A proposed airworthiness directive affecting some 12,500 Cessna aircraft is unnecessary, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is telling the FAA.
In a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM 98-CE-57-AD), the FAA is proposing the mandatory inspection and pull testing of plastic control wheels installed on most Cessnas built in the early 1960s. The repetitive inspections would cost owners an estimated $60, and the cost of replacing the control wheel replacement would be some $660.
The FAA claims there are "many instance of control wheels cracking or breaking." But an AOPA search of the service and difficulty reports (SDR) database found only a few reports of cracked control wheels. And in 40 years, there have been only eight reported cases of control wheel failure, none of which resulted in an accident, according to data developed by the Cessna Pilots Association.
In formal comments on the proposal, AOPA reminded the FAA that the plastic control wheel cracking problem was recognized four decades ago when Cessna first issued a notice to the industry.
"It seems reasonable to assume that a significant portion of plastic control wheels have been detected and continue to be inspected per Cessna Service Letter 64-8 (dated February 14, 1964) during the course of routine annual and 100-hour inspections," AOPA told the FAA.
Instead of an AD, the association said that the FAA should send a GA alert to mechanics stressing the importance of checking control wheels during aircraft inspections. AOPA also suggested the FAA issue a special airworthiness information bulletin (SAIB) to affected aircraft owners.
AOPA also told the FAA that the pull test mandated by the proposed AD might cause even more control wheels to crack.
The Cessna Pilots Association repeated a pull test on a plastic control wheel three times. While the control wheel was in good condition and free of cracks before the test, a small crack had developed at the first attach rivet after the test. However, the control wheel completed the full pull test without failure.
Both AOPA and CPA told the FAA that these small cracks should not be considered as a reason for mandatory control wheel replacement.
AOPA's advocacy against unneeded airworthiness directives is part of the association's ongoing efforts to reduce the cost of flying and regulatory burdens on general aviation pilots and aircraft owners.
The 370,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than 58 percent of the nation's pilots, and three quarters of the aircraft owners, are AOPA members.