May 27, 2004 - New Piper Aircraft Inc. has issued a mandatory service bulletin (S.B. 1151) that grounded 76 recently manufactured airplanes. The problem arose after a New Piper assembly line worker noticed a bent seat belt attach point bracket. This set in motion a quality assurance review of New Piper's inventory of steel parts and the discovery of a bad batch of steel delivered on January 14. This steel was used in a "significant number" of other parts, according to a company spokesman.
New Piper grounded the affected airplanes - 39 of which were already delivered to customers.
Analysis of the steel's grain structure and heat treatment confirmed the steel's substandard quality. The steel is tested every step of the way as it reaches the end user, and any defects should have been discovered.
Now begins a study of how the bad batch of parts made it through the screening process - an effort that will involve industry and FAA officials and that will focus heavily on testing procedures.
New Piper has isolated the suspect lot of steel and continues manufacturing airplanes using steel that has passed subsequent test procedures. This problem may affect other aircraft manufacturers who use steel from this supply pipeline.
AOPA is working with the company and the FAA to make sure the issue is resolved quickly and safely.