Proposed Piper AD would affect 42,000 aircraft

January 6, 2010

The FAA should narrow the scope of a proposed airworthiness directive (AD) that would affect close to 42,000 Piper aircraft, AOPA told the agency Jan. 5.

The proposed AD would require an inspection of the control wheel shaft for both the pilot and copilot sides and, if necessary, replacement of the shaft in Piper PA-28, PA-32, PA-34, and PA-44 series airplanes. It results from two reports of incorrectly assembled control wheel shafts on PA-34-220Ts; if left uncorrected, this could lead to separation of the control wheel shaft and result in loss of pitch and roll control. In comments on the proposal, AOPA asked the FAA to limit the scope of the AD and realistically determine the cost of compliance.

“AOPA believes the FAA needs to work diligently to refine the number of aircraft affected by this proposed AD,” wrote AOPA Director of Aircraft and Environment Leisha Bell. “While failures of the control wheel shaft have occurred in the fleet, they are incredibly rare. Additionally, the FAA needs to appropriately address variations in the Piper fleet affected by the proposed AD in the cost of compliance section.”

The FAA estimated that the cost of an inspection would be $40 for half an hour of labor. Based on member reports to AOPA, the time to complete the proposed inspection greatly exceeds the FAA’s estimates on many aircraft due to variations in assemblies.

To refine the number of aircraft affected by the AD, AOPA recommended the FAA work with Piper to analyze the control yoke assembly process and determine when errors were most likely to have occurred. This could limit the AD to aircraft manufactured during a specific time frame.

The FAA will review comments on its notice of proposed rulemaking and either change the rulemaking or finalize it in its current form.