atsrac logoAging Transport Systems Rulemaking Advisory Committee


Following the crash of TWA 800 in July 1996, President Clinton established the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. The commission, chaired by then Vice President Gore, addressed issues that are affected by increases in air travel and traffic, and advances in new technology. President Clinton wanted to address the concerns of the TWA 800 families as well as the concerns of all travelers, the Vice President noted, "but in doing so, we had to look beyond one accident and look at the very nature of the industry."

Some 50 recommendations were made by the commission, whose membership included representatives from the aircraft and air travel industry, government agencies and organizations of crash victim families. Recommendation 1.9 stated:

    In cooperation with airlines and manufacturers, the FAA's Aging Aircraft program should be expanded to cover non-structural systems.

The report explained further that, "The Commission is concerned that existing procedures, directives, quality assurance, and inspections may not be sufficient to prevent safety related problems caused by the corrosive and deteriorating effects of non-structural components of commercial aircraft as they age."

inside planeIn early 1998, FAA inspectors and Boeing representatives inspected the wiring on several older aircraft that were in storage in the desert. The intent of the aircraft inspections was to obtain first-hand information on the state of aged systems. In March 1998, Boeing held a meeting to brief the airlines on the results of the aircraft inspections. Further aircraft inspections were planned over the next month.

A follow-on meeting was held in mid-April which included FAA representatives who were seeking industry input prior to formulating an aging systems plan. The team agreed that the top four potential aging system concerns were wiring, connectors, grounds and circuit breakers.

In June, industry and FAA held an additional meeting to develop short-term actions that would complement the long-term FAA plan that would be published soon. It was agreed at that time to form an Aging Systems Task Force, comprised of a lead airline representative from each of the fleet types that were over 20 years old, the airframe manufacturers and the FAA. Eight aircraft model specific Task Force Working Groups were formed to develop detailed inspection plans for each fleet type. It was also agreed that airlines and manufacturers would share "best practices" concerning maintenance of aircraft systems.

The Aging Systems Task Force (ASTF) met again in July 1998, to develop detailed guidelines for use by each of the Working Groups. Also, a smaller project team was assigned to work with the FAA to consolidate the supplied "best practices" into a single document. This effort resulted in the publishing of ATA Spec 117: Wiring Maintenance Practices/Guidelines on July 31, 1998. An accompanying instructional video was later created to improve information dissemination and training.

The FAA Aging Transport Non-Structural Systems Plan, dated July 1998, was issued in late summer. The "Blue Book" defined seven long-term tasks for further action, as well as the results of the initial aircraft inspections.

On October 1, 1998, the FAA Administrator announced a new plan to enhance the safety of aging aircraft systems. In this plan, the work of the ASTF was to be expanded to include several other initiatives. An advisory committee (which became ATSRAC) was announced to oversee much of this work and Kent Hollinger was named as chair. Once the official order was issued, the first meeting of ATSRAC was held January 20, 1999.

Meanwhile, the ASTF was continuing upon its mission. The group met in November 1998 to review the progress of its Working Groups. By that time detailed inspection instructions had been developed for each aircraft model, and both a B727 and B747 had already been inspected.

At the January 1999 ATSRAC meeting, the committee voted to form Working Groups to perform the detailed work on its taskings. Due to the significant amount of progress already made by the ASTF, it was decided by ATSRAC to create Working Group #1 by expanding the membership of the existing ASTF to include several ATSRAC members. This Working Group was then assigned the work involved with ATSRAC Tasks #1 and #2. Three other Working Groups were established to accomplish the remaining three tasks.

The following schematic organizational chart shows the four Working Groups established by ATSRAC, along with the existing eight ASTF Working Groups:

eight ASTF Working Groups

ASTF Participation

The task force obtained support from both domestic and foreign operators and from both passenger and cargo airlines. The diversity of their size, operations, fleet makeup, and maintenance practices provided a well-rounded view of aging transport systems. The airline representatives were primarily from the maintenance and engineering departments.

The FAA participation included representatives from the Flight Standards and Certification Branches, from the Northwest Mountain and Southern Regions, and from FAA headquarters.

All three large airframe manufacturers (Airbus, Boeing and Lockheed) were involved in the formation of the ASTF. Other participants included wiring and tooling manufacturers, the Air Force, the Navy, the ATA, the International Aviation Safety Association, SAE, and others. Therefore, participation in the task force included experienced representatives from organizations which encompass all aspects of the industry

Other Working Groups

Three other Working Groups were formed to accomplish the remainder of the original 5 tasks given to ATSRAC. These groups were also quite diverse in membership, with representatives from governmental regulatory agencies, manufacturers, airlines and industry. The initial Working Groups completed their assignments and submitted their recommendations to the FAA in January 2001.

In Phase II, ATSRAC created four new Harmonization Working Groups to complete the new tasks announced April 25, 2001. These tasks resulted in submittal to the FAA of five Final Reports containing numerous recommendations, including new and revised FARs, an SFAR, four Advisory Circulars and a Master Breakdown Index for use with existing Electrical Standard Wire Practices Manuals.

ATSRAC is now in Phase III and is working on the tasks announced in the May 28, 2003 Federal Register page 31741. Three Harmonization Working Groups have been formed to accomplish these tasks.

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