AOPA is making sure the FAA understands that safety measures addressing fatigue in aging aircraft should be specific to the type of aircraft and the kind of flight stress each endures.
“AOPA understands the seriousness of structural fatigue and is working to educate the general aviation community on how to maintain their aging aircraft,” said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “But the FAA shouldn’t apply a broad-based, fleet-wide fix to specific aging aircraft problems. So far, the FAA seems to be taking a reasonable approach by developing a fatigue management program.”
The FAA has proposed a draft advisory circular (AC), Fatigue Management Programs for Airplanes with Demonstrated Risk of Catastrophic Failure Due to Fatigue , that provides guidance on how to develop and implement a fatigue management program for GA aircraft and transport category aircraft.
AOPA has told the FAA that a fatigue management program would be one acceptable way to address the problem. However, the association wants the FAA to be prepared to provide tailored guidance to the GA community on a case-specific basis. AOPA also hopes the FAA will continue to base airworthiness directives on aircraft usage and known fatigue issues instead of issuing a fleet-wide mandate.
For example, a Cessna Aerobat used for personal pleasure flights, like short hops to fly-ins, would not face the same fatigue issues as an Aerobat used extensively for aerobatic training would face. In cases like these, a fleet-wide maintenance requirement might be too excessive.
AOPA also reminded the FAA that the GA industry is reaching out to educate aircraft owners about the aging aircraft issue. In October, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation launched its Aging Aircraft online course that introduces pilots to the need to properly maintain the aircraft structure. So far, more than 7,000 people have completed the hour-long course. In addition, the American Bonanza Society is conducting a spar study for its Bonanza and Baron aircraft.
“The FAA and GA industry must continue to work together to educate aircraft owners and create appropriate safety measures to keep aging aircraft airworthy,” said Rudinger. “AOPA will be working every step of the way to ensure appropriate safety measures are developed and are affordable for our members.”