On May 15, 2003, the FAA proposed two airworthiness directives mandating inspection of twin Cessna wing spar caps for fatigue cracks and installation of a Cessna manufactured spar strap modification kit. The proposed ADs affect twin Cessna 401, 402, 411, and 414A airplanes.
The proposed ADs affect more than 1,000 airplanes in the U.S. registry, and compliance estimates exceed 485 man-hours and $70,000 per airplane. The proposed ADs' compliance actions require highly specialized tooling and highly skilled technicians - as few as three twin Cessna maintenance facilities are currently capable of safely complying with the actions required by the two AD proposals. It will likely take years to complete the proposed ADs' compliance actions.
The FAA Tuesday published "final rules" adopting new airworthiness directives (ADs) for most Cessna models 401, 402, 411, and 414 twin-engine aircraft. The ADs ( 2005-12-12 and 2005-12-13) supersede emergency ADs that required repetitive wing spar inspection - and possibly repair - for fatigue cracks. The ADs become effective June 22.
These new ADs eliminate repetitive inspections with the installation of a wing spar strap. Compliance times vary depending upon total time on the airframe, but most private owners will likely have up to 800 hours to comply. And once the strap is installed, owners gain another 5,500 to 12,000 hours (depending on the model) before another inspection is required.
"The FAA worked with the industry to ultimately come up with a solution that addressed the safety concerns while maintaining the utility of these aircraft," said Luis Gutierrez, AOPA director of regulatory and certification affairs.
The FAA had originally issued two expensive proposed airworthiness directives on these aircraft but withdrew the proposals after vehement objections from AOPA and major Cessna owner organizations.
The original ADs would have grounded most models in the 400 series of twin-engine Cessna aircraft while they underwent inspection and installation of a wing spar strap kit at an estimated cost of $75,000 per aircraft. Following an extended public comment period that included a two-day government/industry summit, the FAA decided to rethink its proposal.
AOPA worked closely with twin Cessna owner groups to fight the original ADs. As originally proposed, the ADs would have forced the simultaneous grounding of nearly 1,500 twin Cessnas as they waited for expensive repairs at the few shops qualified to do the work. In many instances, the repair would exceed the value of the aircraft.
The FAA had several public meetings last summer to review alternatives with the industry and owners and to come up with a strategy for continued airworthiness of the aircraft.
While the new ADs still require a wing strap, in the meantime the cost of strap installation has diminished significantly as shops gain experience.
The new ADs also stretch out the compliance times for many owners. An aircraft with 5,500 to 10,000 hours time-in-service, for example, can fly for another 800 hours before complying with the AD.
The ADs take effect next week, but the FAA will accept comments on them until August 3.
AOPA strongly opposed the FAA's originally proposed ADs. AOPA expressed serious concerns regarding the highly technical nature of the spar strap installation procedure and argued that compliance with the provisions of the ADs as written may result in years of aircraft downtime or operational restrictions for affected aircraft.
03/11/04 Public Meeting Notes
04/20/04 Industry Survey
05/26/04 The FAA Withdraws Costly Twin Cessna AD Proposals
07/22/04 The FAA to Hold Second Public Hearing
08/23/04 Twin Cessna Hearing - Kansas City
02/20/05 Emergency AD 2005-05-51 Issued for Cessna 402C, 414A Models
03/02/05 Emergency AD 2005-05-52 Issued for Cessna 402C, 414A Models
UPDATE: 06/14/05 FAA issues final ADs 2005-12-12 and 2005-12-13 affecting most Cessna 401, 402, 411, and 414 models