US Federal Aviation Administration recommend 737 design change

The US Federal Aviation Administration has announced that it will propose a long-term redesign of the Boeing 737 rudder system and undertake several short-term initiatives designed to enhance rudder safety on all Boeing 737 models.

‘Today’s Boeing 737 rudder system complies fully with all current regulations, but we think it can be improved and made more reliable,’ said FAA Administrator Jane F Garvey. ‘The changes we are going to propose will make an aircraft with an excellent safety record even safer.’

The FAA say the redesign would increase the overall safety of the 737 by simplifying the rudder system and eliminating a range of both previously known and recently discovered failure possibilities. The redesign will, according to the FAA, make it unnecessary to have rudder procedures and training requirements that are unique to the 737.

The FAA’s actions follow a yearlong, top-to-bottom analysis of the Boeing 737 rudder system by the 737 Flight Control Engineering Test and Evaluation Board. The ETEB consisted of 22 impartial experts from government and industry.

The ETEB studied possible ways the 737 rudder system could malfunction, however remote such failures might be. The team confirmed their analysis through component tests, integrated systems evaluations and flight tests with an actual Boeing 737 on loan from Purdue University.

The FAA previously ordered several other design changes that have increased the safety level of the 737 rudder system. All U.S. registered 737s now have improved rudder power control units, a more reliable yaw damper mechanism and a hydraulic pressure reducer that is said to help pilots maintain control if the rudder makes unintended movements.

Carolyn Corvi, vice president and general manager of the 737 program said: ‘The 737 family has been, and continues to be, among the safest of all jetliners; in fact its safety record is twice as good as the average for the world’s commercial jet fleet.’

The FAA anticipates that it could mandate any needed changes to 737 rudder maintenance by early next year.

The recall involves 1,500 737s in the United States, and about 2,000 foreign 737s will probably be repaired. The repairs will be done as part of routine maintenance on the 737.