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January 5, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
The FAA, responding to an effort led by the American Bonanza Society and supported by AOPA, has shelved plans to modify two existing airworthiness directives (ADs) that require inspections of carry-through spars for cracks on many Beech Debonair, Bonanza, Travel Air, and Baron aircraft. The decision is seen cumulatively saving aircraft owners $2.1 million to $3.5 million in immediate repair costs.
The American Bonanza Society credits the positive result to those who supported the effort financially or as society members, airplane owners, and mechanics who provided invaluable fleet data by responding to the society’s spar web survey. The group also acknowledged members who worked on the project for more than eight years on the American Bonanza Society Technical Committee and AOPA’s “vital assistance with FAA coordination, as well as financial support of the investigation.”
“This is a great example of the value of aircraft owners in joining, supporting, and participating in type clubs and organizations like the American Bonanza Society and AOPA,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “Working together, we can have a positive effect on these issues.”
Hackman also credited the FAA for “working with type clubs and the industry to gather quality information on which to base its decisions.” The American Bonanza Society was the driving force in developing and providing engineering and fleet survey data to the FAA.
The action by the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Office (ACO) in Wichita, Kan., reverses an agency intention, stated last September, to enact changes that would have required many aircraft owners to immediately install spar web-repair kits, the American Bonanza Society reported on its website Jan. 3.
The American Bonanza Society estimated that 300 to 500 aircraft would have required immediate modifications—at an average $7,000 cost per aircraft—and many aircraft that have operated with known cracks under continued inspections would have no longer been able to do so.
According to the American Bonanza Society, the FAA said ACO staff and engineers from the Small Airplane Directorate re-examined engineering data and a resubmitted American Bonanza Society spar-web crack survey. The agency concluded that no safety-of-flight issue existed that would justify making changes to procedures safely in effect for more than 20 years.
The FAA planned to brief Hawker Beechcraft Corp. and the American Bonanza Society on revisions to its “risk-evaluation model” later in January, the society said.
The current ADs, numbered 90-8-14 and 95-04-03, require repetitive inspections of carry-through spars of affected aircraft, allowing for continued flight in many instances where small cracks are found.
Continued inspections with shorter intervals are authorized for cracks in certain locations and within specific parameters outlined in the ADs. Cracks outside those parameters require installation of a spar reinforcement kit.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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