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Case concerning the design economic life of airplanes(AI/IA)

 
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deaphen
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 25, 2007 1:16 am    Post subject: Case concerning the design economic life of airplanes(AI/IA) Reply with quote

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY
Writ Petition No. 3921 of 2000
Decided On: 23.01.2001
Appellants: J. Kapur
Vs.
Respondent: Union of India Through The Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation & Ors.
Hon'ble Judges:
Mr. B.P. Singh and Mr. S.A. Bobde, JJ.
Counsels:
For Appellant/Petitioner/Plaintiff: Mr. Shekhar Naphade for Mr. S.S. Pakale, Adv.
For Respondents/Defendant: Mr. S.B. Jaisinghani, Addl. Solicitor General, Mr. C.U. Singh, Mr. Girish Kulkarni, Mr. J.S. Saluja and Ms. Sara Salvi, Advs., i/b M/s. M.V. Kini & Co., Mr. I.M. Chagla and Mr. Zubin Kamdin, Advs., M/s. Mulla & Mulla & Cragie Blunt & Caroe, Mr. R.A. Kapadia, Mr. S. Vazifdar, Mr. K.B. Swamy, Mrs. K. Madhusmita and Mr. J. Saigal, Advs., i/b M/s. R.C. Dhru & Co.
Subject: Constitution
Acts/Rules/Orders:
Constitution of India - Articles 19(1), 21 and 226; Aircraft Act, 1934 - Sections 5A and 8; Aircraft Rules, 1937 - Rules 50, 53 and 55;

Case Note:
Constitution of India, 1950 - Article 226 - Director General of Civil Aviation's circular dated 20.3.1992 - Public Interest Litigation - Writ of mandamus - Use of Airbus and Boeing Aircrafts by Air India and Indian Airlines beyond the period of design economic life - Aircrafts do not become unsafe for flying after Design Economic Life if proper maintenance, repairs and replacement of parts is done in accordance with the instructions of the manufacturers and the aviation authorities.
Held:
The mere fact that an aircraft has crossed its design economic life does not make it unsafe for flying, though it may adversely affect the profit-earning capacity of the operator on account of its high cost of flying in view of the heavy cost of maintenance, repairs and replacement of parts. However, if such an aircraft is properly maintained in accordance with the instructions of the manufacturers, and the directions issued from time to time by the aviation authorities, such aircraft can be flown for many years after it has crossed its design economic life.
If due care is taken to maintain the aircraft in good airworthy condition, there is no reason to suspect that merely because an aircraft has crossed its design economic life, it has become unsafe for flying. The concept of design economic life is now re-defined as design service objective. The manufacturers of aircraft have not specified any retirement life of aircraft. Design economic life or design service objective only means that the aircraft is expected to give trouble-free service for specified number of years, flight hours or flight cycles, but it does not mean that it suddenly becomes unsafe for operation, if it crosses the design economic life. The methods and procedures prescribe the corrective steps which are required to be taken to retain the original strength of the structure of an aircraft and if these procedures are carried out, the structural strength of the aircraft is maintained to the acceptable standards.
There is therefore no good reason to grant the reliefs prayed for by the Petitioner as there is no good reason, at this stage, to direct the Respondents to ground the aircraft which have crossed their design economic life nor is there any justification for directing Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 not to operate such aircraft which have crossed their design economic life because though it may have economic implications on account of high maintenance cost, etc., it does not affect the safety of the passengers or of the aircraft provided the aircraft is properly maintained in accordance with the requirements of the manufacturers, and the directions issued by the D.G.C.A. from time to time.
ORDER
B. P. Singh, C. J.
1. The Petitioner herein, who claims to be a frequent air traveller, travelling by Indian Airlines and Air India, has filed the instant Writ Petition in public interest with a view to bring to the notice of this Court the plight of the air travellers who are exposed to grave risks on account of flying of ageing aircraft which have outlived their design economic life by the Indian Airlines, Respondent No. 4 and the Air India. Respondent No. 5, which are Government Companies and Public Sector Undertakings. He has prayed for the issuance of a writ of mandamus and/or a writ in the nature of mandamus directing Respondent Nos. 1, 2 and 3, viz., the Union of India, the Director General of Civil Aviation and the Director, Airworthiness. In the office of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, to discharge the statutory duties invested in them under the provisions of the Aircraft Act, 1934 and the Aircraft Rules. 1937 in respect of safety and airworthiness of the aircraft of Respondent Nos. 4 and 5.
2. The Petitioner has referred to the history of civil aviation in India since Independence, and has lamented that large number of air crashes have taken place during this period, primarily due to the fact that the aircraft deployed by Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 to carry air travellers are more than 20 years old, and have outlived their design economic life. Such aircraft poses a serious threat to the safety and lives of air travellers, and thereby adversely affect their right to travel by air. as also for enforcement of their fundamental rights guaranteed, inter alia, by Articles 19(1)(d) and 21 of the Constitution of India. The Petitioner has. therefore, prayed that appropriate direction be issued by this Court for enforcement of the statutory rights, inter alia, under the Aircraft Act, 1934 and the Aircraft Rules, 1937, and for the discharge by the Respondents of their public and statutory duties as enjoined on them by the said Act and the Rules.
3. Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, it has been averred that the governmental agencies have shown complete apathy to human life and their attitude reflects scant regard for basic safety of air travellers. Respondent Nos. 2 and 3 must be forthwith directed to refrain from issuing airworthiness certificates to such aircraft, inter alia, under Rule 53 of the Rules of 1937, and further. Respondent No. 1 be directed, in exercise of its powers under Section 8 of the Act of 1934 to detain (ground) such aircraft. Respondent Nos. 2 and 3 ought to be directed to suspend and/or cancel all certificates of airworthiness to aircraft of Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 in exercise of powers, infer alia, under Rule 55 of the Rules of 1937 in respect of such aircraft which have crossed or are nearing their design economic life/safe life, either in terms of number of years, flight hours or flight cycles. It has further been prayed that this Court may be pleased to issue a writ of negative mandamus or a writ in the nature thereof, restraining Respondent Nos. 1, 2 and 3 from routinely issuing certificates of airworthiness to such ageing aircraft of Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 which have crossed their design economic life/safe life or are so close thereto so as to threaten the safety of air travellers. Certain other reliefs have also been claimed, calling upon the Respondents to furnish a list of aircraft owned and/or hired by them with all details and particulars and to prescribe stricter safety norms depending upon the age and flying hours of the aircraft.
