AOPA advocacy has helped save Beechcraft Baron and Travel Air owners more than $1,200. The FAA agreed with AOPA's arguments and recently sent a special airworthiness information bulletin (SAIB) on gust locks to all Raytheon (Beech) propeller aircraft owners, rather than issuing an expensive and unneeded airworthiness directive (AD).
Raytheon had asked the FAA to issue an AD in 1998 after a takeoff accident in a Beech twin in which the pilot failed to remove the gust lock. Raytheon's fix would have required drilling a hole through the top of the center-mounted control column for a new design gust lock. The AD would have affected 4,500 airplanes, but AOPA said this wasn't a question of airworthiness.
AOPA told the FAA at the time that "a pilot's failure to remove the flight-control gust lock prior to attempting takeoff is an operational issue rather than an airworthiness concern." An AOPA letter to the agency said "the issuance of a special airworthiness information bulletin reminding pilots...to remove the flight-control gust lock prior to attempting takeoff" would be the more appropriate response.
"An SAIB was a common-sense solution to the problem rather than a formal AD, which would have cost owners not only the expense, but also downtime on their airplanes for the modifications," said Lance Nuckolls, AOPA director of regulatory and certification policy.
The FAA's airworthiness concern sheet (ACS) dated August 13, 2001, reviewed Beech/Raytheon accidents with gust locks installed. AOPA noted in a November response to the FAA that an NTSB investigation revealed one pilot failed to do a thorough preflight inspection, then failed to use checklists, then failed to properly taxi the airplane, and finally failed to complete a thorough engine runup before takeoff.
"Proper conduct of any one of these several standard preflight operational items would have led to the discovery and removal" of the lock, thus preventing the accident, AOPA said.
Drawing attention to Federal Aviation Regulation 91.9, which requires compliance with the operating limitations specified in the airplane flight manual, the FAA's March 11 SAIB said pilots should "review preflight inspection procedures and 'before-takeoff' procedures specified in the pertinent airplane flight manual, pilot operating handbook, checklists, markings and placards."
The FAA said only proper gust locks should be used, rather than "a common bolt or nail...inserted through the holes provided in the control column for this purpose." A bolt or nail does not meet FAR 23.679's requirement that the device "give unmistakable warning to the pilot when the lock is engaged," the agency said.
And finally the FAA recommended a modification for a nose-down position with the control lock installed. The FAA noted that Beech airplanes built after 1971 are equipped with gust locks that put the controls in a nose-down and/or roll-input position. Gust locks prior to 1971 put controls in a neutral position.
The 380,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. Some two thirds of the nation's pilots are AOPA members.