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Airline Report Urges Massive Repair Program

A GROUP of aviation-industry and government-safety experts recommended Tuesday $800 million worth of mandatory work on older airliners to ensure safety of the nation's aging airliner fleet. If adopted by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the unprecedented program would affect more than 1,300 early Boeing 747, 737, and 727 models at a cost of more than $600,000 each.

That the report was released so soon after the recent United Airlines accident is merely coincidental.

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Clyde Kizer, an Air Transport Association vice-president, said none of the recommended work, which would involve planes flown by foreign carriers as well as US airlines, was considered urgent.

Representatives of Delta and United said much of the work had already been done on their airliners, and they anticipated no immediate large expenses.

Some other major airlines also have made many of the changes recommended by the task force.

``Widescale modification or replacement of structural material, fittings, and skin are being recommended on the basis of service experience,'' said a final draft of the report, which follows nine months of meetings and examination of more than 700 service bulletins issued by Boeing.

The recommendations adopt 150 of the bulletins and consolidate them into one massive service bulletin to be issued by Boeing and presented to the FAA for possible adoption as an airworthiness directive.

The difference between a manufacturer's bulletin and an FAA airworthiness directive is that FAA orders are mandatory.

Airliner operators will be given varying times to accomplish the changes, based on the amount of service an aircraft has had.

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Other groups from the task force are looking at service recommendations affecting McDonnell Douglas DC-9s, DC-8s, and DC-10s and airliners manufactured abroad to see what modifications will be needed to maintain their safety.

Results of their work are expected before the end of the year.

The average age of the nearly 3,000 US airliners is about 13 years, with about half the planes in many major airlines' fleets well over 15 years old, according to Avmark, an appraisal and consulting firm.

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