4. The Petitioner avers that Respondent No. 5, Air India, was Incorporated in the year 1947 and Respondent No. 4, Indian Airlines in 1953. Air India has had 8 air crashes to the best of the Petitioner's knowledge but Indian Airlines has had a total of 20 air crashes to the best of the Petitioner's knowledge. The Petitioner has also referred to the subsidiaries of Respondent No. 4, viz., Vayudoot and Alliance Airlines, which, it is stated, do not lag behind, with the recent air crash near Patna Airport, quoted as an example. However, since Vayudoot and Alliance Airlines are not made party-Respondents In this Writ Petition, If necessary, we shall refer to them only incidentally.
5. The concern of the Petitioner stems from the fact that Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 are flying extremely aged aircraft which have crossed their design economic life as stipulated by the manufacturers. Some of them, even though they may not have exceeded their design economic life in terms of years, have certainly exceeded their designed life in terms of flying hours or flight cycles. Reference is made to the Circular of March 20, 1992, Issued by the Director General of Civil Aviation, which refers to the design economic life as prescribed by the manufacturers of Airbus, Boeing Douglas, F-27 and HS-748 aircraft. The Petitioner, however, has primarily referred to Airbus and Boeing aircraft since the fleet of aircraft maintained by Air India. Indian Airlines and its subsidiaries consist primarily of Airbus and Boeing aircraft. Appendix to the aforesaid Circular refers to the design economic life of the aircraft with which we are concerned in the instant Writ Petition, and the same reads as follows :-
6. The Petitioner has stated that the Indian Airlines own 36 Airbus aircraft, and from the details furnished by the Petitioner, it appears that 4 of such aircraft are about 21 to 24 years old and 2 are 20 years old (approximately). The remaining 30 have not completed their design economic life.
Similarly, from the particulars made available by the Petitioner, it appears that the Indian Airlines have 6 Boeing 737-200 aircraft and only two of them are approximately 20 years old.
The Petitioner has also furnished particulars of the aircraft owned by the Alliance Airlines, a subsidiary of Respondent No. 4 from which it appears that out of 12 aircraft, 4 are twenty years old. On the basis of these figures, the Petitioner submits that the Alliance Airlines have aircraft which are 18 to 20 years old, and if the number of flying hours and flight cycles are examined, they may have far exceeded the number of flying hours or flight cycles.
7. Insofar as Indian Airlines are concerned, though only 4 Airbus aircraft have outlived their design economic life, and 2 are about 20 years old, the Petitioner apprehends they may well have exceeded the design economic life in terms of flight hours. So far as Boeing 737-200 aircraft are concerned, the same apprehension is reiterated. It is submitted that not only in respect of aircraft which are more than 20 years old. but also in respect of aircraft which are nearing the age of 20 years, the Respondents must be forthwith directed to refrain from issuing airworthiness certificates under Rule 53 of the Rules of 1937, and Respondent No. 1 be directed to detain such aircraft under Section 8 of the Act of 1934 since such aircraft clearly pose a danger to the persons in the aircraft and persons on the ground.
8. We shall consider in detail the circular dated 20th March, 1992. of the Deputy Director of Civil Aviation on which great emphasis has been placed by Counsel for the Petitioner, and which deals with design economic life and damage that may be caused to an aircraft classified under four heads viz., (i) Fatigue Damage, (ii) Environmental Damage, (iii) Accidental Damage, and (iv) Ageing Aircraft. It is stated by the Petitioner that Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 continue to maintain dinosaurs in their ageing fleet with scant regard to the safety of the air travellers o'f this country. This lack of care and concern for safety is reflected in the awful track record of air accidents in this country. The Petitioner has referred to various air crashes that have taken place in the year 1947 and thereafter, and it is his submission that it is because of flying aircraft which have crossed their design economic life in terms of number of years or number of flying hours or flight cycles that many of the accidents have occurred. He has referred to the ill-fate aircraft which crashed in Aurangabad in the year 1993 which was 19 years old. In spite of such disasters. Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 fly aged, ageing and antiquated aircraft which are wholly unsafe for flying, and Respondent Nos. 1 to 3 have done nothing to protect the unsuspecting public from such unsafe aircraft. Reference is made to 8 air crashes, involving aircraft belonging to Air India between 27th December. 1947 and 22nd June, 1982. It appears from the particulars furnished by the Petitioner that of these 8 aircraft, only 3 were Boeing aircraft and the remaining 5 were aircraft which are no longer in use by Air India.
In the case of Indian Airlines. 20 air crashes have been detailed which occurred between 12th December, 1953 and 17th July, 2000. Of the 20 aircraft involved in such air crashes, only 5 were Boeing aircraft and the sixth an Airbus A-320. The remaining aircraft which were involved in accidents were of makes which are no longer in use by the Indian Airlines. The first air crash involving Boeing 737 aircraft took place on 31st May, 1973, and the remaining 5 took place between 19th October, 1988 and 17th July, 2000. The Petitioner has furnished details of the air crashes but there is no categoric assertion that the air crashes took place on account of the age of the aircraft.
9. The Petitioner's case. In substance, is that the Respondents have not been performing their statutory duties diligently, and have been certifying airworthiness of aircraft in a routine manner even in respect of aircraft which have outlived their design economic life or are about to cross the design economic life. The Petitioner has proceeded on the assumption that the design economic life is tantamount to safe life of an aircraft, and, therefore, all such aircraft which have either crossed, or are nearing their design economic life either in terms of the number of years or in terms of the flight hours or in terms of the flight cycles must be grounded, their certificates of airworthiness suspended or cancelled, and Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 restrained from flying such evidently unsafe aircraft.
