FAA issues twin Cessna wing spar ADs

June 15, 2005

FAA issues twin Cessna wing spar ADs

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 policy.

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.

June 15, 2005