sho69607
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Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Thu Aug 02, 2018 3:13 am

Lets say money was no factor here, could an aircraft (say an MD80 or something similar) be continuously maintained to fly past its designated life cycles? Or would it get to the point where no amount of maintenance could keep a plane flying? wear/tear to the aircraft skin, engine parts becoming unavailable, etc.
 
IPFreely
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Thu Aug 02, 2018 3:55 am

Suppose you buy a shovel and use it for twenty years. Then the handle breaks so you replace it and use it for another twenty years. Then the blade breaks so you replace it and use it for another twenty years. Have you really used the same shovel for sixty years?

Same question for the airplane. As you start rebuilding or replacing parts on the airplane, when do you stop defining it as the same airplane vs. a reproduction?
 
Woodreau
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Thu Aug 02, 2018 5:18 am

Well those B-52Hs are still in service, the newest one was built in 1963 and the oldest one was built in 1961.

So the newest B-52H is 55 years old.

The Air Force intends to keep the B-52 in service until at least 2045-2050 timeframe, so by the time the last one is retired it will be 82-89 years old.
Bonus animus sit, ab experientia. Quod salvatum fuerit de malis usu venit judicium.
 
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afterburner
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Thu Aug 02, 2018 5:44 am

Woodreau wrote:
Well those B-52Hs are still in service, the newest one was built in 1963 and the oldest one was built in 1961.

So the newest B-52H is 55 years old.

The Air Force intends to keep the B-52 in service until at least 2045-2050 timeframe, so by the time the last one is retired it will be 82-89 years old.

Military aircraft have much less flight hours and cycles than commercial ones. In addition, they are designed to be strong and robust, not to be efficient like the commercial ones.
 
stratclub
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Thu Aug 02, 2018 6:43 am

Yes you could. As an airplane gets older, the maintenance cost and and fuel costs just keeps getting more and more expensive to keep them airworthy so replacing them at some point is cheaper than doing what it costs to keep the older airplanes flying.
https://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/ne ... ntKey=4027

Even the B-52 is effected by age, but because the utilization of these aircraft is low and the Air Force maintenance and upgrades are top notch, they can put off the 1 way trip to the crusher the Air Force is saying beyond 2050. Also a major factor is there are hundreds of B52's in storage with some (365?) being capable of eventual return to service and the non return to service aircraft have parts that are viable for use on the current fleet after required maintenance has been performed .

To put it in perspective, 800 something B52's have been built, while the current operational fleet size is well under 100 aircraft.
 
mxaxai
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Thu Aug 02, 2018 10:03 am

sho69607 wrote:
Lets say money was no factor here, could an aircraft (say an MD80 or something similar) be continuously maintained to fly past its designated life cycles? Or would it get to the point where no amount of maintenance could keep a plane flying? wear/tear to the aircraft skin, engine parts becoming unavailable, etc.

Every single part of an aircraft can be replaced, in principle. Thus, as long as you have the knowledge how to create those materials, how to machine the parts and how to assemble them, you can keep the aircraft airworthy.
However, every single part ages and will* fail after a given time in use. Thus, every single part must be replaced sooner or later.

Excellent examples are the DC-3's, DC-7's, Super Connies etc. that are still in use but need more care than modern aircraft. Lufthansa's restoration of a L-1649 cost them as much as a new built 787 and it still isn't finished.

*For certain materials under certain loads, fatigue only reduces the strength so much and they eventually reach a bottom level of strength that they keep basically forever. The majority of aircraft parts, e. g. everything made of aluminum, is not designed for such a case, however, and needs replacement after the specified lifetime.
 
RetiredWeasel
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Thu Aug 02, 2018 3:48 pm

stratclub wrote:
Also a major factor is there are hundreds of B52's in storage with some (365?) being capable of eventual return to service and the non return to service aircraft have parts that are viable for use on the current fleet after required maintenance has been performed .

To put it in perspective, 800 something B52's have been built, while the current operational fleet size is well under 100 aircraft.


Latest AMARG inventory lists only 100 or so in the boneyard and you can verify that with Google aerial views. Not even sure if those are all H models which would be the only ones returned to service. Most others have been chopped up to comply with SALT requirements.
 
mmo
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Thu Aug 02, 2018 5:23 pm

95 G models which have been in the boneyard since 1992 and 13 H models of which one is not flyable. The H models were parked in 08 and 09.
If we weren't all crazy we'd all go insane!
 
RetiredWeasel
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Thu Aug 02, 2018 9:38 pm

:checkmark:
mmo wrote:
95 G models which have been in the boneyard since 1992 and 13 H models of which one is not flyable. The H models were parked in 08 and 09.
 