10. An affidavit in reply has been filed on behalf of Respondent No. 4, refuting the allegations made in the Writ Petition. Apart from challenging the locus standi of the Petitioner to file the Petition, it is asserted that no fundamental right of the Petitioner, much less any statutory right, is violated. The Petitioner has filed the Petition based on Incomplete information, and has proceeded on the erroneous assumption that an aged aircraft is not airworthy. The assumption of the Petitioner that old/aged aircraft are unsafe is totally misconceived. Aircraft are regularly inspected in accordance with the laid down regulations to keep them airworthy. These inspections are mandatorily and thoroughly carried out, and in fact, inspection becomes more stringent, calling for detailed inspection/overhaul of items/ replacement of Items etc., as the aircraft become older, either in terms of age or in terms of flight hours or in terms of flight cycles. The manufacturers of the aircraft provide what is known as design service objective which Is the operational life goal used for design of the primary structure of the aircraft. The flight hours and the flight cycle values, are established by the manufacturer, which represent the length of the economic usage at the time of design. For example, in the case of Boeing 737-200 the airplane's design service objective is 75,000 flight cycles. 51,000 flight hours and 20 years. These values merely serve as fatigue design goal. It is a known and accepted practice that aircraft can be used even beyond the design service objective. Even the manufacturer of the Aircraft such as Boeing are of the view that the airplanes could be flown past their design service objective if they are properly inspected, maintained and modified in accordance with the manufacturer's specific instructions and the industry's Ageing Airplane Programme. A copy of the detailed response of the Boeing, to a query raised by Alliance Airlines, dated 25th July, 2000, has been annexed as Annexure 'I' to the affidavit in reply. From Annexure 'I', it appears that certain queries were raised by Alliance Airlines In relation to Boeing 737-200 aircraft. It also appears from the response that the economic design life is the same as design service objective. The design service objective is the operational life goal used for design of primary structure. Flight hours and flight cycle values are established by Boeing that represent the expected length of economic usage at the time of design. These values serve as a fatigue design goal. Boeing airplanes can be flown past their design service objective if they are properly inspected, maintained and modified according to Boeing specific instructions in accordance with the industry's Ageing Airplane Programme. There is no age, flight hours or flight cycle limit after which model 737-200 airplanes should be grounded. From the response of Boeing, it is also found that there are 12 operators all over the world with fleets that include 10 or more 737-200 airplanes, 20 years old or older. There are 117 operators with less than 10, 737-200 airplanes, 20 years old or older. Of the 14 large operators, one operator has a fleet of 27 such airplanes, the oldest of which is 31.9 years old. Of the 117 medium/small operators, there are 2 operators whose oldest airplane is 31 years old.
11. Respondent No. 4, therefore, contends that large number of operators on the international scene have Boeing aircraft which are more than 20 years old, some of them as old as 31 years. Annexure '3' is a list of such airlines giving comparative table of the number of aircraft owned as against" the number of aircraft which are more than 20 years of age as well as the maximum age of the aircraft owned by a particular airline. In particular, reference has been made to the United Airlines which is one of the largest airlines in the world having a fleet of 29 aircraft of which 23 are more than 20 years old, and the oldest aircraft in the fleet is about 32 years old. This clearly goes to show that it is not the answering Respondent alone which has aircraft which are more than 20 years old in its fleet. What is important is whether the aircraft are maintained in accordance with the stringent regulations laid down not only by the manufacturers, but also by the Director General of Civil Aviation, who certifies the airworthiness of the aircraft. There are more than 131 operators around the world operating 737-200 aircraft which are more than 20 years old. Respondent No. 4 is adhering to the stringent safety requirements of maintenance. All over the world, there are around 500 Boeing 737-200 aircraft used by different airlines, which have exceeded their design economic life but are still operating. Reliance is placed on Annexure '4', a letter from Boeing Industry which give the details of 737-200 aircraft operating past 20 years of service.
12. !t is averred that as far as maintenance and servicing of aircraft which have crossed the design economic life is concerned, the checks for such aircraft that are carried out are much more stringent than those carried out on aircraft which have not crossed design economic life. The validity of the certificate of airworthiness issued by the Director General of Civil Aviation is only 6 months in the case of aircraft which have crossed the design economic life, whereas the validity of such certificate in the case of other aircraft is one year. Thus, the age of aircraft is not ignored while it is tested for issuance of certificate of airworthiness.
13. Apart from the strict regulations laid down by the manufacturers of the aircraft, Respondent No-4 has also to adhere to the safety regulations issued by the Director General of Civil Aviation which are very stringent and equivalent to the requirements of the Civil Aviation Authorities in any other country. The certificate of airworthiness of an aircraft is not issued in a mechanical manner without really ascertaining as to whether the aircraft is indeed airworthy. Respondent No. 4 is bound to comply with the stringent regulations laid down by the Director General of Civil Aviation from time to time and issued in the form of CARs, which are civil aviation requirements issued under Section 5A of the Aircraft Act, 1934 as amended in 1972. The Petitioner's apprehensions in this regard are, therefore, baseless. Respondent No. 4 has annexed as Annexure '6'. a list of aircraft owned by it with details of date of manufacture and age as on 14th August, 2000. From Annexure '6', it appears that out of 55 aircraft owned by Respondent No. 4, only 9 aircraft have crossed their design economic life and in fact, none of the aircraft have exceeded the design economic life in terms of flight hours or flying cycles. The apprehension of the Petitioner that these aircraft. may have exceeded their design economic life in terms of flight hours or flying cycles is. therefore, strongly refuted.
14. In its reply. Respondent No. 4 has furnished details of a full-fledged inspection/accident prevention programme, the vital areas of which are (i) flight safety policy, (ii) permanent Investigation boards for A 300 and A 320, (iii) investigation review and follow up of findings and recommendation by flight safety sub-committee, (iv) central monitoring unit (C.M.U.) for monitoring standards, (v) random checks on cockpit voice recorders (C.V.R.s), (vi) cockpit resources management training, (vii) continuous safety audits, (viii) safety audits, (ix) audit inspection by I.C.A.O. team, etc. etc. This programme was audited by I.C.A.O. which is an internationally recognized authority, and which has found the programme to be effective. The l.C.A.O. has observed as follows :-
"The flight safety programme was reviewed by the audit team Including the Flight Recorder Operations Monitoring Programme. The system is now monitoring 100% of the data from the A 320 flights and 50% of the data from a 1300 flights- The Flight Safety Department counsel flight crew whenever exceedances are noted. The programme has had excellent success in providing feedback to flight crews to reduce exceedances of limitations and distances of unstable flight profiles. Captain Ron Nagar of the FID had conducted a follow up inspection of the other deficiencies noted during the last audit, and all findings have been fully rectified."
15. Controverting the allegation of the Petitioner that Respondent No. 4 is one of the most unsafe airlines, it is averred that an analysis of the accidents in the history of the answering Respondent shows that they have in fact a very low accident rate per million departures. In the last 5 years, the moving average is 4.53 for 441340 departures, with an average of 2 accidents. Having regard to the number of flight cycles that are operated by Respondent No. 4 and the total number of passengers carried by it, the accident rate is very low. The Petitioner has overlooked the fact that an accident may occur due to various reasons, and merely because an older aircraft is involved in an accident, It does not imply that the accident was caused due to the age and physical condition of the aircraft. Very few accidents in the history of Respondent No. 4 have been proved to be caused due to the age of the aircraft and, therefore, it is not possible to draw such a conclusion without any material to support the contention. It is further contended that it is not the case of the Petitioner that Respondent No. 4 is not following the stringent maintenance procedure, and that there is some shortcoming in the existing safety regulations for their compliance by Respondent No. 4. The plea for grounding of the aircraft is made on the general assumption that all the aircraft which are nearing their design economic life, or have crossed their design economic life either in terms of number of years, flight cycles or flying hours, are unsafe for flying. This assumption is wholly erroneous.
