By Feb. 7, all operators or U.S. registered Boeing 767-200 and -300 aircraft must have replaced the aft pressure bulkhead with a “new, improved” aft pressure bulkhead, according to the FAA’s airworthiness directive (AD). The design approval holder (DAH) found that the aft pressure bulkhead was subject to widespread fatigue damage (WFD) and the AD will “prevent fatigue cracking in the radial web lap splices of the aft pressure bulkhead.”
The FAA estimates the replacement will cost $130,985 in labor and $646,889 in parts per aircraft. With an estimated 86 airplanes affected, the agency predicts the cost for U.S. operators to be $66,897,164. The additional “on-condition investigative and corrective actions” estimated costs were not included in the AD due to lack of definitive data.
In 2009, the FAA adopted an AD that required detailed inspections to the aft pressure bulkhead, which affected an estimated 84 aircraft at $2,480 per aircraft, per inspection cycle.
The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was released on Feb. 22, 2016, and was supported by Boeing and United Airlines. Aviation Partners Boeing stated during the proposal that the supplemental type certificate (STC) ST01920SE did not affect compliance with the NPRM. In agreement, the FAA added this statement to the AD.
A Boeing Alert Service Bulletin was released on Aug. 4, 2016, describing the correct procedures for replacing the aft pressure bulkhead and detailing investigative and corrective actions, which are also required by the AD.
In the replacement, related investigative and corrective actions, the FAA states that the AD compliance must be completed “before the accumulation of 60,000 total flight cycles or within 36 months after the effective date of the AD, whichever occurs later, but not earlier than 37,500 total accumulated flight cycles.”
You can see an aft pressure bulkhead time-lapse replacement on an ABX Air Boeing 767-200 freighter by Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services, dated 2013. The Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) subsidiary recently announced the acquisition of Pemco World Air Services, which provides heavy maintenance services for the 767. In 2016, ATSG signed a five-year contract with Amazon to “wet lease 20 767 freighters.”
The FAA has also released a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) on Jan. 4 that recommends operators of Boeing 737-200, -200C, -300, -400 and -500 models follow the ultrasonic phased-array methodology for inspecting cracking in the fuselage skin panels at the chem-mill steps.
The inspection procedure can be found in Boeing’s 737 non-destructive testing (NDT) Manual Part 4, Section 53-30-07, released in November 2016.