May 3, 2012
By Sarah Brown
Cessna is calling for initial and recurring visual inspections of 210, P210, and T210 wings following recent reports of spar cap cracks in Australia and Canada.
The company issued Service Letter SEL-57-01 April 27 providing instructions for visual inspections of the lower main spar caps. The FAA is reviewing information from reported cases and is considering options to proceed, including a possible airworthiness directive issued as a final rule.
The service letter details procedures for recurring inspections, explaining that undetected cracks in the spar caps could result in structural failure of the wing. The Cessna Pilots Association has reports of five verifiable cases of cracks found in the wing spar caps in 210 aircraft in Australia, and one in Canada, with total time in service ranging from 5,750 to 15,000 hours. The association reported no cases in the United States.
The Cessna Pilots Association has provided Cessna and the FAA with a list of areas in which the service letter needs correction, clarification, or improvement, and awaits further information from the FAA as it considers next steps. If the FAA finds that an unsafe condition warrants the immediate adoption of a rule, it could issue an airworthiness directive immediately, without the intermediate step of a notice of proposed rulemaking. In that case, the final rule would request comments and could be modified later.
For airplanes or wings with less than 5,000 hours total time in service, the service letter as currently written calls for an initial internal inspection at or before 5,000 hours. For those with more than 5,000 hours but less than 10,000 hours, the initial internal inspection must be within 25 hours of operation. For those with 10,000 hours or more, an external inspection must be performed before the next flight; an internal inspection must then be performed before the next flight if cracks are found, and within five hours of operation if no cracks are found. If no cracks are found during the internal inspection for aircraft with any amount of hours in service, “a recurring internal inspection must be performed every 100 hours of operation or 12 months thereafter, whichever occurs first, until spar cap, spar, or wing replacement,” according to the service letter.
Cessna produced 7,300 of the models of aircraft affected, with an estimated 3,200 to 3,300 in the U.S. registry. The Cessna Pilots Association estimates that the number of these aircraft in the U.S. could be as high as 4,000.
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