AIRCRAFT AIRWORTHINESS IS NOT JUST A MATTER OF AGE; ITS ASSESSMENT REQUIRES EXPERT JUDGMENT

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ARTICLE: Minister Seeks 15 Years Age Range For Domestic Aircraft

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Nigeria has suffered a horrendous tragedy with its recent aircraft crash. As often happens, the civil aviation authority in response to such an accident searches for quick “solutions” that will assure that the catastrophe does not reoccur.

The above headline suggests such a facile fix. A bright line rule of no aircraft with a delivery date of more fifteen years ago is an effort to prohibit an unsafe vehicle from flying within Nigeria’s airspace. Airworthiness is not just a matter of years from its creation. There are poorly maintained and abused airplanes with birth certificates with less than 10 years that are not as safe as another which has 20 years and just completed a 1st rate heavy maintenance overhaul.

The point is that judgment is a critical element in assessing the airworthiness of equipment. The individual tasked with buying or leasing a vehicle, the person assigned to accept that delivered airliner and the professionals who have the responsibility to release the plane to service must understand its history (incidents, hard landings, engine issues, erratic avionics, etc.), the quality of the repairs/maintenance performed and all of the related elements that impact the capability of that aircraft to operate in accordance with its manuals. It is a rare airplane that has received a single maintenance regime (single carrier or manual) throughout its history; so it is increasingly important to understand its trail through a carrier’s, OEM’s or 3rd party Part 145 facility’s program and records.

The records which accompany an airplane are incredibly important; they must include notations that follow standard nomenclature, that reflect all that has happened to the vehicle and that chronicle who did what when to the structure and powerplants. Accurate, reliable records not only create important regulatory history, but also contribute to the operator’s knowledge of the asset acquired or leased (see Previously Owned Aircraft Acquisition).

Regulators and operators, who may be concerned about the judgment of their maintenance personnel or the quality of their records, might consider consulting with professionals who have the knowledge and experience to upgrade your safety performance.

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