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."
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.