Over their lifetime, aircraft fleets endure and operate in severe environments. Often in harsher environments than they were originally designed for. With lifespans of approximately 27 years for a Boeing 747 and 35 years for a 737, you can see why there is a requirement for military and commercial aircraft fleets to be well-maintained to remain operational and airworthy. aircraft in sky

Thus, to ensure the life of an aircraft, it is essential to carry out regular inspections to

  • Identify the critical structures that are prone to wear and failure.
  • Keep electronics, avionics, and weapon systems up to date.
  • Prepare for instances in which the components are no longer available.

In some cases, there will be a requirement to utilise an aircraft beyond its design life. In this article, we look at a few steps you can implement to help extend the life of your aircraft.


Essential practices to extend the life span of an aircraft


1.      Regular inspection and maintenance

The first step towards extending an aircraft’s lifespan is to schedule regular inspections and maintenance to identify and repair any damage, as well as wear and tear.

Areas that require regular inspections and maintenance include:

  • Engine: this is a critical component of an aircraft. Regular inspections are required to ensure it is properly functioning, while ongoing maintenance involves oil changes, filter replacements, and overall engine health checks.
  • Airframe: in other words, the overall body of the plane, which includes the wings, fuselage, and tail. By regularly inspecting these areas of the aircraft, you can pick up on any early signs of wear and tear and damages.
  • Avionics: communication, navigation, and control systems all require regular checks to ensure they are functioning. Avionics also require upgrading from time to time to ensure efficiency and safety.
  • Landing gear: Like some other parts of the aircraft, the landing gear is prone to wear and tear. Thus, regularly checking for early signs of damage and fixing things in time will not only prolong the life of the aircraft but also ensure the safety of passengers and crew members.


2.      Measurements and monitoring

Aging aircraft can be prone to structural problems such as material fatigue caused by stresses during take-off and landing – leading to cracks.

By constantly monitoring essential components of the aircraft structure, you can determine where possible material fatigue and cracks will occur and how fast. For instance, this can involve using various data monitoring systems to identify issues through various flight manoeuvres. By staying on top of this – you can maximise aircraft safety and reduce maintenance costs.

In time, you may transition your older fleet to carry out less demanding tasks and prolong their lifespan.


3.      Upgrade and modernise

From upgrading the aircraft’s GPS system to the engines, cockpit display, and structural components, to meet today’s requirements, upgrading can help improve the performance and reliability of the aircraft.

While replacing and modernising systems can be a challenge for the military, keeping an eye on parts your aircraft may need help to avoid the uncertainty of unavailability should the manufacturer or supplier shut down (if you rely on commercial off-the-shelf technologies).


4.      Keeping the aircraft clean

While you might wonder what cleanliness has to do with the longevity of the aircraft – it certainly plays a critical role. How? Over time, the accumulation of dirt, grime, and debris can lead to damage and corrosion of the aircraft.


5.      Adhering to guidelines

Whether it be ensuring pilots and crew are knowledgeable and familiar with the aircraft and its limitations or it’s sticking to the manufacturer’s guidelines for inspections and maintenance – following guidelines are essential to the lifespan of an aircraft.


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