January 27, 2006
The MU-2B turboprop is a challenging aircraft to fly, no doubt about it. And it can be more than a handful in an emergency.
However, it is safe, meeting all of the applicable certification requirements. Pilots don't need a type rating to fly it.
But they do need specific, standardized training to fly it safely, and they need to repeat that training, the FAA has concluded following an exhaustive safety evaluation.
"The FAA heeded our recommendation and will likely issue a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) to require specific MU-2B training," said Luis Gutierrez, AOPA director of regulatory and certification policy. "We think this is the right result and a much better solution than issuing an airworthiness directive."
AOPA had argued against that approach and urged the FAA to talk to the people who know the aircraft the best to determine how to respond to recent accidents.
The FAA was under congressional pressure to "do something" about the MU-2B following two accidents last year at Colorado's Centennial Airport.
The FAA determined that while the MU-2B does have more accidents in commercial use than turboprops like the King Air or Cheyenne, other aircraft like the Beech 99 or Swearingen SA 226/227 have even more accidents than the MU-2, relative to the number of aircraft in the fleet.
But interestingly, the MU-2B has a better accident history in Part 91 private operations than it does in Part 135 commercial operations. Usually Part 135 operations have the better record.
The FAA's investigation led it to conclude that pilot and maintenance training were issues with the MU-2B.
The agency also determined that it should approve a standardized pilot checklist. And it decided an SFAR would be the best way to do it.
"Including all of [these] items in one SFAR would put many of the necessary actions in one document so it is easily understood and easily accessible to the owners/operators, mechanics, and others involved with the MU-2B series airplanes," the FAA said. "The implementation of the actions in this report will not only address the present continued operational safety of these airplanes, but also allow us to more fully address these issues in the future."
But AOPA does have a concern with the report, which says that for single-pilot IFR operations using an autopilot, compliance with the AD requiring the installation of trim-in-motion and autopilot disconnect systems is recommended.
"The report doesn't mention the alternate means of compliance (AMOC) to this AD, which we believe offers an equivalent level of safety," said Gutierrez. "The FAA should make it clear that the AMOC is also acceptable."
January 27, 2006
FAA Financial and Regulatory,
Pilot Safety and Skills
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