I am two days away to travel to South America on a Boeing 767-300 through American Airlines.
I happened to notice that their 767 fleet is well aged, some manufactured in 1988, and I am concerned on traveling on these "older" planes.
I understand that in terms of scheduled maintenance (not sure the maintenance cycle for AA), it is safe to fly on these planes.
What concerns me is the airframe or its structure. As the aircraft ages or it has a higher number of take-off and landings, is it reliable to travel these older planes?
I answered this question before.
How old can an airplane be considered as old?Well, there was no consensus but manufacturers came up with a figure of twenty years as the intended economic life.Soon twenty years became the average age of US fleets. Today, manufactures and airlines refuse to agree on when old is too old because the life span of an airplane can be extended.
All aircraft components have a lifespan that is monitored very closely. When they are due for replacement, the components must be changed and the licensed aircraft engineers are under a duty to certify its replacement. Unlike a car where most people only replace a particular part when it breaks down, a fully serviceable component in an aircraft must be replaced when the life, measured in terms of hours are due.
Therefore, an older aircraft with new components after a major overhaul is almost just as good as ‘new’.Hence the reluctance to establish a definite age for a plane when it can be considered as a geriatric jet!
Maintenance of planes is monitored closely by the FAA. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the airlines to ensure that their planes are safe for flight. So far there have been very few airline plane accidents being caused by its age. Most are due to human error rather than mechanical error.
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