IPFreely
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Fri Aug 03, 2018 3:57 am

mxaxai wrote:
Every single part of an aircraft can be replaced, in principle.


Which, of course, begs the question: if you replace every single part of an aircraft, are you really flying the original aircraft?
 
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TWA772LR
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Fri Aug 03, 2018 6:06 am

IPFreely wrote:
mxaxai wrote:
Every single part of an aircraft can be replaced, in principle.


Which, of course, begs the question: if you replace every single part of an aircraft, are you really flying the original aircraft?

You cant replace the fuselage.

I think of it like an old car. You can buy a new engine, transmission, etc. But you cant buy a new frame and base, and then you can drive that same car for decades.
When wasn't America great?


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stratclub
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Fri Aug 03, 2018 6:30 am

IPFreely wrote:
mxaxai wrote:
Every single part of an aircraft can be replaced, in principle.


Which, of course, begs the question: if you replace every single part of an aircraft, are you really flying the original aircraft?

That"s in theory. Think of an aircraft as a bunch of parts. Some parts will wear out and be overhauled, some parts will get damaged and have to be repaired or replaced.and many of the parts on an aircraft will never wear out. So no, in practice, you would not actually replace every single part on an aircraft.
 
stratclub
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Fri Aug 03, 2018 7:04 am

RetiredWeasel wrote:
stratclub wrote:
Also a major factor is there are hundreds of B52's in storage with some (365?) being capable of eventual return to service and the non return to service aircraft have parts that are viable for use on the current fleet after required maintenance has been performed .

To put it in perspective, 800 something B52's have been built, while the current operational fleet size is well under 100 aircraft.


Latest AMARG inventory lists only 100 or so in the boneyard and you can verify that with Google aerial views. Not even sure if those are all H models which would be the only ones returned to service. Most others have been chopped up to comply with SALT requirements.

The operational fleet as best as I can figure out is 76 aircraft. Verifiable numbers are pretty hard to find.
    The aircraft that were destroyed had a crap ton of parts that the Air Force Most likely salvaged.
    Just because they destroyed the airframe, does not mean that they destroyed the salvageable parts from those airframes.
    There is a lot of commonality between the G and the H models which means the G models could be modded into H models easily.
    The earlier models have a lot of commonality with the G and H models as well.
    There were a total of 744 B52's manufactured.
Given all of that, the Air Force probably has enough overhaul-able parts and airframes to keep Buff flying for another 500 years at the current fleet size and utilization.
 
battlegroup62
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Fri Aug 03, 2018 10:39 am

Every single part of an aircraft can be replaced, in principle.


There no principle about it. It has been done with enough time.

Which, of course, begs the question: if you replace every single part of an aircraft, are you really flying the original aircraft?


Yes its the same because the if the data plate is still there.

You cant replace the fuselage.


Maybe not as an assembly, but you can order all the stringers, frames, and skins separately and change it piece by piece. I've worked on an entire nose change job from the radome to the pax door just cut the old one off and stick the new one on.

I think of it like an old car. You can buy a new engine, transmission, etc. But you cant buy a new frame and base, and then you can drive that same car for decades.


Maybe not a new frame, but you can pull the body off a car whats stopping you from putting on an different frame.
We have to keep planes airworthy. That doesn't mean they have to fly.
 
mxaxai
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Fri Aug 03, 2018 11:48 am

battlegroup62 wrote:
Every single part of an aircraft can be replaced, in principle.


There no principle about it. It has been done with enough time.

Well, yes, it's just a lot of work, and I believe that it hasn't ever been done. Even in an extensive restoration, think Lufthansa FW-200, you would reuse some parts. There are some vintage planes without any original parts but these are usually considered replicas.
 
kalvado
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Fri Aug 03, 2018 1:13 pm

battlegroup62 wrote:
Every single part of an aircraft can be replaced, in principle.


There no principle about it. It has been done with enough time.

Which, of course, begs the question: if you replace every single part of an aircraft, are you really flying the original aircraft?


Yes its the same because the if the data plate is still there.

You cant replace the fuselage.


Maybe not as an assembly, but you can order all the stringers, frames, and skins separately and change it piece by piece. I've worked on an entire nose change job from the radome to the pax door just cut the old one off and stick the new one on.

I think of it like an old car. You can buy a new engine, transmission, etc. But you cant buy a new frame and base, and then you can drive that same car for decades.


Maybe not a new frame, but you can pull the body off a car whats stopping you from putting on an different frame.

