Is the 747-100 really "too" old ?

Date:         13 Feb 97 01:37:34 
From:         Jean-Francois Mezei <"[nospam]jfmezei">
Organization: SPC
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Recent news reports about TWA800 has shown one of the relatives speaking
out on the 747-100 after a tour of the NTSB reconstruction site. He said
that the plane was well past its planned lifetime and should have been
retired years ago.

What exactly does this mean ?
Are planes designed to "expire" after so many cycles ? What happens to
maintenance schedules and certification process once a plane acheives
its expected lifetime ?

In the case of the 747-100, are we talking here about a plane that long
ago passed its originally designed lifetime but was granted extentions
because it was still in good shape ? Or was the plane truly past its
lifetime with maintenance continuing and certification agencies not
taking action (what action could be taken?) ???

What happens when a plane reaches its designed age ? Does this mean that
the owner takes it apart, xrays the squeletton and rebuilds it with
brand new parts, or does it just get a regular major check-up ?