You might think that these days a desk-top computer is as common in a maintenance hangar as a set of wrenches, but it’s not so.
There are still some licensed aircraft mechanics who don’t utilize cyberspace. That can make it difficult to find out about Airworthiness Directives that affect the aircraft they are working on.
Burdon L. Davidson, a retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel from Garland, Texas, says he found this out the hard way when it came time to do the annual inspection on his Cessna 172.
The 87-year-old Davidson still flies his 1973 Cessna, as well as a two-place biplane known as a Marquart Charger MA-5. In addition to being a pilot, he holds an Airframe and Powerplant ticket that allows him to perform his own maintenance as long as an Airframe Inspector signs off on the work.
According to Davidson, during the Cessna’s last annual, the IA found ADs that he’d never heard about.
“I don’t have a computer so there were things I missed,” he says. “The FAA doesn’t tell you about them. They just leave you twisting in the wind.”
The FAA used to mail the ADs and the Special Airworthiness Information Bulletins (SAIB).
“Now they do it by computer,” he says. “I know they stopped mailing them out to save money, but it is a step backward. The whole purpose of the ADs and SAIBs was to prevent accidents, to fix something before it breaks and can cause an accident. Now if you don’t have a computer you don’t know that there is something that needs fixing. If you don’t know it is out there, how are you going to comply with it?”
Davidson sent a letter to the FAA in Oklahoma City about the issue. “I figured I’d go right to the top,” he said. “But it’s been two months and I never got a response.”
He sent a copy of his letter to General Aviation News. It reads: “Dear Sirs or Madam: Reference is made to your recent postcard about ADs and SAIBs and your replacement of mail copies of ADs. How am I supposed to receive this information if I do not have a computer? How did you come to the conclusion or assumption that EVERYONE has one or if an aircraft owner does not have one then he or she is automatically in violation of non-compliance of an AD that he or she did not receive? You are paid to service aircraft owners with safety information, not to decide how we are to receive it. I have been flying for 65 years and have flown every kind of USAF airplane and civil airplanes and hold seven FAA certificates. But I don’t own a computer, have cable TV or a cell phone and the U.S. government has not ordered me to own or purchase these items or services.”
What makes it even more frustrating, he says, is that he spent most of his life as a safety inspector with the Air Force. “My job was preventing accidents,” he says.
The decision to switch from snail mail to email was done to facilitate reaching the masses, notes Ian Gregor, communications manager for the FAA Western-Pacific Region. “The Internet allows us to disseminate information to the widest possible audience, and allows people to quickly and easily access important aviation-related information. At the same time, people who don’t have personal computers still can access this information, either by using computers at their local libraries, having a friend with a computer look it up for them or, in some cases, perusing publications that are available at public libraries.”
Gregor added that he is investigating to determine why Davidson’s letter went unanswered.
For more information: FAA.gov