I believe legally there are some "core" parts of the car frame, which cannot be replaced for the car still to be considered same car. Similarly, in US law firearm's receiver is the legal firearm - everything else may be replaced or sold separately, but receiver is the controlled part.
I doubt there is similar regulations for planes, but I suspect some load bearing parts between wing and fuselage are the core parts which may be counted as "the airplane" as their replacement may require breaking plane into pieces.
 
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flyingturtle
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Fri Aug 03, 2018 8:03 pm

mxaxai wrote:
Well, yes, it's just a lot of work, and I believe that it hasn't ever been done. Even in an extensive restoration, think Lufthansa FW-200, you would reuse some parts. There are some vintage planes without any original parts but these are usually considered replicas.


This question came up with the German Me 262 fighter jets. Is it a replica if it built to the same specifications? I think so - even when the engine is a rather "modern" General Electric CJ610 (known from the Learjets 23, 24, ..., 29), albeit derated to produce the same thrust as the original.


David
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mxaxai
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Fri Aug 03, 2018 8:49 pm

flyingturtle wrote:
mxaxai wrote:
Well, yes, it's just a lot of work, and I believe that it hasn't ever been done. Even in an extensive restoration, think Lufthansa FW-200, you would reuse some parts. There are some vintage planes without any original parts but these are usually considered replicas.


This question came up with the German Me 262 fighter jets. Is it a replica if it built to the same specifications? I think so - even when the engine is a rather "modern" General Electric CJ610 (known from the Learjets 23, 24, ..., 29), albeit derated to produce the same thrust as the original.


David

Well, the original engine was the first serially built jet engine to ever fly and had numerous known shortcomings, both performance and maintenance wise. They had to be replaced every 25 hours. I'd rather see it fly with a "wrong" engine than not see it fly at all. And yes, I consider it a replica (because it is a complete new-build).
 
Newbiepilot
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Sat Aug 04, 2018 4:02 am

Damage tolerant designs assume all the part will eventually crack and fail. The goal of the design is to have it crack and fail after its useful life and have enough inspections to ensure no cracks propagate during the expected life. Beyond the limit of validity, there is no engineering to determine what parts are safe and what aren’t. There are also no more inspections in the maintenance manual. An airline operating a plane beyond LOV doesn’t have engineering support. Without it, no one knows what will fail and how frequently inspections are needed. For example near limit of validity, the tail section on a 767 has incredibly complex inspections required to the point that to keep the airplane flying, the whole aft pressure bulkhead must be replaced due to fatigue. The maintenance gets expensive and complicated. Beyond LOV, no one knows what will happen since the engineers haven’t calculated the numbers. Eventually a structural component will fail and that can have catastrophic consequences.

So the answer to the question is no.
 
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KrustyTheKlown
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Sat Aug 04, 2018 7:08 am

A plane can keep flying for as long as its manufacturer is willing to support it. For example the Concorde stopped flying when Airbus decided to end maintenance support for it.
In the real world money is a very important factor. Richard Branson claimed he was willing to buy British Airways' Concorde fleet even after Airbus discontinued support for it, but that was just a PR stunt as without Airbus involvement the cost of keeping even 1 Concorde in flying condition for occasional charters would be astronomical.
 
stratclub
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Sat Aug 04, 2018 8:39 pm

Newbiepilot wrote:
Damage tolerant designs assume all the part will eventually crack and fail. The goal of the design is to have it crack and fail after its useful life and have enough inspections to ensure no cracks propagate during the expected life. Beyond the limit of validity, there is no engineering to determine what parts are safe and what aren’t. There are also no more inspections in the maintenance manual. An airline operating a plane beyond LOV doesn’t have engineering support. Without it, no one knows what will fail and how frequently inspections are needed. For example near limit of validity, the tail section on a 767 has incredibly complex inspections required to the point that to keep the airplane flying, the whole aft pressure bulkhead must be replaced due to fatigue. The maintenance gets expensive and complicated. Beyond LOV, no one knows what will happen since the engineers haven’t calculated the numbers. Eventually a structural component will fail and that can have catastrophic consequences.

So the answer to the question is no.

Actually, the answer to the OP's question is Yes. All the roadblocks you referred to could be addressed. Boeing's aging aircraft program and the B-52's longevity proves that. Any structural component on an aircraft can be non destructive inspected (visual, ultrasonic, x-ray, eddy current etc.) as part of a maintenance program and replaced if found to be not airworthy.
If your aircraft is not supported by the manufacturer anymore, you can buy engineering elsewhere.

