From IASA Safety: SEE MY COMMENTS AT THE END
Re: CLOSING THE BARN DOOR PART WAY
Date: Fri, 2 Oct 1998 08:45:10 EDT
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|Old Airplanes Are Not Immortal and Should Be Retired!|
Former Safety Board Member Urges.
Diane Rehm Show. Transcript: WAMU 88.5 FM. Air date: 14 July 1998
1-800-433-8850 You can call Diane Rehem for a complete copy.
The TRUTH about aging aircraft as viewed by the FAA, Aeronautical Repair
Station Association and the Airbus Service Co with respect to SAFETY vs. MONEY.
YOUR LIVES are at RISK!
Partial TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWS with my comments as (EDITOR NOTES, bold faced type, and underlining for emphasis.)
From WAMU in Washington, I'm Diane Rehm. Observers of the airline
industry are concerned that the rate of air fatalities has remained steady
after dropping for several years. Some say pilots and air traffic controllers
could be working more safely. Others say passenger planes themselves may not
be safe. Joining me in the studio to talk about U.S passenger aircraft:
Thomas McSweeney, director of the aircraft certification service of the
Federal Aviation Administration, Sarah MacLeod, executive director of the
Aeronautical Repair Station Association, Vernon Grose, he's chairman and
president of Omega Systems group, and by phone from Herndon, Va., Clyde Kizer,
president and COO of Airbus Service Co. . . .
>McSweeney: I think for anybody that might be listening, and for you here,
that age of an aircraft is a misnomer, as far as I'm concerned. The age of
the aircraft is the date on which the data plate was put on the side of the
door that indicates when that airplane was originally manufactured. But much
of that airplane, including the wiring, is replaced on a regular basis
throughout the maintenance programs of the carrier, and as part of our special
inspections, our airworthiness directives and other actions that the FAA has
taken over the years. That design today, a design on a 30-year-old airplane,
doesn't look anything like the airplane that was delivered 30 years ago. Many
of the systems have been changed out. For instance, things like landing gear
have been approved, there's service bulletins that bring the airplane into
today's safety standards that are worked day in and day out at the air
carriers at the maintenance facilities that Ms. MacLeod is a part of.
(EDITOR NOTE: Wiring can cause problems even on new airplanes:
B-1B CRASH BLAMED ON SHORT CIRCUIT: The Feb. crash of a USAF B-1B Lancer near
Marion, Ky. resulted from a short circuit that shut down all four engines
during a low-level training mission, the Air Force said last week. While
executing the engine shutdown check list to secure number three, a short
circuit occurred in the Fire Warning Extinguisher Panel resulting in an un-
commanded shutdown of the remaining three engines. All four crewmembers
safely ejected; the B-1was destroyed on impact.)
>Grose: Well, let me just come back and say that all government agencies are
basically reactive rather than proactive and the FAA is no exception to this.
Ten years ago when there was an explosive decompression of an Aloha 737, they
woke up and began to talk about aging aircraft. Now, they've had a program but
they looked in very limited ways at aging aircraft. Now, they may not like the
term aging aircraft, but I'm coming back to the second law of thermodynamics.
Everything ages. Now when you come into this, and you say you're going to
extend the life of an aircraft by maintaining it, this means you're going to
increasingly have to do more work, and more work., And then they say they're
comes a point of no economic worth to continue to upgrade that. But look at
what they do with pilots. They retire pilots at age 60, although a lot of
those people are still good. They do the same thing with tires. You retire
tires before all the tread's worn off. And so what I'm really faulting the FAA
about is, that they've got to declare what end of life looks like, not aging.
All aging really says is that we will extend the life of an airplane that's
very old. To my way of thinking, that is not good, sound, thinking and they
ought to proactively say, "Here are the conditions under which an aircraft
should be retired from service."
>Kizer: Well, once again I have to disagree. I say that the aircraft, we have
a system in place, to maintain the airworthiness of the aircraft. The
airlines themselves, in addition to the FAA, perform daily oversight not only
of the processes which they use to maintain those airplanes, but the condition
of the aircraft, both in a paperwork sense as well as a hardware sense.
(EDITOR NOTE: Usually airworthiness directives (AD's) are issued AFTER THE FACT, when a
problem has been detected in order to prevent a dangerous situation endangering the A/C and passenger lives.)
>Grose: I should say to you, how about the 737 fuel tank problem? It just
recently came up. Was it discovered by the FAA? No. It was found by having
fuel on the tarmac leaking out of an aircraft that Continental Airlines turned
in and therefore it wasn't proactive. And, sure, we reacted very fast, we got
in there and we had mechanics tearing these wires out there that didn't know
what they were doing when they're handling wire. Frankly it's a very delicate
thing to do, and we found that 50 percent of all the 737 aircraft had a problem.
(EDITOR NOTE: The FAA was notified by the NTSB, back in 1990 (when a fuel tank
explosion of a 737-300 over in Manila) by recommending several AD's be issued
by the FAA concerning the WIRING of all 737's. So this time the FAA reacted
within hours! I guess better late than never!)
