While aircraft are designed with increased durability and strength in mind, aircraft inevitably age, their components wear down, and their structures necessitate reinforcement. One notable example of the detrimental consequences of aircraft aging was seen on April 28, 1988 in Hawaii when an Aloha Airlines Boeing 737-200 lost part of its cabin roof during flight. Luckily, the pilot was able to safely land, saving nearly everyone onboard with the exception of a flight attendant who was swept overboard.
As per the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), about 18 feet of the cabin, including parts of the aircraft’s skin, cabin entrance door, and the passenger floor line separated from the aircraft during flight. The NTSB attributed the incident to the insufficient maintenance by the carrier and production difficulties Boeing was facing at the time with its cold bond lap joint construction method. According to the NTSB, the airline failed to detect the disbonding and fatigue damage on the fuselage skin.
The airline is not the only one to blame. In fact, the FAA also failed to include all potentially defective lap joints in a related airworthiness directive it devised from a Boeing service bulletin. More than that, the salty air of the operating environment accelerated the number of pressurization cycles it experienced during its short routes, promoting corrosion and premature fatigue cracking.
This is just one instance of aircraft failure as a result of undetected, aging parts and structures, meaning that corrosion, cracks, and metal fatigue are primary causes of failure. To avoid such occurrences, how often and how in-depth your aircraft is maintained and inspected is important. For aircraft flying in salty environments, like the Aloha Airlines Boeing 737-200, adopting a rigid inspection program for critical components is paramount. Targeted corrosion control of the metal wing spars, control cable turnbuckles, elevators, aircraft wings, ailerons, and other structures should be carried out.
Another important consideration to keep in mind is how your aging aircraft is being operated. For instance, a 60-year-old aircraft may be able to spend all day flying, but it may not excel in primary training, aerobatic, or other high-activity commercial operations. Recently, at least six cases of aircraft failure were related to the corroded swaged ends of the flight control cables at the turnbuckles in Beech piston-powered aircraft. These incidents could have been easily avoided with adequate maintenance and inspection.
Nearly 20 years ago, the FAA outlined the best practices for maintaining aging general aviation aircraft. In terms of record keeping, the guide detailed that aircraft logbooks should be routinely examined for missing entries and for a record of missing equipment in order to verify the airplane’s status. The TCDS (Type Certificate Data Sheet) must include a summary of the aircraft model’s performance, weight, CG limits, and more. Lastly, airworthiness records should be handy, and they should include Airworthiness Directives (ADs), Special Airworthiness Information Bulletins (SAIBs), manufacturer service bulletins, FAA Service Difficulty Reports (SDRs) and any supplemental type certificates (STCs).
Beyond such documentation and certifications, special-attention inspections can detect potential problems in older aircraft. To keep an aging aircraft airworthy, an in-depth inspection or a series of repairs and modifications are necessary. If you find yourself in need of aircraft parts, such as assembly shanks, flight controls, turnbuckle assembly, safety wire, trim cables, and more, let the market experts at Hardware Orbit fulfill your operational requirements.
Hardware Orbit is a leading distributor of countless aircraft instruments, all of which have been sourced from top global manufacturers that we trust. With over 2 billion ready-to-purchase items in our inventory, customers can count on Hardware Orbit to supply everything that they require. Additionally, we conduct operations with AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accreditation, alongside a strict NO CHINA SOURCING pledge, allowing us to ensure the authenticity of our offerings.
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