A Decathlon pilot found the aircraft’s rudder pedals suddenly inoperable upon touchdown, causing the airplane to depart the runway. One of the rear pedals in the tandem-seat aircraft had become caught on the front dual lap belt aerobatic harness. An investigation into the incident revealed that the lap belt was improperly installed.
The finding has prompted American Champion Aircraft Corp. (ACAC) to issue a special airworthiness information bulletin for the 7ECA, 7GCAA, 7GCBC, 7KCAB, 8KCAB, and 8GCBC models.
“Examination of several other Decathlon airplanes with Hooker dual lap belt aerobatic harnesses revealed that that the clearance between the aft rudder pedals and the front seat aerobatic harness is typically less than 1 inch,” the bulletin states. “Although American Champion airplanes have been safely operating with aerobatic harnesses for at least 15 years in the field, American Champion has been proactive in avoiding any potential interference problem through the issuance of Service Letter number 433.”
Based on information from the company, aircraft owners, and type clubs, the FAA recommends that the affected aircraft “equipped with Hooker lap/seat/safety belt have American Champion Service Bulletin number 433 incorporated. For airplanes equipped with dual lap/seat/safety belt Hooker harnesses that use airplane equipped floor mounted attach lugs/tabs for each of the two harnesses, the upper or secondary lap belt should be moved from the outside of the outer attach lug/tab to the inside of the outer attach lug/tab.”