>Rehm: Ms. MacLeod
>MacLeod: I would say that the discovery of problems are under the
jurisdiction of the FAA even when the industry discovers them because we're
required to report these conditions to the FAA so that they can take action on
them. There seems to be a confusion here, at least, maybe it's just me, but an
aircraft is not maintained like a car is maintained or your refrigerator is
maintained. There is required maintenance on these aircraft at specified
intervals. The maintenance can indeed replace the whole aircraft over a period
of years, so what is aging? I mean, as Mr. McSweeney said earlier, as Tom said
earlier, we could have a whole new aircraft after 15 years if we upgraded it
in accordance with the service bulletins that are produced by the
· (EDITOR NOTE: Let us address this maintenance program and put it in proper
prospective. Why has the FAA certified (OVERSEAS Foreign Facilities) to
perform routine maintenance on US air carriers, when the FAA admits that they
don't really have complete control over the facility? VJ592 (Valujet) had their last
major maintenance over in Turkey prior to its crash. Why would any US airline
go all the way over to Turkey to have major maintenance performed on their
airplanes if they were concerned with safety and quality instead of economics?
MONEY before SAFETY!)
>McSweeney: Let me make a couple of points about discovering problems. First
of all, the mechanic that discovered the leak on the 737 Continental airplane.
That pointed out the need to escalate a program that the FAA already had in
existence and we did that within hours of discovering that. That mechanic I
must applaud for doing his job. He was doing what he was trained and educated
to do and that's the system. While the FAA doesn't discover every problem,
the FAA is a part of the system of aviation in this country and it's the whole
system working together that discovers problems.
· (EDITOR NOTE: Maybe the FAA realized because they failed to heed the NTSB
recommended AD's concerning that 737 FUEL TANK EXPLOSION over in Manila, that
the FAA might have another Manila type explosion if they didn't react within
hours? The FAA can claim that they are "part of the system" but they are also
'PART of the PROBLEM'. Case in points: (1) Why doesn't the FAA require the
use of TKT (Hybrid constructed WIRE--BMS 13-60) for all new airplanes and as a
replacement wire for repairs and modifications? ---By their own FAA TEST LAB.,
Ms. Pat Cahill's test document March 1995 stated that BMS 13-60 wire is
superior to BMS 13-48 (Raychem's wire). BMS 13-48 has a smoke density greater
than 96% compared to less than 3% for BMS 13-60. The wire BMS 13-48 will NOT
meet the requirements of (Federal Aviation Regulation) FAR 25. If the FAA wants to
make airplane cockpits safer, then why don't they call for the TKT WIRE?) (2) Why
didn't the FAA heed the NTSB recommended AD's concerning the 737-300 fuel tank
explosion over in Manila May 1990?)
>Grose: I don't want to fault anybody's motives. For example, I think maintenance people do the best they know. I think the FAA tries as well. However, I am an advocate of public concern here, saying that the FAA yet should put out criteria for retirement of aircraft. Quit talking like they can extend the life forever. These aircraft are not totally replaced. The wiring is not entirely replaced. In VALUJET for example, 592, it was old, old wiring, PVC wiring, which is three generations back. The same way it happened in TWA 800, that was not new replaced wiring. And so therefore, the only alternative now to a program by the FAA that will say what retirement criteria are, is to crash them one at a time? And I don't want to see that happen. People are getting killed.
>Rehm: Do you think that is what is fated to happen unless these aircraft are replaced?
>Grose: What alternative do we have? In other words, there is nothing in the FAA right now to say what is the end of life for aircraft. It says it for pilots, it doesn't say it for aircraft.
>Rehm: Thomas McSweeney of the FAA and at 28 past the hour, you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. We'll open the phones now, 1-800-433-8850 and let's go first to Ted in Toronto, Ontario. You're on the air. Ted: Hi there.
>Chanel: Yes, I just wanted to say that I agreed wholeheartedly with Mr. Grose. I'm a daughter of an airline pilot. My father started flying before deregulation started. He's still doing it right now and I'm really almost appalled that the FAA and all these other organizations who are supposed to be overseeing safety and things like that but also sometimes seem to have a dual mandate. As far as overseeing the safety of passengers but also making sure that they're promoting the airline industry as a business. I'm not sure when the FAA and all these people, who are claiming that airplanes can fly indefinitely. I mean, we weren't born yesterday. We know about metal, even if we're not physicists, I mean it doesn't take a physicist to tell you that something is going to break down after 30, 40, 50 years, thousands, millions of hours in the air. I just don't understand how they're telling us that and I don't really fly anymore. I've grown up on planes. I know about them. I'm not a pilot myself, but, you know, 30 years of being around a pilot and I know the airline industry. It's really hard for me to trust organizations like the FAA and the government telling us one thing, doing another and then we see planes falling out of the sky every other month, something like that. And I agree with Mr. Grose. What's it going to take? Is it going to take people, several more tragedies? How many more tragedies is it going to take for the people to just tell us the truth. Aging aircraft. You can't just maintain something for hundred's of years.
