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AOPA urges FAA to delay Piper wing-spar AD

The FAA should pull back its proposed airworthiness directive calling for logbook reviews and possible wing-spar inspections of up to 20,000 Piper PA–28 and PA–32 series airplanes and instead gather safety data through alternative, readily available, and less onerous means, AOPA said in a regulatory filing.

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

The scope of the proposed AD is too broad, and the “intrusive and expensive action” it would mandate is inappropriate without proper groundwork being laid, AOPA said in formal comments submitted on Feb. 4.

AOPA reiterated the request made Jan. 8 that the FAA grant 45 days’ additional time for providing detailed comments. The association also challenged contentions contained in the AD including compliance cost estimates and the formula owners would use to calculate an aircraft’s factored time in service—a key element in determining whether further steps must be taken to inspect the aircraft and report findings.

The additional time for the public to comment would also give the National Transportation Safety Board an opportunity to conclude its investigation into a fatal accident that occurred on April 4, 2018, in Daytona Beach, Florida, involving a Piper PA–28R-201.

“That accident is widely believed to be the driving force behind the proposed AD, likely figured into the FAA’s safety risk assessment and corrective action review board, but strangely is not mentioned” in the notice of proposed rulemaking for the AD, wrote David Oord, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs, in AOPA’s comments.

Once the NTSB has issued its recommendations, the FAA should initiate its Airworthiness Concern Sheet process, allowing it to “engage and collaborate with stakeholders, including AOPA, Piper Aircraft, Inc. and others, to target and implement mitigations” for the problem of metal-fatigue cracking of a lower main wing spar cap that may have been a causal factor in the Florida accident, he said.

AOPA’s comments addressed several other aspects of the proposed AD.

  • The AD’s proposed corrective actions are not a regular maintenance activity and could introduce adverse safety impacts into the affected fleet.
  • AOPA has received numerous calls and concerns from members who were confused by the FAA’s proposed formula for determining an affected aircraft’s time in service, and urged that the FAA consider an alternative formula for aircraft that have missing records, and to make allowances for aircraft that have been on progressive maintenance schedules.
  • The FAA’s estimates of labor time involved in reviewing aircraft records are “inaccurate” given the extensive histories of some airplanes, and the estimated costs of replacing a wing spar, if necessary, are “woefully inadequate.”
  • AOPA described the number of proposed aircraft models covered by the AD as “overly broad,” and noted concern “that the FAA rejected several proposed service publication drafts produced by Piper Aircraft, Inc., which would have inspected the area of interest in detail on a more representative and limited group of aircraft—similar to the April 4th accident aircraft.”

AOPA stands ready to help mitigate the FAA’s airworthiness concern while maintaining the safety of the affected fleet, Oord wrote.

Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
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 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Aircraft Regulation, Aircraft

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