Will the FAA’s requirement for repetitive 757 inspections improve the conversion feedstock situation?

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The US Federal Aviation Administration published an Airworthiness Directive requiring repetitive inspections for cracking of certain areas of the fuselage skin in all 757-200/-300 aircraft operated in the US. The AD, which becomes effective 25 January 2011, follows two incidents in which cracks of 10-to-18 inches (25-to-45 cm), were found in the crown skin of 757 aircraft. One of these incidents resulted in decompression of the aircraft. The FAA action was imposed without any comment period, and is unusual in the frequency of the inspections required – as low as every thirty cycles if performed by eye, and no more than every 300 cycles if performed as a sliding probe eddy current inspection. While the cost of the inspection is relatively insignificant, its impact remains to be seen. There is currently a severe shortage of feedstock available for 757-200 passenger-to-freighter conversions, and if this new AD pushes the big combination carriers to speed the retirement of their 757 fleets, it will be good news for the all-cargo community. The full text of the AD is available at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FAA-2010-1280-0001.

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