The long-awaited final airworthiness directive on turbocharged twin-engine Cessnas is much less onerous and costly than the original proposal, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. The final AD ( AD 2000-01-16) incorporates most of the revisions advocated by AOPA and the Cessna Pilots Association (CPA). [See also AOPA's comments and regulatory brief.]
"We went from an 'emergency' AD that would have cost owners tens of the thousands of dollars, grounded hundreds of airplanes, and ruined many small businesses, to a solid regulation that will keep these airplanes safe and that most owners should find more affordable," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "This demonstrates what can happen when the FAA takes advantage of the knowledge and expertise available in the general aviation community."
The FAA released the AD January 19. It will become effective February 15, but at the request of AOPA, the FAA will allow the public to make additional comments until April 14.
The AD was originally to have been issued last June as an emergency direct final rule without opportunity for public comment. AOPA and CPA quickly intervened, successfully arguing there was nothing compelling immediate action, especially since the proposed AD had been under consideration within the FAA for three years.
The FAA withdrew the emergency rule and opened a 30-day comment period, while AOPA and CPA launched a campaign to solicit comments.
More than 350 aircraft owners responded. The FAA praised the quality of those comments, saying information on how the rule impacted owners and operators, and specific technical information on the maintenance and repair of the exhaust system, helped the agency craft the revised rule.
A senior FAA official specifically praised AOPA's unprecedented mailing of some 6,000 "Action Alerts" to owners of Cessna 300/400-series turbocharged twins, whether AOPA members or not. The association had urged owners to tell the FAA about alternative means of compliance and the economic impact of the AD, especially on small businesses and commercial operators.
The final rule incorporates much of the alternative AD developed by the Cessna Pilots Association and endorsed by AOPA.
Praising the AOPA-CPA partnership, Boyer said, "The successful revision of this AD shows the benefits of drawing on the expertise of a strong type/owners group. Such groups have accumulated vast stores of real-world knowledge and experience on specific aircraft. That's vital information that can help the FAA make the safest, most cost-effective rule."
Highlights of the final AD include a visual inspection of the exhaust system every 50 hours, a pressure check every 100 hours, the removal and cleaning of tailpipes, inspection of engine beams and bulkheads adjacent to exhaust systems, and other inspection and replacement routines to ensure exhaust system integrity.
The revised AD allows any FAA-approved exhaust repair facility to work on turbocharged twin-engine Cessna systems. (The original AD had specified only three shops nationwide.) Unlike the original proposal, the AD only requires removal of the exhaust system for inspection at engine overhaul.
Most of the AD-required actions now coincide with regularly scheduled maintenance, resulting in less downtime and lower costs for aircraft owners.
(A copy of AD 2000-01-16 and a comparison chart of the differences between the original and final AD are available on AOPA Online.)
"We're pleased that the FAA has substantially reduced the impact of this AD on aircraft owners, but disappointed that the FAA was unable to determine the economic impact of aircraft downtime on small businesses while aircraft are out of service for AD compliance," said Boyer.
"We'll be carefully analyzing the provisions of the AD and will be submitting additional comments prior to the closure of the comment period."
The 355,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest pilot organization. Its watch on airworthiness issues is part of AOPA's 60-year tradition of advocacy to make flying productive, safer, more affordable, and more fun.
January 21, 2000