AOPA says the FAA should withhold action on two proposed airworthiness directives until the agency responds to AOPA's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding the ADs. At stake are tremendously costly and time-consuming compliance measures affecting hundreds of twin Cessna aircraft. But the ADs also point out the FAA's broader focus on the age of America's general aviation fleet. The average age of a GA aircraft is between 30 and 35 years.
The FAA wants to issue two ADs requiring installation of an expensive spar strap modification kit manufactured by Cessna, based on theoretical data developed by a federally funded engineering analysis done by Cessna.
"We don't believe the FAA has any operational data to back up the engineering analysis," said AOPA Director of Regulatory and Certification Affairs Luis Gutierrez. "But so far we've been unable to get any data at all from the FAA, even after we filed a FOIA request in September."
AOPA wants the FAA to delay action until the agency responds to the FOIA request and AOPA has adequate time to review and comment on the data.
If published as proposed, the ADs would affect nearly 1,500 Cessna 401, 401A, 401B, 402, 402A, 402B, 402C, 411, 411A, and 414A aircraft. The estimated cost in time and money is 485 man-hours and $70,000 per aircraft. That could mean years of downtime for owners and a bill that exceeds the value of some of these aircraft.
"But the real danger is in using theoretical engineering data rather than real-world experience for justifying ADs," said Gutierrez. "The FAA appears to be relying on ivory tower information without any real-world data to back it up."