An international task force made up of airlines, aircraft builders and government officials issued what some experts said was a landmark call Tuesday for costly, rigorous self-policing, recommending an $800-million repair and maintenance program to make the world’s aging air fleet safe.
The task force was formed as a result of recent air accidents--not including the Boeing 747 jetliner accident in Hawaii last Friday that killed nine--and industry fears of inappropriate government regulatory response. Its first report offered recommendations on improving the safety of 1,300 older Boeing Co. aircraft still in service.
The group hopes to increase the safety of such planes, which have been involved in fatal accidents, by emphasizing their modification or replacement, not through increased government inspection, said Clyde Kizer, an Air Transport Assn. vice president who is on the 150-member Airworthiness Assurance Task Force.
This approach, he noted, will require rebuilding of lap and bonded joints that show signs of loosening and replacing of structural elements, skins and fittings, at an estimated cost of $600,000 per aircraft for the older Boeings.
There was no agreement on how the cost would be split between plane builders and air carriers, although David Heymsfeld, staff counsel for the House Public Works subcommittee on aviation, noted that the expense of complying with airworthiness directives normally falls exclusively on the airlines.
The costs of complying with the program could be crippling for smaller airlines--those providing commuter services and feeding major carriers. But Heymsfeld noted that such lines usually operate with planes smaller than the Boeing 727s, 737s and 747s, which were covered in the first task force recommendations.
Two other teams--one scrutinizing McDonnell Douglas Corp. planes and another examining Lockheed Corp., Airbus, British Aerospace Corp. and Fokker craft--will also issue safety recommendations.
If the task force recommendations are adopted by the Federal Aviation Administration, they will be issued as airworthiness directives, with compliance mandatory.
Speaking for the FAA--which has not had a permanent administrator since T. Alan McArtor departed on Feb. 17--Secretary of Transportation Samuel K. Skinner praised the task force’s work. He said in a statement that the FAA is seeking $10 million in its 1990 budget for research on older aircraft and is proposing to hire 400 more safety inspectors and support personnel to strengthen its surveillance of older planes.
The task force was organized last June by the air transport group and the Aerospace Industry Assn. and comprises representatives of the FAA, other U.S. agencies and foreign governments.