16. In its affidavit In reply, it has been stated on behalf of Respondent No. 5, Air India, that it has a fleet of 23 aircraft, made up of Boeing 747-200. 747-300, 747-400 and Airbus A 300, A 310 aircraft. Out of these, only 4 are over 20 years old and have thus reached their design economic life. The rest of the fleet is less than 20 years old. It has given full particulars about these aircraft, including their flight hours, flying cycles as on 15th August, 2000, from which it appears that even the 4 aircraft which have crossed the age of 20 years have not yet crossed the flight cycles and flying hours envisaged under the design economic life which is 20,000 flight cycles and 60,000 hours in the case of Boeing 747. It has further been stated that Respondent No. 5 has had 9 major crashes since its Inception and not 8 as has been mentioned in the Writ Petition. From the chart, Exhibit '2' to the affidavit in reply, it appears that the aircraft which have crashed were 2, 4, 3, 11, 22, 5, 7, 18 and 7 years old. It would thus appear that only one aircraft involved in an air crash was more than 20 years old. and at least 4 of them were only 2 to 5 years old while two were 7 years old and one was 18 years old. It also appears that the first three air crashes which took place between 3rd November, 1950 and 19th July, 1959, Involved aircraft of a make which is no longer in use by Respondent No. 5. Three of the aircraft which were involved in air crashes between January, 1966 and June. 1982 were of Boeing 707-437 model which, again, are no longer in use by Respondent No. 5. It also appears that the last air crash which involved a Boeing 747-237 B took place on 7th May, 1990. In the last 10 years, therefore, there has been no major air crash so far as Respondent No. 5 is concerned.
17. Having regard to the age of the aircraft involved in air crashes, it appears that even relatively new aircraft have met with accidents and only in one case, the aircraft Involved was 22 years old. It has, therefore, been contended that it is not correct to allege that Respondent No. 5 has been flying old aircraft causing grave risk to life and limb of the passengers, crew and public at large. According to Respondent No. 5, the Writ Petition proceeds on the footing that the design economic life of an aircraft is the life of the aircraft during which time, it can be flown safely. This presumption is incorrect. The design economic life of an aircraft is the life of an aircraft (according to the manufacturers thereof) during which time it would be economically feasible to fly the aircraft. The design economic life it merely an estimate, which the manufacturer makes at the time when the aircraft is first manufactured. After the design economic life of an aircraft is over, the aircraft may become uneconomical to fly. The repeated inspections, repairs and maintenance which the aircraft would require would, in the estimate of the manufacturer lead to the stage where it would be uneconomical to continue to fly the aircraft. In substance, the design economic life has got nothing to do with the safe life of an aircraft. What is important is that all possible measures are taken to ensure that the aircraft are in perfect flying condition, and that its employees and passengers are not put at any risk. No aircraft can undertake flights unless a certificate of airworthiness is issued by the Director General of Civil Aviation. The D.G.C.A. issues and/or renews the certificate of airworthiness only after satisfying himself that the aircraft is maintained as per the laid down regulations. In the case of an aircraft which is less than 20 years old. such a certificate is required to be renewed every year, and in the case of an aircraft which is more than 20 years old, such a certificate is required to be renewed every six months. The requirement of maintenance work is decided by the Quality Control and Technical Services Division of Air India on the basis of the maintenance planning documents furnished by the manufacturer of the aircraft and the Indian D.G.C.A. requirements. This involves transit check, base transit check, 100 hours check/75 hours check, check-A, multiple of check A i.e. 2A, 3A. 4A and 6A, check-C and check-D. The checks are carried out by such approved aircraft engineers who are holders of a licence to carry out such checks issued by the D.G.C.A., India. There are 5 categories of licences, viz., A (Airframe), C (Engines), E (Electricals). I (Instruments), and R (Radio). Transit checks are carried out on all types of aircraft at all stations other than Bombay. Only in exceptional circumstances, transit checks are carried out even in Bombay. Transit check is intended to assure continuous serviceability of a transiting aircraft. The check is planned for use at an enroute stop, which requires a check of the aircraft interior and exterior for obvious damage, leaks, proper operating equipment and security of attachment. It Is only after a transit check that the aircraft is released for further flights. The base transit' checks of all types of aircraft are carried out only at Bombay, and in exceptional circumstances, at other stations. The base transit checks involve detailed checking of the aircraft and cabin and is carried out by 2 to 5 aircraft engineers, who have between them all 5 categories of licences referred to above. While carrying out the base transit check, all the reports and observations made by the pilots and aircraft engineers are required to be attended to. Respondent No. 5 has further given details of the other checks carried out including check-A and multiple of check-A. Check C is a major check for any type of aircraft and it is required to be carried out after specified flying hours are undertaken by the aircraft. For this purpose, an aircraft is required to be grounded for a period upto 1.5 months. This schedule has tasks which call for detailed visual inspection of various system items externally/internally by having a very close look. Higher degree of certain structural inspections, zonal inspection etc., are included as also operational/functional check to ensure that wear/tear due to normal usage has not affected system performance.
18. It has further been averred that Respondent No. 5 has its own Engine Overhaul Department which has been overhauling jet engines since their induction into its fleet in the late 1950s. Engines belonging to Indian Airlines were being overhauled in the 1960s and 1970s and jet engines belonging to Middle East Airlines of Lebanon were also being overhauled during this period. After the introduction of Boeing 737 fleet, Respondent No. 5 has been overhauling these engines since the early 1970s. Over the years, the Department has overhauled engines on a number of different aircraft at its facility at Mumbai. In January, 1999, a new modern facility at Mumbai was inaugurated. In the early 1990s, additional engine overhaul support was extended to various private airlines. A three year contract was also executed for overhauling Jet engines installed on the aircraft of Kuwait Airways. In 1999. the Engine Overhaul Department of Respondent No. 5 acquired F.A.A. 145 Repair Station Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) of U.S.A. The Department also acquired JAR 145 certificate from the Joint Aviation Authority of Europe. The Department has also acquired I.S.O. 9002 certification which are international in nature and establish the repute of the Engine Overhaul Department internationally. Agreements have also been signed with two U. S. based Companies for overhaulingjet engines. In the near future, Respondent No. 5 expects other international operators to be making use of these services because they are of international quality.
