The FAA and Boeing in the spotlight

By Victoria April 16, 2013 14:07

The FAA and Boeing in the spotlight

It is clear that although the safety of the Indonesian aviation sector is going to be brought into question once again following the Lion Air crash, this, like so many things in life is a bit unfair as the aircraft was brand new and wind-shear in the last moments before landing does seem to have caused the accident. The 737-800, which was under a sale and leaseback agreement from Avolon, was the first aircraft of six to be delivered to Lion Air under the deal with the Irish based lessor.

But every cloud has a silver lining and in this instance it is fortuitous in the extreme that a non-fatal accident has kicked the FAA into action. This is without doubt the latest problem for the FAA as safety standards are called into question on Capitol Hill. As the crash was highlighted at the FAA someone most likely fell off their chair with fright and issued the AD at once – why? The Lion Air right horizontal stabiliser was completely torn off during the sequence of events leading to the 737-800 coming to rest in the ocean with a broken back. And this, as the FAA knows full well, is an area known to have weaknesses. Boeing issued a service bulletin recommending the pin replacements over a year ago. Then sitting on the fence and not wanting to harm airlines bottom lines, in September 2012 the FAA proposed issuing a mandatory directive, but did nothing.

Now the FAA has issued the AD it should have earlier sent out to replace defective attachment pins in the horizontal tails of all 737-800s and 900ERs in a move that will cost operators up to $10m to comply with the same. The AD covers more than 1,000 aircraft and makes it one of the most significant ADs of recent times and a political football in the US.

The directive requires airlines to inspect the pins that connect the rear spar of the jet’s horizontal tail to the fuselage, and to replace all pins that came from a Boeing supplier during a two-year period. The FAA said that incorrect procedures were used by the supplier to apply a surface coating to the pins to protect against corrosion and wear. The FAA AD warns that without replacement, the defective pins could fail prematurely in service, potentially resulting in loss of control. Airlines must now complete the work before 56,000 total flight cycles or within 3,000 flight cycles after the directive takes effect on 20th May 2013. The FAA estimates the cost to US airlines at just over $10 million, with 39 hours of work on each aircraft.

This will compound Boeing’s poor year and will further lead to value for investors to buy-in, for you can be sure that Boeing will cover much of the cost of this latest AD under warranty.

All of these types delivered between August 2006 and July 2008 are affected, along with all spares distributed during that period. That is about 1,000 aircraft. But compounding this problem will be the swapping out of parts during maintenance, which is why the FAA has extended the AD to all aircraft delivered before the 2012 Boeing service bulletin.

It will also compound a year for operators that saw huge costs mounting for avionics requirements. It will be a hard year for airlines.

Breaking news from the FAA is that it has adopted a new AD for models: 737-700, -700C, -800, and -900ER series airplanes, Model 747-400F series airplanes, and
Model 767-200 and -300 series airplanes, after reports indicated that certain crew oxygen mask stowage box units were possibly delivered with a burr in the inlet fitting. The burr might break loose during test or operation, and might pose an ignition source or cause an inlet valve to jam. This final rule adds a step to identify and label certain crew oxygen mask stowage box units that have already been inspected and reworked by the supplier, and allows operators to install new or serviceable crew oxygen mask stowage box units, and requires a general visual inspection for affected serial numbers of the crew oxygen mask stowage box units, and replacement or reidentification as necessary. “We are issuing this AD to prevent an ignition source, which could result in an oxygen-fed fire; or an inlet valve jam in a crew oxygen mask stowage box unit, which could result in restricted flow of oxygen,” says the FAA.

Furthermore, the FAA has issued an AD for certain Model 757 airplanes prompted by reports that inspections of the wing center section revealed defective, misapplied, or missing secondary fuel vapour barriers on the center fuel tank, which requires inspecting for discrepancies and insufficient coverage of the secondary fuel barrier,
determining the thickness of the secondary fuel barrier, and corrective actions if necessary. “We are issuing this AD to detect and correct defective surfaces and insufficient thickness of the secondary fuel barrier, which could allow fuel leaks or fumes into the pressurized cabin, and allow fuel or fuel vapours to come in contact with an ignition source, which could result in a fire or an explosion.”

By Victoria April 16, 2013 14:07
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