Aging Aircraft and Structural Airworthiness 912212
The continued safe operation of the U.S. commercial airplane fleet will depend upon the ability to anticipate required adjustments in the inspection and maintenance activities to compensate for the “aging” process. Increasing numbers of aircraft are exceeding their economic design life--the age at which they have historically been retired from major airline service. Presumably, commercial aircraft are designed for “infinite life with proper maintenance.” But public confidence in operators abilities to properly maintain older aircraft significantly diminished following the widely publicized failure of the Aloha Airlines Boeing 737 fuselage in 1988.
The FAA established the National Aging Aircraft Research Program to address this diminished public confidence in the airlines' ability to properly maintain their older aircraft. The goal of this program is to assure the continued structural airworthiness of the U.S. commercial fleet of in-service and future airplanes beyond their economic design lives. This will be achieved through improvements in equipment, techniques, practices, and procedures in airframe and engine structural design, repair, maintenance, and inspection.