The FAA has issued an airworthiness directive concerning the control wheel on some late-model New Piper Aircraft, Inc., aircraft. The AD requires inspection and installation of a retaining clip to prevent the control wheel from detaching. Thanks to AOPA advocacy, this is now a "one-time" AD, which will save owners money. The AD affects recently built New Piper Aircraft, Inc., models PA-28-161, PA-28-181, PA-28R-201, and certain PA-32, PA-32R, PA-44, and PA-46 models.
The AD was issued after an accident in Arizona last year where a pilot of a Piper Archer lost control of the aircraft after a control wheel screw loosened and fell out. The wheel spun on the control shaft; the pilot couldn't control the ailerons or the elevator.
The accident investigation determined the screw attaching the control wheel to the shaft was too short. Also, there was nothing to prevent the screw (which is on the bottom of the control wheel) from backing out. The FAA found the problem was evident in a large sample of the Piper fleet.
The FAA originally proposed a repetitive 400-hour inspection. But during the airworthiness concern process, AOPA argued for a permanent fix to save owners the hassle and expense of repeated inspections. The final AD now specifies that if the screw needs to be replaced, it should be installed with Loctite thread-locking compound and a new retainer clip installed. That clip costs about $30.
Owners of affected aircraft must have the control wheel inspected within 25 hours of service after August 10 and the clip installed within 100 hours of service. Most owners will likely choose to have both done at the same time.
July 13, 2004