Mark V. Rosenker, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently attended an aviation conference, where he again brought up the NTSB’s concern with older aircraft. Rosenker pointed out that many aviation accidents in recent years have been attributed to aging aircraft that have not been properly maintained. He also pointed out that airworthiness programs implemented at each stage of the service life of aircraft can prevent many of these accidents.
Rosenker gave a speech at the California conference. In his speech, he pointed out the difficulty in even defining an aircraft as old. Age of an aircraft can be determined by a number of factors, and actual chronological age is only one of these factors. The number of flight hours, the environment in which a plan has flown, and the number of flight cycles can also all affect the age and safety of an aircraft. In addition, some parts of a plan may age at a different rate. According to Rosenker, all these factors must be considered in order to keep planes safe.
Airplane accidents cause serious injuries and fatalities each year. Personal injuries ranging from spinal cord and brain injuries to burns and even death are all caused each year by aviation accidents, and some of those accidents, according to Rosenker and the NTSB, are caused by aging aircraft. By creating a viable strategy to keep older planes safer, the NTSB believes it can reduce accident rates.
Aviation accidents involving older aircraft often lead to complicated investigations, in part because some older planes have incomplete or unknown service histories. Military aircraft, surplus planes, and other aircraft may simply not come with enough information to create safe flying. In addition, many older aircraft have no inspection program. According to NTSB, many older planes continue to be used beyond their useful lifespan.
As a result of the NTSB’s research into the causes of the airplane crash of Aloha Airlines Flight 243 in 1988, the FAA developed an Aging Airplane Program in 1991. The FAA has documented and researched many accidents involving older planes and has found that using commercial planes that are 50 to 60 years old, in some cases, means using planes that are not certified by today’s standards. Rosenker’s speech in California this past week called for mandatory records reviews, airplane inspections, and other regulations that would ensure that all passengers would stay safe – whether flying on an older plane or a newer one.