March 1999 Issue

Fretting Over Age

Safety margin may shrink as aircraft age

It should come as no surprise that more than half of all general aviation aircraft are more than 25 years old, and more than 25% are past their 35th birthdays. Like everything else that’s getting older, an aging aircraft can experience a host of problems, including decreases in both performance and structural integrity.

As aircraft age, undetected or uncorrected wear, fatigue, corrosion and creep can decrease an aircraft’s ability to sustain the fail-safe loads designed into it. The most graphic example of fatigue and corrosion causing a serious problem in flight comes is the Aloha Air Lines B-737 accident in 1988, and that should be enough to scare any pilot. Clearly prevention, timely d...

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