FAA withdraws Champion wing spar NPRM, issues new proposal supported by AOPA for non-destructive inspection
The Federal Aviation Administration has withdrawn a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would have required the installation of inspection holes in the top and bottom wing surfaces of Aeronca, Bellanca, and Champion 7-, 8-, and 11-series airplanes with wood wing spars.
In its place, the FAA released NPRM 98-CE-121, which would adopt recommendations from the Citabria Owners Group, supported by AOPA, to allow for wing spar inspections using a high-intensity flexible light and a series of mirrors.
AOPA petitioned the FAA in March 1998 to withdraw the NPRM and reissue the proposed airworthiness directive using the Citabria Owners Group’s non-destructive inspection procedure.
“This is a great example of how the FAA, AOPA, and aircraft type clubs can, and should, work together to find the best solution to an airworthiness concern,” said Dennis Roberts, AOPA vice president of government and technical affairs. “Type clubs have a tremendous expertise that the FAA should draw on.”
The FAA is concerned about compression cracks developing in wood wing spars, which, if not detected, could result in an in-flight failure. The FAA had already issued Airworthiness Directive 98-05-04 on Scout models, and had proposed a similar AD on the rest of the Model 7, 8, and 11 series to require similar repetitive wing spar inspections on Champs, Chiefs, Citabrias, and Decathlons. Aircraft owners would have been required to cut two large inspection covers on the top of wings and up to 24 new inspection holes in the fabric covering the wing bottom.
But the Citabria Owners Group (COG) demonstrated to the FAA that additional inspection holes were not necessary to detect spar cracks. It showed that a mechanic using a high-intensity flexible light and a series of mirrors could inspect all critical spar areas through the original factory inspection holes.
The FAA’s new proposed AD (NPRM 98-CE-121-AD) would supersede the existing AD on Scouts and establish a repetitive wing spar inspection requirement for all wood-spar Model 7, 8, and 11 airplanes built by Aeronca, Champion, Bellanca, and successor companies. The inspection can be accomplished using the COG procedure without cutting new holes in the aircraft fabric.
“The engineers in the FAA’s Chicago Aircraft Certification Office should be commended for their willingness to consult with aircraft owners and reconsider the AD,” said Roberts. “The revised AD addresses legitimate airworthiness concerns in a cost-effective way. Owners will save money and preserve the aesthetics of their aircraft while being assured of its continuing airworthiness.”
The 350,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world’s largest pilot organization. Its watch on airworthiness directives is part of AOPA’s efforts to control the cost of flying.
June 11, 1999