19. Respondent No. 5 has stoutly denied the allegation that it is flying extremely aged aircraft, since only 4 out of 23 aircraft owned by it have crossed their design economic life, and even these 4 aircraft have exceeded their design economic life by merely a year or two. It is denied that flying an aircraft after it has exceeded the design economic life is unsafe in any manner. The Petitioner has totally misinterpreted the circular dated 28th March. 1992 issued by the D.G.C.A.. Respondent No. 5 has denied that either Airbus or Boeing Douglas have set out the safe life of their aircraft and that these manufacturers have never stipulated any time span as being the safe life of their aircraft. The age of the aircraft is not relevant to safety, but it is the manner in which the aircraft is maintained and operated that determines safety. The concept of design economic life was only meant to give an indication of the number of years it would be economical to fly the aircraft, and the figure of 20 years was an estimate. In fact, the Boeing Company has informed the D.G.C.A. that there are 14 operators of Boeing 737-200 aircraft whose fleets comprise 10 or more aircraft which are 20 years or older, the oldest being 31.9 years old. There are totally 945 Boeing 737-200 aircraft which are still operational around the world, out of which 499 are more than 20 years old. The total number of Boeing Airbus which are over 20 years old is 3668 out of a total of 5243 which are in operation. The circular of 28th March, 1992 is meant to ensure the proper maintenance and inspection of old aircraft and it does not purport to say that older aircraft are dangerous or that they should not be used. The affidavit details the various checks to which the aircraft are subjected at regular intervals.
20. It is asserted that not a single accident related to aircraft of Respondent No. 5 occurred because of the age of the aircraft. Not a single inquiry report shows that any crash has occurred because of the age of the aircraft. It has therefore, been submitted that the Writ Petition lacks merit and it is not based on true and correct facts.
21. A detailed affidavit in reply has been filed on behalf of Respondent Nos. 1, 2 and 3, affirmed by Respondent No. 3. the Director of Airworthiness. It has been denied that ageing of the aircraft is the factor for air crashes or accidents or any nature of disaster as contended by the Petitioner. It is submitted that none of the air crashes that had occurred in India so far were due to ageing of the aircraft. The age of the aircraft is immaterial as long as the aircraft is worthy to fly. There are aircraft over 30 years of age in the world which are flying safely. A chart issued by the Boeing Company has been extracted in the affidavit from which it appears that out of a total of 5243 aircraft, which are in operation, 3668 aircraft are over 20 years old, which works out to approximately 64.23%. Stringent steps are taken to maintain standards, and airworthiness certificate is never issued unless a detailed/laid down procedure for the issuance of such certificate is strictly followed to the minutest detail by duly licenced personnel of the authorised maintenance organisation as laid down in the Aircraft Rules, 1937, Aeronautical Information Circulars, Airworthiness Circulars. Manufacturer's Circulars, etc. Only after all the requisite formalities are strictly complied and after making vigorous tests, the Certificate of airworthiness is issued. Even after issuance of the certificate, repeated tests and inspections are taken at regular intervals. It is asserted that the Director General of Civil Aviation and Directorate of Airworthiness have been vested with powers to take care of the safety and security of the passengers, and thereby to protect the aviation industry. They have been enforcing the Rules and procedure made in the Aircraft Act, 1934 and the Aircraft Rules. 1937, having regard to the changed circumstances, and by looking to the technological improvement as also the guidelines given by the manufacturers. These Respondents have also contended, as has been contended by Respondent Nos. 4 and 5, that the Petitioner has clearly misunderstood the expression "design economic life". The design economic life has nothing to do with the safety of the aircraft because during the period of attaining economic life or designed goal, the engine of the aircraft may be overhauled completely and it may have been fitted with brand new spares or even brand new engines before it is 20 years old. The original landing gears that are supplied by the manufacturer along with the aircraft may have been replaced with brand new ones, and the aircraft may be equipped with the state of the art equipments like traffic alert and collision avoidance system and also like Mode "S" Transponder (M.S.T.) which are not part of the original equipment supplied along with the aircraft by the manufacturer.
22. The affidavit details the various checks which are carried out, which have also been referred in the affidavit filed on behalf of Respondent No. 5. It is stated that the Federal Aviation Administration of U.S.A. which is the paramount authority in the world in terms of regulatory control and implementation of technology and safety of aircraft, has audited the functioning of D.G.C.A., and had granted a certificate of Rating-1 which is the highest standard rate. Similarly, a team of experts from International Civil Aviation Organization audited the D.G.C.A. and were fully satisfied with the Rules and Regulations that are being followed by the D.G.C.A. in exercising regulatory control of the activities of airline operators.
23. It has been denied that the legislation governing civil aviation in India are antiquated. Though the Rules were framed in 1937 based on the Aircraft Act of 1934, these Rules have been continuously amended from time to time to conform to the modern day airworthiness and safety standards. Amendment of the Rules is a continuous process and is based on the regulations of International Civil Aviation Organisation and our own industry experience and on the suggestions of the manufacturers. This will be evident from a mere perusal of the Aircraft Manual. These Respondents have also supported Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 in submitting that the concept of design economic life only means that the aircraft was expected to give trouble-free service for specified number of years, flight hours or flying cycles. This does not mean that the aircraft suddenly becomes unsafe for operation. It simply implies that it may not be economical to operate beyond this life as it may need to be grounded for carrying out special inspections prescribed by the manufacturers which include ageing aircraft inspection, repair, modification, corrosion prevention and control programme: and supplemental structural inspection programme. The concept of design economic life is now re-defined as design service objective. Manufacturers like the Boeing Company have not specified any retirement life of the aircraft. The affidavit refers to the response of the Boeing Company to the queries made to which reference has been made earlier in this judgment. It is asserted that detailed inspection of the aircraft for the renewal of the certificate of airworthiness is carried out by a dedicated team of D.G.C.A. officers in accordance with a detailed checklist available for this purpose. The team of officers is headed by a CAW. who is assisted by a number of other senior airworthiness officers and airworthiness officers posted in the office of Director of Airworthiness of the D.G.C.A.'s regional office. In the case of ageing aircraft, special inspection and methods to identff - the areas of the aircraft prone to fatigue and environmental damage are carried out. These methods and procedures also prescribe the corrective steps required to retain the original strength of the structure. If these procedures are carried out by the operators, the structural integrity of the aircraft is maintained to the acceptable standard.
