FAA posts safety handbooks

To reduce printing and storage expenses, the Federal Aviation Administration has posted
three aviation safety inspection handbooks totaling 6,000 pages on the Web.


Aviation companies must have the manuals for FAA certification, and FAA inspectors also
need them. Printed copies are available from the Government Printing Office.


The Web version at http://www.faa.gov/AVR/AFS/FAA/home.htm
requires an Adobe Acrobat 3.0.1 reader, downloadable from the site.


FAA decided in 1996 to convert the handbook files from assorted formats—Adobe
PostScript, GPO Microcomputer Typesetter Program, Microsoft Word and Corel
WordPerfect—into Adobe Systems Inc. FrameMaker master page files.


GPO’s MTP format had become less convenient as fewer typesetters worked with it,
said Wayne Nutsch, aviation safety inspector at FAA’s Flight Standards Service.


FAA converted the FrameMaker 5.1 files into Adobe Portable Document Format files and
scanned in the figures, graphics and tables, he said.


Adobe pdf “makes the documents look better,” Nutsch said. Output on a
600-dot-per-inch printer, the flight safety manuals look as good as the GPO-printed
versions, he said.


Each chapter occupies about 70K, although FAA officials prefer to break them down to
50K if possible, Nutsch said.


The two-year conversion effort cost $180,000 and ended in December, Nutsch said. FAA
officials chose the Adobe software after a contractor’s analysis of five leading
desktop publishing products, he said.


The Adobe package has a feature that serves up the first page of a document rapidly
while the viewer is downloading other pages in background.


“It’s so fast, it’s hard to notice,” Nutsch said. But he said he
wished Adobe would embed full-search capabilities similar to products from Fulcrum
Technologies Inc. of Ottawa and Verity Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif. “The [Adobe] search
engine searches only the file that’s open,” he said.


Users also ought to be able to move from one file to another without having to exit


and return to the table of contents, he said.


His group first posted an aviation safety document in May 1995, converting the AC90-89A
advisory circular from MTP into PostScript and then sending it to an Acrobat distiller,
which changed it into a .pdf file. “It never did get into FrameMaker,” Nutsch
said.


Eventually, FAA wants to distribute only electronic versions of the manuals. One of the
three is fully paperless, and another is “six to 12 months away,” he said.


“We still print paper for a few people, like members of Congress,” he added.
“And we still keep an original copy with a signature” for FAA records.  

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