The FAA, Your Money And Your Life

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Maintaining Your Older Aircraft...

Despite the best efforts of the manufacturers to convince us to buy new airplanes, the GA fleet gets older, on average, with each passing year and that inevitably raises safety concerns. And where safety is an issue, new regulations are not usually far behind. In this case, however, the FAA seems to be aware of the negative potential (i.e., extra cost) of more rules and, instead, is suggesting a less intrusive approach to keeping old airplanes airworthy. According to AOPA, the agency has, in consultation with AOPA, type groups and other aviation organizations, developed "best practices" guidance for maintaining older GA aircraft. AOPA says the Best-Practice Guide for Maintaining General Aviation Airplanes will be published in September and every registered owner of a single or multi-engine GA aircraft built before 1975 will automatically get one in the mail. Of course, one of the biggest problems with maintaining many older aircraft is that the companies that built them are no longer in business. The guide offers suggestions on how to conduct records searches and inspection routines for older aircraft and recommends type clubs as a source of information on specific makes and models. If you don't get one in the mail, AOPA says it plans to post a copy on its Web site.

...Reducing Fatal Accidents

This and other efforts to make airplanes safe have generally paid off. Although equipment failures occur, most aircraft are operating normally when they crash. Earlier this month, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey told AVweb the agency is making GA accident prevention a priority through training and new technology. This year hasn't gotten off to a very promising start, however. The FAA has set a "goal" of 374 fatal GA and Part 135 accidents for 2003 and by the end of July there had already been 299. By 2007, the FAA wants no more than 350 fatal accidents. Apparently, the only way that will be achieved is if pilots set similar goals, because human factors are by far the leading cause of aircraft accidents. The safety report shows that flying in bad weather and "low-level maneuvering" cause the most fatal accidents in fixed- and retractable-gear singles. In twins, failure to handle IMC/IFR procedures are what claim most pilots. Recklessness, judgment, fuel starvation and other human-related factors are all ahead of the most common aircraft-related cause, which is engine failure in the case of retracs and twins and system-related fuel starvation in fixed-gear singles. The report urges pilots to take their responsibilities seriously. "We are asking the flying community to be aware, be diligent, make good decisions and help us reduce the fatal accident rate," the report reads.