24. Referring to the Aurangabad accident, Involving Boeing 737 aircraft, it is stated that the aircraft was 19 years old, well within its design economic life. The investigation report of the accident does not attribute the cause of the accident to its age or any deterioration in its structure. It is also asserted that the conclusion drawn by the Petitioner that various air disasters are caused by reason of not adhering to airworthiness standards of aged aircraft is Incorrect and misleading as in none of the accidents, the cause of accident has been attributed to ageing of aircraft, or to the insufficient care having been taken while Issuing the certificate of airworthiness. The allegation of careless and callous issue of certificate of airworthiness is totally wrong. The Respondents have carried out their duties with utmost diligence with a view to promote air safety. Respondent Nos. 1.2 and 3 are well aware of their duties and responsibility for the safety of aircraft and the travelling public and have been taking appropriate and timely action in the performance of their statutory duties.
25. So far as ageing aircraft are concerned, It is submitted that the D.G.C.A. has already prescribed stricter safety norms for them, and In this connection, reference is made to Circular No. 3 of 1997 issued by the D.G.C.A. and the Director of Airworthiness, giving special directions for ensuring the airworthiness of ageing aircraft. The said circular, Annexure 'C' to the affidavit in reply prescribes more vigorous checks to ensure airworthiness status of ageing aircraft, and provides that the certificate of airworthiness of all commercial aircraft of over 20 years shall be renewed every six months as against 12 months for other aircraft, and the periodicity of all items of structural inspection shall be reduced by 20%. Being conversant with the problems faced by the ageing aircraft, the D.G.C.A. had Issued Advisory Circular No. 5 of 1983 to advice airlines to initiate and undertake appropriate corrective actions to prevent effects of corrosion in aircraft structure. Similarly, vide Advisory Circular No. 6 of 1983 (Continuous Airworthiness of Old Aircraft), further directives are notified for additional inspection/precautions to be carried out on older aircraft. These Circulars clearly show that the D.G.C.A. is well conversant with the problems of ageing aircraft, and has taken appropriate preventive measures. The additional steps to ensure the airworthiness of ageing fleet have obviated any incident or accident due to structural failures of such aircraft and no accident has been attributed to ageing aircraft. Financial factor and viability of maintenance in the long run is the only factor In respect of ageing aircraft as such, and, therefore, the Government of India has instructed Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 for leasing of aircraft which are not older than 12 years. In addition, manufacturers issue alert service bulletins, tests and other inspections viz., the corrosion prevention and control programme and the supplemental structural Inspection programme, which are being complied with by the airlines and compliance ensured by the D.G.C.A. The D.G.C.A. carries out regular surveillance of the airlines engineering and other facilities to ensure that they adhere to the regulations, and this is in addition to the reports submitted by the special audit teams and assistance of I.C.A.O.'s Co-operative Oversight Surveillance and Airworthiness Programme (C.O.S.C.A.P.) under which a detailed audit of the scheduled airlines such as Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 Is undertaken. It is, therefore, submitted that the criticism levelled by the Petitioner against Respondent Nos. 1, 2 and 3 is not justified inasmuch as all necessary precautions have been taken, particularly in regard to ageing aircraft to obviate any Incident or accident due to structural failures.
26. No doubt, the Respondents have challenged the locus standl of the Petitioner to maintain the instant Writ Petition, but we are satisfied that the Petitioner has filed the instant Writ Petition in public interest and a judicial scrutiny of the matter would instill a sense of confidence and trust in the mind of the travelling public, thereby sub-serving a public'lnterest. Moreover, the challenge is more to the Petitioner filing a Writ Petition before this Court, and not his locus to file a Writ Petition in public Interest. We, therefore, reject the objection urged on behalf of the Respondents as to the locus standl of the Petitioner to maintain the instant Writ Petition in public interest.
27. From the material produced before us, it appears that the Indian Airlines. Respondent No. 4, have a fleet of 55 aircraft, and out of these, 9 have crossed their design economic life, though none of the aircraft has exceeded the design economic life in terms of flight hours and flying cycles. Similarly, Air India, Respondent No. 5, has a fleet of 23 aircraft, and out of these, only 4 are over 20 years old and have thus crossed their design economic life. The rest of the aircraft are well within their design economic life. The facts, therefore, disclose that only a few aircraft owned by Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 have crossed their design economic life, and it would not be correct to contend, as contended by the Petitioner, that the aircraft fleet owned by Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 consist mostly old and aged aircraft which are not safe for flying.
28. So far as the air crashes are concerned, the Petitioner has referred to 20 air crashes which have taken place after the Indian Airlines was established. The first 12 air crashes which took place between 12th December, 1953 and 12th August, 1962 involved aircraft which are no longer in use by the Indian Airlines. The fleet owned by the Indian Airlines consists of aircraft manufactured by Boeing and Airbus. The first air crash involving Boeing 737 aircraft took place on 31st May, 1973. The two air crashes which took place on 13th October, 1976 and 4th August, 1979 involved Caravalle and Hindustan 748 aircraft. It is not very clear as to what were the age of the aircraft which were involved in these air crashes, but it is asserted by the Respondents that none of the air crashes were attributed to the ageing of the aircraft by the Reports of Enquiry submitted in relation to such air crashes. However, in the case of Air India, we have the necessary particulars, and we shall, therefore, examine the material placed before us to ascertain whether the age of the aircraft is a factor which has contributed to air crashes.
29. It is admitted by Respondent No. 5. Air India, that it has had 9 major air crashes since its inception. Necessary particulars have been furnished in Exhibit '2' to the affidavit in reply from which it appears that out of the nine aircraft which have crashed, only one was 22 years old and had crossed its design economic life. One other aircraft involved in an air crash was 18 years old. What is, however, revealing is the fact that the remaining aircraft were only 2 to 11 years old. These statistics would indicate that the 9 air crashes suffered by Air India were not on account of the ageing aircraft deployed by it. but for other reasons. Apart from the aircraft which were 22 and 18 years old, the remaining were 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 11 years old. It has. of course, been asserted on behalf of Respondent No. 5 that the Reports of Enquiry relating to these air crashes did not attribute ageing of the aircraft as cause for the air crashes. So far as Air India is concerned, the last accident took place on 7th May, 1990 and, therefore, in the last 10 years. Air India has a clean record as there has been no major air crash. Respondent Nos. 1, 2 and 3 have categorically denied that ageing of the aircraft has been a factor for air crashes or accidents. None of the air crashes that have occurred in India so far were due to ageing of the aircraft.
