On April 16, 2001, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) published three safety recommendations regarding corrosion and cracking of certain stainless steel control cable attach fittings. The recommendations urge the FAA to issue an airworthiness directive (AD) mandating repetitive inspection for and replacement of corroded stainless steel control cable attach fittings installed on Piper Cherokee, Seminole, and Cessna 172 airplanes more than 15 years old. The Board also recommended that the FAA expand the AD to include all aircraft utilizing control cable attach fittings of the same design and material specification. The final recommendation urged the FAA to notify all manufacturers of fixed and rotor wing aircraft of the cracking and corrosion problems currently being experienced with terminals made from certain spec stainless steel.
There are approximately 21,706 Piper PA-28s, 304 Piper PA-44s, and 23,968 Cessna 172s more than 15 years old currently on the US registry. Per the NTSB's recommendations, each of these 45,978 airplanes would be required to undergo a detailed inspection of its aileron and elevator/stabilator control cable attach fitting at regular calendar intervals. Further, any attach fittings showing outward signs of corrosion would be required to be replaced, necessitating a replacement of the entire control cable and re-rigging of the airplane's control surfaces. As the control cable in question is of an industry standard design specification and standard material specification, it is highly likely that it is utilized in a very large portion of the piston GA fleet. The NTSB's recommendations urge the FAA to apply any airworthiness action to all aircraft utilizing this part.
Safety recommendation A-01-8 recommends that the FAA alert manufacturers of the current cracking and corrosion problems with terminals made from SAE-AISI 303 Se stainless steel. Although AOPA suspects that the current cracking and corrosion problems with these fittings are specific to particular airframe applications, we do not oppose this recommendation. However, Safety Recommendations A-01-6 and ï¿½7 warrant considerable research before they're considered by the FAA. AOPA's preliminary consultations with owners and operators of affected airplanes indicate that this problem may not be as widespread as the board suspects. Although AOPA recognizes the severity of an in-flight loss of aileron or elevator/stabilator authority, we can support the institution of a mandatory mitigating action only when the perceived problem is confirmed through the real world operational and maintenance experiences of owners and operators of affected airplanes. Thus, AOPA looks forward to working with the FAA, aircraft type-clubs, and owners and operators of affected airplanes to uncover the true extent of this problem and the best means of resolution.