...Engineers Hired, Data Collection Under Way...

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Two experienced aerospace structures engineers have been contracted to determine what causes the cracks in the carry-through structure, bulkhead flanges, and fuselage skins, AOPA said yesterday. And data are being collected to determine what are the real safety issues and if the "cure" is worse than the problem.The issue directly concerns all owners of Bonanzas, Debonairs, Travel Airs, and normally aspirated Barons built between 1957 and the late 1980s, AOPA said. Previously (as was the case for the Beechcraft spar web), the FAA allowed, with periodic inspection, the existence of some cracks not deemed to be structurally significant (in many cases, the cracks could be stop-drilled). But with rising concern about aging aircraft, the FAA is becoming less tolerant of cracks and other indicators of metal fatigue. What that would mean is that aircraft that have continued to be operated for many years and many hours with known cracks under continued inspection would no longer be allowed to do so.