Opinion 12/2016

Ageing aircraft structures

This Opinion addresses safety risks related to ageing phenomena in the structures of large aeroplanes. These risks include fatigue of the basic type design, widespread fatigue damage (WFD), corrosion, fatigue of changes and repairs, and continued operation with unsafe levels of fatigue cracking.

The proposal is intended to ensure that these safety risks are mitigated for both the existing and future fleets of large aeroplanes.

The opinion proposes to:

  1. amend Regulation (EU) 2015/640 and to include new requirements in its Annex (Part-26 — ‘Additional airworthiness requirements for operations’);
  2. amend Regulation (EU) No 748/2012, Annex I (Part-21) ‘Certification of aircraft and related products, parts and appliances, and of design and production organisations’;
  3. amend Regulation (EU) No 1321/2014, Annex I (Part-M);

The proposal will ensure that Design Approval Holders (DAHs), or applicants for Type Certificates (TCs), Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs), design changes and repair approvals, will produce the necessary data, procedures, instructions and manuals related to ageing structure failures due to corrosion and fatigue and make them available to those who need to comply with them (operators).

Additionally, operators will be required to incorporate these data items into their maintenance programmes while addressing the adverse effects of changes and repairs on each airframe and its associated maintenance requirements.

The proposal is largely harmonised with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements on this subject.