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Wider Window Needed

Competing mandates and a cash crunch explains why operators will be given substantially more time to comply with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wiring safety program (see ASW, July 21).

First, consider competing mandates. The enhanced zonal wiring inspection program (EZAP) and one-time cleaning and inspection of cockpit, electronic/equipment bay wiring and power feeder cables (CCEPF) propounded by the Aging Transport Systems Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ATSRAC) are but two of a dozen "mandates" on the near horizon, to include: SFAR 88 (fuel system safety), aging airplane safety, 16G seats, and so forth.

Point two: the ATSRAC work imports substantial costs. According to an Air Transport Association (ATA) briefing to ATSRAC, one carrier estimated that the CEEPF work alone would require a 25 percent increase in its maintenance budget.

Point three: the airlines are continuing to hemorrhage red ink. As shown in the box below, the ATA made its point very plain:

"If this reality is not taken into consideration, then the FAA will have a nice compliance plan, and no airlines in existence to comply with it."

Thus, to reduce the annual cost, the CEEPF work was stretched from a three year to a five year period. For EZAP, manufacturers were given more time to prepare the protocols, and the operators' work was slid three years, to commence in 2009 rather than 2006 (see ASW, July 21 'Plans Compared').

There may be an object lesson in not getting into this sort of a crisis in the first place - largely due to an inadequate type certification regimen. When a large number of airplanes are built with signal and power wires in the same bundle, with bundles run close by sharp metal edges, when the wiring receives episodic inspection at best, then the bleats are inevitable when safety problems arise and orders are issued to fix them.

Recall the thermal acoustic blanket fiasco - inadequate flammability testing led to the installation in hundreds of airplanes of metalized mylar, the flammability of which was aggravated by contamination and soiling in service, followed by an order to remove and replace the whole lot. That problem, too, traced back to a complacent certification regimen.
 
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