In a continuing effort to address aging aircraft issues, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finalized a rule designed to protect most of today’s commercial planes and those designed in the future from structural damage as they age.
The new rule seeks to prevent “widespread fatigue damage” (WFD) by requiring aircraft manufacturers and certification applicants to establish a number of flight cycles or hours a plane can operate and be free from WFD without additional inspections for fatigue. Manufacturers have between 18 and 60 months to comply depending on the particular aircraft type.
Once manufacturers establish these limits, operators of affected aircraft must incorporate them into their maintenance programs within 30 to 72 months, depending on the model of aircraft. After the limit is in the maintenance program, operators cannot fly the aircraft beyond that point unless the FAA approves an extension of the limit.
“Safety is our highest priority. This rule provides a comprehensive approach to the problem of widespread fatigue in aging aircraft,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Requiring carriers to regularly inspect their aircraft for possible fatigue is essential to ensuring the highest levels of safety.”