>Grose: If you ran a taxi fleet, would you like to be replacing parts in your
1968 cars or would you buy new cars? I think this is where we're at and I
think that unless we get an end-of life- criteria out of the FAA, that's what
I'm really urging now. Aging aircraft just is an excuse or a description,
actually for what you're doing to keep old airplanes alive. But I want an end
>Rehm: Just to be clear, you want these planes phased out at what point?
>Grose: Well I haven't got all the criteria, and I think the FAA is well
qualified to set the criteria, I'm not arguing with that. But I would like to
see them do that, rather than just talk about how to extend life in an
>Rehm: And Mr. McSweeney, you think that's not a relevant point?
>McSweeney: For those people who think aircraft age, and should be destroyed at a certain given age, I suggest that maybe at the end of the month they go to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. And they look at the experimental aircraft association fly-in there. Then look at all of those wonderful old airplanes that are probably better now than they were when they were built, because people have taken care of them, they've replaced the material that needs to be replaced and in fact is as safe as any aircraft could be.
· (EDITOR NOTE: Now Mr. McSweeney is making a comparison of 'vintage old airplanes, and old classic cars,' that do not operate the many hours and cycles that everyday operating airplanes experience. He is making a comparison like 'apples to pears.' At risk are AIR TRAVEL PASSENGER LIVES! Maybe that's part of the problem. We need NEW BLOOD in the FAA that will look at the REAL WORLD instead of living in the past!)
>Rehm: Mr. Grose what about that, that the airlines themselves will make that decision?
>Grose: Well, that's why we have a public advocate known as the FAA. In other words, the FAA operates in the public's interest. We don't have a voice apart from them. And they have very strict regulations on the front end for the life of an airplane. How do you certify it? How many tests does it go through? What I'd like to see them do is not abandon it because Chanel's earlier point is that it's an economic thing that's driving them, not a safety decision regarding the life of an airplane, Tom McSweeney has already admitted that he's joined with the airlines in saying what's economically feasible rather than what really is safety.
>MacLeod: No.1 safety issue, whether or not the FAA can have a dual mandate was a red herring from the beginning. They were there to ensure safety. That was what the FAA was always there for. How do you promote an industry that's unsafe? It's a red herring. They were always there to ensure the safety of our fleet and they do that today. And they do that through a number of directives. Rules are one of them. Mr. Grose talks about it as though we don't follow them. We do follow them. Chanel talked about like we didn't follow the rules. Tell her the truth. The truth is that over the course of a lifetime of an aircraft, 99 percent of it is replaced.
· (EDITOR NOTE: Macleod's statement that 99% of the aircraft is replaced is irresponsible and inaccurate. As Mr. Grose quickly observed it simply isn't true. If it were, then there would be no need for the industry efforts to identify and repair aging aircraft after the Aloha accident in the late 1980s. Canvas all the airlines and ask them what percentage of structure, functional parts and aircraft wire systems in their airplanes have been completely replaced over a period of 15 to 20 years. I would venture to say, less than 20% falls into MacLeod's statement of "99 percent of it is replaced." Largely that 20% would include the required changes of engines and components because they have reached their time in service limits.
As heard at the NTSB TWA 800 hearing in Baltimore by the expert wiring panel, "the wiring system in an A/C is installed for the life of the airplane!" So MacLeod's statement that ". . . 99 percent of it is replaced is a lie! [Isn't it reassuring to have someone of importance, concerning maintenance, makestatements like this.] It would cost the airlines millions of dollars and ground an airplane for weeks just to replace the wiring systems. Consider the industry dragging their feet on many other less costly programs, don't hold your breath waiting for them to do this on their own. A Boeing engineer made the statement recently, that at best, no more than 5% of the A/C wiring system is replaced during the life of an A/C!)
>Grose: That's not true at all.
>MacLeod: When is aging, Mr. Grose, what part of it would you have mandatory retirement?
>Grose: You're absolutely ridiculous saying that 99 percent is replaced.
[MacLeod said: "The maintenance can indeed replace the whole aircraft over a period of years, so what is aging? I mean, as Mr. McSweeney said earlier, as Tom said earlier, we could have a whole new aircraft after 15 years if we upgraded it in accordance with the service bulletins that are produced by the manufacturer. The truth is that over the course of a lifetime of an aircraft, 99 percent of it is replaced.]
A Boeing engineer interviewed on the 28th of July was asked what percent of an airplane's wire system is replaced during the life of the airplane? His reply was "less than 5%." How can MacLeod and McSweeney make statements like they made? They don't know? Are they trying to mislead the traveling public with untruthful statements?
For the full transcript, call Diane Rehems at 1-800-433-8850.
Patrick A. Price 7/25/98
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