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Piper Wing Spar Airworthiness Directive to Take Effect in February
January 21, 2021 – The FAA announced the airworthiness directive (AD) regarding wing spars on certain models of Piper PA-28 and PA-32 will take effect February 16, 2021. The AD was previously modified by the FAA to include changes suggested by EAA and other aviation groups to reduce the overly broad scope of the initial proposal.
The AD, which was first proposed in December 2018, addresses wing spar issues following a tragic accident at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. EAA filed comments in February 2019 expressing concerns that the AD was overly broad, required more nuance in its formula to determine whether eddy current inspections were necessary, and underestimated the cost of those inspections.
EAA requested the FAA work with Piper to determine which aircraft would require inspection. The supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking put forth by the FAA in June 2020 added three models and removed five, which ultimately led to the removal of nearly 9,000 total airframes. The FAA estimates just less than 5,500 airplanes on the registry will be affected based on the criteria included in the AD. The FAA also now points to a Piper service bulletin for the eddy current inspection procedures.
Additionally, the AD states that only 100-hour inspections done to comply with 14 CFR 91.409(b) will count toward determining which aircraft have enough service hours to mandate inspection. Previously, there was some question if owners and operators who were not mandated to undergo 100-hour inspections but who did anyway would be subject to these mandatory inspections. The cost estimate for the service was also adjusted from $85 an hour to a more realistic total of $600, although the updated cost benefit analysis did not impact the passage of the AD. Both of these were specific concerns raised in EAA's comments that were changed before being implemented in the final rule.
While EAA always acknowledged the seriousness of potential wing spar failures, any action to address them needs to be correctly targeted and well-considered.