Is it possible for an aircraft to fly indefinitely? Yes.
Economically practical for an aircraft to fly indefinitely? A huge nope.
 
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flyingturtle
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Sat Aug 04, 2018 8:56 pm

stratclub wrote:
If your aircraft is not supported by the manufacturer anymore, you can buy engineering elsewhere.


Your aircraft might get reverted to a lesser status, and can't be used to transport passengers or for commercial flights.

Well, well, but your plane can still fly.

Or you could form a company that buys the original type certificate and thus the responsibility to issue Service Builletins.


David
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zeke
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Sat Aug 04, 2018 11:32 pm

While maintenance can be performed there comes a time where the manufacturer return the TCDS to the regular as it costs them too much to provide the continuing airworthiness support on smaller fleets.

When a TCDS is handed back, the commercial use for any remaining aircraft is very limited.
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stratclub
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Sun Aug 05, 2018 5:03 am

True stuff. You have to remember that the OP didn't ask if flying an aircraft indefinitely was economically feasible, only if it was possible to fly one indefinitely.

The TC is like a snapshot in time. Show that the aircraft meets the TC and anymandatory STC and AD note requirements and provide any additional engineering data the FAA requires and you would be good to go. You don't have to be the holder of a TC to write STCs if you needed one.

How long has the DC-3 been flying since the manufacturer stopped supporting it, or have they?
 
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zeke
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Sun Aug 05, 2018 6:07 am

The DC-3 is still a supported airframe with a valid TCDS, if you look at something’s like the BAC 1-11 the TCDS has been handed back to the regulator.

https://www.easa.europa.eu/documents/ty ... a/easaa188

Without continuing airworthiness support from the manufacturer an airframe cannot be maintained indefinitely as there is no one doing fleet wide monitoring of SDR and generating ADs etc.

This effectively grounds them from commercial service.
Human rights lawyers are "ambulance chasers of the very worst kind.'" - Sky News
 
zanl188
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Sun Aug 05, 2018 9:22 pm

TWA772LR wrote:
You cant replace the fuselage.

I think of it like an old car. You can buy a new engine, transmission, etc. But you cant buy a new frame and base, and then you can drive that same car for decades.


You can replace quite a bit of the fuselage. I've seen it done. My opinion, and if I'm not mistaken, the FAAs as well: You can replace everything but the data plate.
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FrmrKSEngr
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Sun Aug 05, 2018 10:02 pm

zeke wrote:
The DC-3 is still a supported airframe with a valid TCDS, if you look at something’s like the BAC 1-11 the TCDS has been handed back to the regulator.

https://www.easa.europa.eu/documents/ty ... a/easaa188

Without continuing airworthiness support from the manufacturer an airframe cannot be maintained indefinitely as there is no one doing fleet wide monitoring of SDR and generating ADs etc.

This effectively grounds them from commercial service.


But does not prevent the aircraft from continuing to fly, as shown by Northrop Gumman's BAC 1-11s that were only retired in the last year. Admittedly as test beds flying under experimental tickets, but large planes continuing to be flown after the TCDS was surrendered.
 
Virtual737
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Mon Aug 06, 2018 3:15 pm

IPFreely wrote:

Which, of course, begs the question: if you replace every single part of an aircraft, are you really flying the original aircraft?


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAh8HryVaeY

The perfect analogy.
 
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zeke
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Tue Aug 07, 2018 2:16 am

FrmrKSEngr wrote:
But does not prevent the aircraft from continuing to fly, as shown by Northrop Gumman's BAC 1-11s that were only retired in the last year. Admittedly as test beds flying under experimental tickets, but large planes continuing to be flown after the TCDS was surrendered.


The FAA have kept the BAC 1-11 TCDS alive despite it being withdrawn by EASA and Airbus writing to the FAA to withdraw it.

Airbus no longer support them.

An aircraft does not need to have a TCDS or an STC fly fly experimental, flight testing of new types and engines is done that way.
Human rights lawyers are "ambulance chasers of the very worst kind.'" - Sky News
 
mxaxai
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:10 am

zeke wrote:
FrmrKSEngr wrote:
But does not prevent the aircraft from continuing to fly, as shown by Northrop Gumman's BAC 1-11s that were only retired in the last year. Admittedly as test beds flying under experimental tickets, but large planes continuing to be flown after the TCDS was surrendered.


The FAA have kept the BAC 1-11 TCDS alive despite it being withdrawn by EASA and Airbus writing to the FAA to withdraw it.

Airbus no longer support them.

An aircraft does not need to have a TCDS or an STC fly fly experimental, flight testing of new types and engines is done that way.

