The FAA is taking a more proactive role in managing the risk associated with continued airworthiness," the agency said in its notice of the public meeting.
February 2, 2006