Aircraft Airworthiness & Sustainment Conference 2012 Brisbane Exhibition & Convention Centre
Aircraft Airworthiness & Sustainment Conference 2012 Brisbane Exhibition & Convention Centre
Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen to the third Aircraft Airworthiness and Sustainment Conference.
Thank you to the Conference Chairman, Mr Richard Gauntlett for allowing me the opportunity to address this important event on behalf of CASA, who has been a co-sponsor since its inception in 2010.
I also wish to acknowledge the original owners of the land we are meeting on today.
This third conference also coincides with the third anniversary of CASA initiating its Ageing Aircraft Management Plan.
CASA has of course always been required to manage Australia’s ageing aircraft fleet and has done a pretty good job of it as far as I am concerned.
There is no "silver bullet" or "one size fits all" approach to the issues relating to ageing aircraft. Each aircraft ages in a unique manner and at a unique rate. As a result, it is possible to have both an outstanding, as well as a very poor example of two aircraft of the same type, both possibly built on the same day.
CASA Civil Aviation Regulations do not currently impose a universal life-limit on aircraft. While CASA sought to address issues of ageing aircraft over number of years, there was no single overarching approach.
Following the publishing of the Government’s White Paper on National Aviation Policy and its direction to examine the issues of ageing aircraft, CASA created an Ageing Aircraft Project to take a closer look at the issues involved.
The result was the Ageing Aircraft Management Plan – an initiative unique to Australia. The Terms of Reference were to review the entire Australian civil aircraft fleet to determine the extent of the ageing issue, as well as what strategies might be required to ensure the continued safe operation of these ageing aircraft.
The results of this study were very interesting. In relation to the civil fleet, the conclusions were concluded that:
- Australia does in fact have an ageing aircraft problem, predominantly in General Aviation and it's not going away anytime soon.
- The average age of the Australian piston engine aircraft fleet is approximately 40 years. With over 14,000 aircraft on the register, this represents a significant amount of aircraft that continue to operate many decades beyond their original design. Many of the aircraft were designed for a 20-year notional life, but as noted some of these aircraft have been in service for double the notional design life.
- In many cases, aircraft continue to be operated differently to what the designers originally envisaged. This is especially reflected in the aircraft being operated many decades beyond the original notional life of the aircraft, whilst being maintained to a maintenance schedule that was only ever designed to support the original notional life.
- Many Registered Operators or owners of these ageing aircraft were not fully aware of their responsibilities for the airworthiness of their aircraft.
- There is much more to ageing than just chronological years since manufacture. The original certification basis, standards of manufacture, types of operation, application of corrosion protection inhibitors and paint, accumulation of damage and repairs over its life, proximity to salt, etc. all impact the ageing process to varying degrees.
- As a result, each individual aircraft is ageing in a unique way – depending on how it is operated, maintained and stored. Some aircraft are faring well – some are not.
- And lastly, and possibly most significantly, it appears that the current minimum maintenance requirements applicable to many of these aircraft may not adequately take into account of ageing issue management.
Knowledge of these issues or more importantly, lack of knowledge by many owners was apparent across the industry.
Understanding the effects and consequences of ageing on an aircraft is key to the success of any CASA ageing aircraft initiative, particularly in relation to the aircraft owners who are ultimately responsible for airworthiness of their aircraft.
It is vital that aircraft owners understand the regulatory, economic and safety implications of the airworthiness decisions they are required to undertake in relation to the continuing airworthiness of their aircraft.
CASA's responses to the findings of the Ageing Aircraft Management Plan have been based on the analysis of objective engineering evidence.
We believe the key to addressing the ageing aircraft issue is through awareness and education. The more informed owners are about how the ageing process affects their aircraft – the more likely they are to be in a position to address these issues.
The voluntary uptake of strategies to address some of these issues has already begun, with pleasing results.
Over the last year CASA has facilitated a very successful program of weekend "Ageing 101" presentations around the country in Capital Cities and regional Flying Clubs. These two–hour seminars under the theme "Take a Closer Look" have provided some 800 owners and operators with detailed knowledge of how the ageing process can affect their aircraft.
The feedback we have received from participants at these seminars has been universally positive and has shown us the need to provide more educational material on ageing aircraft. We also recognised an appetite for knowledge by the owners themselves as to how they might act to maximise the safety outcomes in relation to operating ageing aircraft.
This has resulted in CASA developing a comprehensive eLearning course, targeted specifically at aircraft owners. This course will be available on the CASA website shortly, as part of a Discussion Paper on the topic. This course provides an excellent overview of how the ageing process affects all aircraft systems and structures and how important it is for the maintenance program applicable to an aircraft to adapt as that aircraft ages.
I urge all aircraft owners to undertake this training. A demonstration version of the course is also available at the CASA booth if you would like to have preview of its content.
In addition to its focus on educating owners of ageing aircraft, CASA has also developed an educational feedback mechanism for aircraft owners that assist them to determine the likelihood that their aircraft may be affected by ageing issues. This is a unique capability that has attracted world-wide interest.
This educational feedback is provided in the form of an on-line, prototype "Matrix Tool". Owners of VH registered aircraft are able to enter into the tool specific details about how their aircraft is operated, maintained and stored and are then provided with an indication as to the likelihood of having an ageing aircraft problem.
While the prototype "Matrix Tool" is deliberately generic by nature, it is by no means a substitute for a physical assessment of an aircraft by an engineering professional. The tool is designed to provide a snapshot assessment of ageing aircraft issues to the average aircraft owner who is not necessarily an aviation professional.
The staff on the CASA booth can provide you with a demonstration of the prototype "Matrix Tool" during the breaks. All the tool requires is the type and serial number of your aircraft for you to undertake a review of your aircraft.
Both the learning course and the use of the prototype "Matrix Tool" form part of a wider awareness initiative that is explained further in a CASA Discussion Paper on Ageing Aircraft which is due for release shortly.
The Discussion Paper outlines how the high average age of Australia's piston engine aircraft fleet is a concern and what future options exist for managing this problem safely. Significantly, the minimum maintenance practices applied to the majority of these identified ageing aircraft require careful further analysis and review.
CASA's Service Difficulty Reporting system (SDR) is providing us with further evidence of negative safety outcomes on this issue. For example, impending failures of critical safety items have been detected by experienced Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (LAMEs) who have looked just that little bit further. In other cases the failure has become evident to pilots on pre-flight checks. But what analysis of these events clearly illustrates is that some of the current maintenance programs in use are not enough by themselves to ensure adequate safety outcomes for ageing aircraft.
To continue on into the future as we have done so in the past is not an option.
The Project Manager of the Ageing Aircraft Management Plan, Mr Pieter Van Dijk will be going into further detail later today on some of the issues I have spoken about this morning.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak here this morning. I trust you will have a fruitful and informative conference. Sharing of ideas between professionals at forums such as this is key to a safer and more viable aviation industry.
Please make the most of this time spent together and do not hesitate to draw upon CASA’s representatives here at the conference for any assistance or advice you may require in the management of your individual ageing aircraft or fleets.