Interesting. So all those flying vintage aircraft from the early 20th century still have a TCDS supported by someone? Going by the FAA database, a number of TCDS are supported by private persons, e. g. the Grumman F7F TC holder is
Kreitzberg, George F., Oregon: https://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guid ... t?OpenPage
I am also suprised that e. g. the Handley Page Dart Herald still has a valid TCDS, and that Boeing continues to support all old Douglas models (save for the DC-2, whose valid TCDS apparently resides with Douglas Aircraft Co., Inc. ).
 
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lightsaber
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Wed Aug 08, 2018 5:17 pm

mxaxai wrote:
zeke wrote:
FrmrKSEngr wrote:
But does not prevent the aircraft from continuing to fly, as shown by Northrop Gumman's BAC 1-11s that were only retired in the last year. Admittedly as test beds flying under experimental tickets, but large planes continuing to be flown after the TCDS was surrendered.


The FAA have kept the BAC 1-11 TCDS alive despite it being withdrawn by EASA and Airbus writing to the FAA to withdraw it.

Airbus no longer support them.

An aircraft does not need to have a TCDS or an STC fly fly experimental, flight testing of new types and engines is done that way.

Interesting. So all those flying vintage aircraft from the early 20th century still have a TCDS supported by someone? Going by the FAA database, a number of TCDS are supported by private persons, e. g. the Grumman F7F TC holder is
Kreitzberg, George F., Oregon: https://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guid ... t?OpenPage
I am also suprised that e. g. the Handley Page Dart Herald still has a valid TCDS, and that Boeing continues to support all old Douglas models (save for the DC-2, whose valid TCDS apparently resides with Douglas Aircraft Co., Inc. ).

I thought Basler had the DC-3 TCDS?

The only DC-4 not destroyed in WW2 was a VIP airframe surrendered to military use, so I think the type is done.

As noted, many historical aircraft are experimental. Most WW2 aircraft are. If an individual wants to buy a type, good for them.

Lightsaber
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Chemist
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 3:45 am

zanl188 wrote:
TWA772LR wrote:
You cant replace the fuselage.

I think of it like an old car. You can buy a new engine, transmission, etc. But you cant buy a new frame and base, and then you can drive that same car for decades.


You can replace quite a bit of the fuselage. I've seen it done. My opinion, and if I'm not mistaken, the FAAs as well: You can replace everything but the data plate.



I met a guy once who was showing me his dune buggy. He told me that he welded it all together himself, put in a vehicle engine (VW Bug I believe, air cooled). He made the cross beams and added McPherson struts, used other car parts like a steering rack from a different car, etc. I was incredulous "You mean you made your own CAR? He grinned. I said "But it has license plates! He said "Yes, it's street legal". I asked how that could be. He showed me a piece from a VW bug that had a data plate on it. That's all the DMV needed to register it, a VIN.

(Yes, I know, not an aircraft...)
 
mxaxai
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 5:27 am

lightsaber wrote:
I thought Basler had the DC-3 TCDS?

The only DC-4 not destroyed in WW2 was a VIP airframe surrendered to military use, so I think the type is done.

As noted, many historical aircraft are experimental. Most WW2 aircraft are. If an individual wants to buy a type, good for them.

Lightsaber

I'm confused. The only models without airworthy examples - actually without any survivors - are the DC-1 & DC-5. The DC-4 is still in service.
 
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zeke
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:47 pm

lightsaber wrote:
I thought Basler had the DC-3 TCDS?


Their conversion is performed under STC SA4840NM. They also have PMA approval I think for DC-3 airframe parts.
Human rights lawyers are "ambulance chasers of the very worst kind.'" - Sky News
 
strfyr51
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Fri Aug 10, 2018 7:47 am

Let's See. Some Years ago DHL Brought a B727 and sent it to United For Overhaul. United had to replace EVERY major casting in the Airplane die to corrosion. I heard they paid $50K for the airplane and it was $2.5 million to Overhaul it Since they agreed to time and Materials they had to pay the Bill to get their airplane back. I heard they were not in the least bit happy. But they didn't think of that when they purchased the airplane..
 
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macsog6
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Re: Can a plane be maintained to fly indefinitely?

Tue Aug 14, 2018 5:24 pm

I suspect lightsaber is, when saying "The only DC-4 not destroyed in WW2 was a VIP airframe surrendered to military use, so I think the type is done." confusing the DC-4 with the DC-5. There are several DC-4's still around, but the DC-5. of which only 12 were built, fits the description much better.
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