Regulatory Brief -- FAA replaces controversial AD proposal, allows alternative wing spar inspection for Aeronca/Bellanca/Champion airplanes

Regulatory Brief

FAA replaces controversial AD proposal, allows alternative wing spar inspection for Aeronca/Bellanca/Champion airplanes

The issue:

In November 1997 the FAA proposed airworthiness directive (AD) 97-CE-79-AD requiring repetitive inspections of the forward and aft wood wing spars for compression cracks. The proposed AD called for the installation of multiple inspection ports on both the upper and lower wings surfaces. In response to adverse industry comments, the FAA replaced this AD with a new proposal, 98-CE-121-AD, that included a less invasive alternative inspection procedure.

The importance to our members:

The proposed AD would affect approximately 6,500 U.S. registered airplanes. Many owners of these aircraft had serious reservations regarding the installation of multiple inspection ports on the upper and lower wing surfaces of their aircraft. Most owners held that the installation of large inspection panels on the upper wing surface, and more than 20 inspection holes on the lower wing surface, would seriously degrade the aesthetics of their aircraft and may admit water into the wing, leading to a more serious safety problem. Although the FAA addressed these concerns by including an alternative inspection procedure in the new AD proposal, they failed to include adequate service instructions for the alternative inspection. Additionally, service experience shows that the scope of the required wing spar inspection can be narrowed considerably without degrading the effectiveness of the inspection.

Significant provisions:

  • The FAA cited in-flight wing structural failures on American Champion 8GCBC airplanes as the principal cause for airworthiness action.
  • The following aircraft models are affected: 7AC, 7BCM, 7DC, S7EC, 7GC, 7GCB, 7HC, 7KCAB, S11AC, 7ACA, 7CCM, S7DC, 7ECA, 7GCA, 7GCBA, 7JC, 8KCAB, 11BC, S7AC, S7CCM, 7EC, 7FC, 7GCAA, 7GCBC, 7KC, 11AC, and S11BC.
  • The original AD proposal required the installation of a large inspection panel on the upper wing surface and multiple inspection holes on the lower wing surface. The original proposal also called for repetitive forward and aft wood wing spar inspections to check for compression cracks, longitudinal cracks at bolt and nail holes, and loose or missing rib nails.
  • The Citabria Owners Group, an aircraft type-club, developed a much less invasive inspection procedure using a high-intensity flexible light and a series of mirrors.
  • On June 4, 1999, the FAA issued a new AD proposal that included Citabria Owners Group's alternative inspection procedure as an alternative means of compliance.
  • On December 18, 2000, the FAA issued AD 2000-25-02 incorporating the alternative inspection procedure requested by AOPA.

AOPA position:

AOPA agrees that, in this particular situation, the potential for in-flight structural wing failure warrants airworthiness action. However, AOPA maintains that a requirement to install more than 20 inspection panels on each wing is an unnecessary burden on affected aircraft owners. Given the alternative inspection procedure developed by the Citabria Owners Group, installing multiple inspection ports is simply unnecessary.

AOPA thanks the FAA for coordinating this rulemaking effort with various industry organizations, including AOPA and the Citabria Owners Group. However, we believe that it is in the best interest of aviation safety to provide aircraft mechanics with all information necessary to safely and correctly conduct any inspection required by an AD. Consequently, AOPA recommends that the FAA include adequate service instructions in the text of 98-CE-121-AD, or provide guidance to aircraft mechanics indicating where they may obtain instructions for conducting the alternative inspection procedure. Additionally, AOPA recommends that the scope of the wing spar inspection required by the proposed AD be limited to the area of the wing spar where compression cracks are likely to first propagate.

Status:

  • On June 6, 2001 the FAA published amended final rule AD 2000-25-02R1 � contains corrected compliance schedule
  • On December 18, 2000 the FAA published final rule AD 2000-25-02.
  • Step-by-step service instructions for Citabria Owners Group's alternative inspection procedure are available here, or by calling AOPA at 800-872-2672.
  • On July 15, 1999, AOPA submitted comments to NPRM 98-CE-121-AD. AOPA will update the membership as this situation develops.
  • On June 4, 1999 the FAA withdrew their original AD proposal and issued NPRM 98-CE-121-AD.
  • In March 1998 AOPA petitioned the FAA to withdraw the NPRM and reissue the proposed airworthiness directive incorporating the Citabria Owners Group's non-invasive inspection procedure.

Related Documents:

Instructions for completing COG's alternative wingspar inspection (requires Adobe Reader)

Amended final rule AD 2000-25-02R1, June 6, 2001 (requires Adobe Reader)

Final Rule AD-2000-25-02, December 18, 2000 (requires Adobe Reader)

AOPA press release, 99-3-020

AOPA comments to NPRM 99-CE-121-AD, July 15, 1999

AOPA press release, 99-2-056

FAA amended AD proposal, 97-CE-79-AD, June 4, 1999

FAA AD proposal, 97-CE-79-AD, November 3, 1997

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