...While Challengers Are Another

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The same day the FAA met with industry representatives to discuss voluntary steps aimed at improving business and charter aircraft safety, the agency issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) against an aircraft type involved in two of the recent six accidents that have drawn attention to the issue. The not-unexpected AD targets Bombardier's Canadair Challenger 600-series bizjets and requires operators to more carefully inspect the planes for airframe ice and contamination before takeoff. The type was involved in a Nov. 28 crash in Montrose, Colo., and in the Feb. 2 crash at Teterboro. Both accidents -- the one in Montrose involved fatalities -- involved cold-weather takeoffs, although the NTSB's investigation into them continues. The AD was "prompted by a report that even small amounts of frost, ice, snow or slush on the wing leading edges or forward upper wing surfaces can cause an adverse change" in the type's low-speed handling and takeoff characteristics. The AD requires an AFM/POH change to include a close, manual inspection of the wing's leading edges instead of a visual look-see. Earlier, Bombardier noted the Challenger's "excellent safety record." According to the company, the Challenger 601/604 series has an accident rate of only one accident for every 1,000,000 flight hours between 1999 and 2003. The company maintains this accident rate is "almost five times better than the average business jet" and is "better than the average accident rate for U.S.-registered airlines."