In the aftermath of another major disaster, the American Airlines DC10 crash in Chicago in 1979 that killed 273 people, it was discovered that Continental Airlines had classified the repair of a major engine support as "minor." That meant much less paperwork for the airline, but also made it less likely that the problem would become generally known within the industry. The engine support, damaged by American Airlines during maintenance the same way the Continental plane had been damaged, was ultimately blamed for the Chicago crash, the nation's worst.
The Federal Aviation Administration received much criticism for its regulations, which allowed the damage to be called "minor," and set about to change that with a notice of proposed rulemaking and a new Advisory Circular. Monday, after months of unfavorable comments, the FAA withdrew its proposed changes and went back to the drawing board.
"What we found out is that before we're ready to publish an advisory circular we need one helluva lot of work," said M. Craig Beard, FAA's director of airworthiness. The existing regulation, the one that will remain unchanged until the FAA acts again, has definitions of major and minor repairs that, because of technical reasons, have become difficult to enforce, Beard said. "We haven't discontinued our interest in rulemaking . . . . It's a matter of trying to regulate common sense . . . ."