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Calls grow to pare down Piper wing-spar AD

AOPA and other aviation organizations from the private and public sectors are continuing to press the FAA to modify a proposed airworthiness directive that would require logbook reviews and possible wing-spar inspections of up to 20,000 Piper PA–28 and PA–32 series airplanes.

AOPA file photo of a Piper Arrow. Photo by Mike Fizer.

The groups agree that no mandatory action should be ordered before a probable cause is determined for an April 4, 2018 accident involving a Piper PA–28R-201. AOPA believes the fatal structural-failure accident in Daytona Beach, Florida, was a driving force behind the proposed AD, although it was not directly mentioned in the FAA filing.

To help gather relevant data, AOPA also urged the FAA to start by activating its airworthiness concern sheet process for reaching out to aircraft owners and maintenance personnel—a step customarily taken before an AD or other mandatory safety action is considered.

AOPA first asserted those points in formal comments submitted in February on the draft AD.

The comments were limited, however, given the incomplete accident investigation and because the FAA had not responded to a request for a comment-deadline extension. A likely factor in the FAA’s inaction on that request was the partial shutdown of federal agencies that lasted from Dec. 22, 2018, to Jan. 25, 2019, said David Oord, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs.

The NTSB also called for the FAA to clarify and revise the proposed AD, warning that the cure might be worse than the problem for some aircraft—echoing similar comments made by AOPA and others.

In March, the Piper Owner Society posted on its website a news report citing NTSB Member Earl Weener’s response to the AD in which he noted that “the data showed that the risk of fatigue cracking on all affected PA–28 series airplanes other than the PA–28-235 is significantly lower over their assumed useful life.”

Weener’s comments expressed concerns AOPA shares that “the risks associated with disturbing the joint to complete the inspection may outweigh the risk of fatigue cracking in all affected PA–28 series airplanes other than the PA–28-235.”

AOPA believes options remain for the FAA, from narrowing the applicability of the AD to a smaller subset of aircraft to simplifying and clarifying the method for calculating an individual aircraft’s time-in-service history that uses a formula based on years of maintenance-log entries.

“We are hopeful that the FAA will take the comments it has received, including that from the NTSB, make the necessary adjustments, and issue a revised proposal,” Oord said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Aircraft Regulation, Aircraft

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