AOPA Urges Caution On Managing Aging Aircraft

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AOPA continues to lobby the FAA to develop maintenance guidelines for old airplanes that take into account their unique vulnerabilities to fatigue problems. The FAA has been working on a program to address the undeniable issues that arise as airframes age. AOPA says the agency is apparently paying attention to calls for a customized approach to the problems rather than broad-based policies that will inflict unnecessary burdens on aircraft that are not at risk. "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." In AOPA’s estimation, the type of use endured by an aircraft is as important as the materials and techniques used to build it and that also results in varying fatigue risk within the same aircraft type. For its part, AOPA has developed an online course on aircraft structure maintenance for aircraft owners and is pledging to monitor the FAA's stance on the issue. "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."