30. It cannot be disputed that an accident may occur for various reasons, age of the aircraft may be one of them. There is. however, a categoric assertion by the Respondents that none of the air crashes involving aircraft belonging to Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 took place on account of the ageing of the aircraft as is evident from the Enquiry Reports submitted in respect of the air crashes in question. Those accidents occurred for other reasons. On the data provided by the Air India, Respondent No. 5, it also appears that even aircraft which were 2 to 5 years old were involved in air crashes and obviously, the age factor in such cases could not have been the cause for the accidents. On the other hand, only one aircraft belonging to Respondent No. 5 crashed which was more than 20 years old, but in that case also, according to the Respondents, the ageing of the aircraft was not a factor which contributed to the air crash. In the instant Writ Petition, the Petitioner has primarily contended that having regard to the design economic life of an aircraft. Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 should not be permitted to fly aircraft which are more than 20 years old, and it is further contended that on account of such old aircraft being flown by Respondent Nos. 4 and 5, major air crashes have taken place. As we have earlier noticed, the facts on record do not justify this assertion, and we are inclined to take a view that though air crashes have occurred, they may have occurred on account of other factors, including human error. The Petitioner is. therefore, not right in asserting that air crashes have taken place on account of old aircraft being flown by Respondent Nos. 4 and 5.
31. We shall now examine whether Respondent Nos. 4 and 5 should be permitted to fly aircraft which are more than 20 years old or which have crossed their design economic life. It is strongly contended by Respondents that the design economic life has no relationship with the airworthiness of the aircraft as it is not tantamount to safe life of an aircraft. The airworthiness of an aircraft is dependent upon its proper maintenance rather than its age. Even a relatively new aircraft requires regular maintenance and must be subjected to the rigorous tests to which old and aged aircraft are subjected. In case of older aircraft, the tests are even more rigorous and more frequent as compared to newer aircraft. The Petitioner has laid considerable emphasis on the circular issued by the Government of India, Civil Aviation Department, on 20th March, 1992. The Circular relates to airworthiness of ageing aircraft. Paragraph 1 of the Circular is as follows: --
"1. PURPOSE
Aircraft Rules 50 and 50(a] read together lay down the condition for issue of Certificate of Airworthiness to an aircraft and also its continued validity. To this effect operators have to maintain their aircraft to prescribed/approved maintenance schedules wherein graded inspections are to be carried out on hourly basis/calendar period basis. The maintenance programmes have been prescribed taking into account the normal utilisation of aircraft and also considering the fact that aircraft will be operated to the designed economic life. The maintenance schedules are considered adequate for this purpose and all operations of aircraft, including transport aircraft, are currently following the same. However, when the aircraft reach nearly their designed economic life, number of associated problems due to age creep in because of fatigue, environmental corrosion and accidental damage experienced during the service. These damages, if not properly detected and repaired in time, can cause catastrophe and methods must be prescribed to identify the areas, which are prone to fatigue, environmental and accidental damage, pay special attention to these areas by detailed inspection and directed inspections and carry out necessary inspections and repair in time before it becomes catastrophic. All these conditions have been prescribed in a document called Supplemental Structural Inspection Document (S.S.I.D.). It has become necessary that additional set of inspections should be prescribed for such aircraft which are now operating beyond their designed economic life to supplement the main inspection programme. This additional Inspection is termed as Supplemental Structural Inspection Programme. This part of the C.A.R. is applicable to ageing aircraft and will detail the procedure which will be followed for complying with the normal maintenance programme and supplemental Inspection programme to ensure the continued airworthiness of ageing aircraft."
Paragraph 2 defines the various types of damage that an aircraft may suffer and ageing aircraft has been defined as follows :-
"(iv) Ageing aircraft - Aircraft which have completed design economic life will be classified as Ageing Aircraft."
Design economic life has been defined as under :-
"(v) Design Economic Life - Most of the transport category aircraft are designed keeping in view Its expected utilisation, economic maintenance for a trouble free operation during the period. The design substantiation document etc., are also produced and tests have been carried out to confirm that life. Generally, this is known as design economic life and maintenance of aircraft In airworthy condition beyond this is definitely possible which will require much greater attention and care and not economical for an airline to operate in service. A chart giving the design economy life of the various transport aircraft particularly manufactured by the Boeing Aircraft Company is given In Appendix I."
32. Counsel for the Petitioner submitted that the design economic life of an aircraft is its safe flying life, and therefore, no aircraft which has crossed its design economic life should be permitted to fly. On the other hand, the Respondents contend that the Petitioner has completely misinterpreted the term "design economic life". In fact, a mere perusal of the Circular dated 20th March, 1992 would itself disclose that design economic life is not tantamount to the safe flying life of an aircraft. In fact, ageing aircraft which have completed design economic life may be flown safely subject to proper maintenance and care. It would appear from the Circular itself that even after an aircraft has crossed its design economic life, maintenance of such aircraft in airworthy condition Is definitely possible but it requires much greater attention and care. It may be that such an aircraft may not be economical for the airline to operate in service but, if properly maintained in good airworthy condition, it does not become unsafe merely because of its age. When aircraft reach their design economic life. number of associated problems may arise because of the damage caused due to environmental factors, and supplemental damage, but these must be properly attended to, and special attention has to be given to the areas which are prone to fatigue damage and environmental damage.
33. We find substance in the submission urged on behalf of the Respondents. In our view, the assumption made by the Petitioner, viz., that the design economic life is tantamount to safe life of an aircraft, is not correct. Apart from the Circular of 20th March, 1992, there is also material on record to substantiate the plea of the Respondents that an aircraft which has crossed its design economic life can still be flown safely without posing any danger to the safety of the passengers and the aircraft. The design service objective provided by the manufacturers of aircraft is the operational life goal used for design of the primary structure of the aircraft. The flight hours and the flying cycle values are established by the manufacturers which represent the length of the economic usage at the time of design. An aircraft can be used even beyond the design economic objective, and this is further confirmed by the manufacturers of the aircraft such as Boeing which have clearly held the view that airplanes manufactured by it could be flown past their design service objective if they are properly inspected, maintained and modified in accordance with the manufacturer's specific instructions and the Industry's Ageing Airplane Programme. In this connection, one may usefully refer to the response of Boeing to a query raised by Alliance Airlines, dated 25th July, 2000, which is Annexure 1 to the affidavit in reply of Respondent No. 4. In response to one of the queries, Boeing has responded by saying that the economic design life is the same as design service objective, that is, the operational life goal used for design of primary structure. Flight hours and flight cycle values represent the expected length of the economic usage at the time of design. These values serve as a fatigue design goal. Boeing airplanes can be flown past their design service objective if they are properly inspected and maintained, and there is no age, flight hours or flight cycle limit after which Model 737-200 airplanes should be grounded. The response of Boeing also discloses that there are 12 operators all over the world with fleets that include 10 or more 737-200 airplanes which are 20 years old or older, and there are 117 operators with less than 10 such airplanes, the oldest such airplane being 31.9 years old. In the affidavit in reply filed on behalf of Respondent Nos. 1, 2 and 3, reference is made to a chart issued by the Boeing Company from which it appears that out of a total of 5243 aircraft which are in operation, 3668 aircraft are over 20 years old.
