FAA Requires Control-Wheel Fix On New Piper Models

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Loose Screw Could Cause Loss Of Control...

The FAA this week issued a straight-to-final-rule Airworthiness Directive (AD) that requires the control-wheel columns in many late-model New Piper aircraft to be inspected, and in many cases, modified with a retainer clip and thread-locking compound to prevent the control wheel from ... wait for it ... detaching. The AD was prompted by an accident in July 2003, when a pilot found that he had no aileron or elevator control. The pilot (who was not Al Haynes) landed the airplane on a dirt road using rudder and throttle to control movement, according to the NTSB preliminary report. The airplane was damaged, but the pilot was unhurt. A screw on the control wheel had backed out of its nut plate and caused the wheel to spin freely on the control column, the NTSB found. Further investigation revealed the screw was too short and the nut plate lacked proper locking features to prevent the screw from backing out and becoming disengaged, the FAA said. An investigation of sample fleets after the incident revealed that a large portion of the sampled airplanes had similar problems, the FAA said. New Piper issued a Service Bulletin in April that addresses the problem. The AD affects recently built New Piper Aircraft Inc. models PA-28-161, PA-28-181, PA-28R-201, and certain PA-32, PA-32R, PA-44, and PA-46 models.