34. There is, therefore, material on record to substantiate the plea of the Respondents that the design economic life of aircraft has nothing to do with the safety of the aircraft because during the period of attaining design economic life, the aircraft may have been subjected to large number of inspections and many of its parts may have been replaced with brand new spares, the engines of the aircraft may have been overhauled, its landing gears may have been replaced with brand new ones, and the aircraft may have been equipped with state of the art equipment with which it was not equipped when it as originally manufactured by the manufacturer. The design economic life of an aircraft is only an estimate made by its manufacturers of the period during which It would be economically feasible to fly the aircraft. Economic life of an aircraft is not the same as the safe life of an aircraft. In fact, the manufacturers have not specified any age for the grounding of aircraft. After an aircraft crosses its design economic life, it may be that the operator may find it uneconomical to fly such aircraft because such aircraft may require repeated Inspections, repairs and maintenance, involving huge costs, replacement of parts, etc. These may lead to a stage when it would be uneconomical to continue to fly the aircraft. The technological advancements may also contribute to flying of such aircraft becoming uneconomical In a competitive market. The modern technology may provide for more fuel efficient engines so that flying costs may be reduced. In a competitive sector, it may not be possible to compete with competitors who have new aircraft with improved technology and fuel efficient engines. In such circumstances, the design economic life of an aircraft may come to an end after the specified number of years in the sense that it may not be economically wise or feasible to continue to operate such aircraft. This, however, has nothing to do with the safety of the aircraft because the aircraft may still be flown safely but at a huge cost which an operator may not be able to bear in a competitive sector. From the point of view of earning profits, it may be wise to replace these aircraft with those which have the advantage of latest technology, but for this reason, it cannot be said that the older aircraft are unsafe, provided they are properly maintained. The proper maintenance of an aircraft to ensure that it is always in perfect flying condition is a necessity, both for new and old aircraft. While it may be economical to fly newer aircraft with modern technology as the flying cost is less as compared to older aircraft, having regard to the amount needed for maintenance and replacement of spares etc., the safety of the passengers is not jeopardized, if a properly maintained aircraft which has crossed its design economic life is flown by the airlines. In the case of ageing aircraft, more care has to be taken, and for this, appropriate directions are issued by the aviation authorities. The concept of design economic life, therefore, must be understood as the life of an aircraft during which it is economical to fly the aircraft, and must not be confused with the safe flying life of an aircraft.
35. We have, therefore, reached the conclusion that the mere fact that an aircraft has crossed its design economic life does not make it unsafe for flying, though it may adversely affect the profit-earning capacity of the operator on account of its high cost of flying in view of the heavy cost of maintenance, repairs and replacement of parts. However, if such an aircraft is properly maintained in accordance with the instructions of the manufacturers, and the directions issued from time to time by the aviation authorities, such aircraft can be flown for many years after it has crossed its design economic life.
36. Apart from a bald allegation that the civil aviation authorities have been issuing certificates of airworthiness in a mechanical manner even in respect of ageing aircraft, there is no material on record to substantiate this allegation. On the contrary, the Respondents have disclosed material to satisfy this Court that proper steps are taken to maintain the aircraft in perfect airworthy condition, and for the purposes of carrying out tests and inspections, proper infrastructure exists in this country, and the relevant rules and regulations are vigorously enforced. We have advisedly referred in detail to the stand of the Respondents earlier in this judgment, and it is not necessary for us, at this stage, to enumerate the facilities available in India and the circulars issued from time to time to ensure compliance with the statutory and other requirements. There is no dearth of duly qualified technical personnel in this country to maintain aircraft in good airworthy condition. The affidavits filed on behalf of the Respondents further disclose that proper facilities are available for overhauling of the engines in particular, and also for the maintenance of aircraft of the manufacturers which are presently in use. In the case of ageing aircraft, special instructions are issued from time to time, and the validity of the certificate of airworthiness in such cases is reduced to six months as against 12 months for other commercial aircraft.
37. Having regard to the associated problems which arise due to ageing of an aircraft because of fatigue damage, environmental damage, corrosion and accidental damage experienced during the service, special directions have been issued by the aviation authorities from time to time, and much greater attention and care is being taken to operate such aircraft. The infrastructure which is available in this country has gained international repute, and it appears that even some of the foreign airlines utilise the facilities available in this country for overhauling of engines, etc. The Federal Aviation Administration of U.S.A. has audited the functioning of D.G.C.A. and has granted a certificate of Rating 1 which is the highest standard rating. Similarly, experts from International Civil Aviation Organisation who audited the D.G.C.A. were fully satisfied with the rules and regulations that are being followed by the D.G.C.A. in exercising regulatory control of the activities of airline operators. There is, therefore, good material on record to satisfy us that proper technical infrastructure is available in this country for the maintenance of ageing aircraft, and in the performance of its statutory obligations, the Director General of Civil Aviation has been diligent and has maintained a high standard as certified by the International Civil Aviation Organisations.. The Aircraft Rules are being amended from time to time which is a continuous process and is based on the regulations of International Civil Aviation Organisation, the industry's experience, and on the suggestions of the manufacturers. These are incorporated in the Aircraft Manual. Special inspections have been prescribed for ageing aircraft which include ageing aircraft inspection, repair, modification, corrosion prevention and control Programme: and supplemental structural inspection programme. If due care is taken to maintain the aircraft in good airworthy condition, there is no reason to suspect that merely because an aircraft has crossed its design economic life, it has become unsafe for flying. The concept of design economic life is now re-defined as design service objective. The manufacturers of aircraft have not specified any retirement life of aircraft. Design economic life or design service objective only means that the aircraft is expected to give trouble-free service for specified number of years, flight hours or flight cycles, but it does not mean that it suddenly becomes unsafe for operation, if it crosses the design economic life. The methods and procedures prescribe the corrective steps which are required to be taken to retain the original strength of the structure of an aircraft and if these procedures are carried out, the structural strength of the aircraft is maintained to th
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HAWK21M
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 25, 2007 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are Maintenance Programmes for Aircraft Flying Beyond their Design economic life.If carried out They can Fly on as Good as New Airframes.
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