Heater AD Targets GA Aircraft

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A new proposed airworthiness directive issued by the FAA on Wednesday affects up to 6,000 general aviation aircraft, mostly (but not limited to) Pipers and Cessnas, equipped with Meggitt (Troy) Inc. combustion heaters. The required inspections would cost about $425, the FAA said, and if repairs are needed, the cost could rise above $6,000. An earlier AD, issued in 1981, requires repetitive inspections and overhaul of units with more than 1,000 hours, but since that AD was issued, the FAA said, there has been a fatal aircraft accident in which a malfunctioning heater may have been a factor.

The lone survivor of the crash told the FAA the pilot had turned on the heater, and a "terrible smell" was detected. The pilot turned the heater off, and dark black smoke entered the airplane, making it difficult to see. The airplane maintenance records indicated a previous problem with the heater, the FAA said. The AD doesn't give a date or type of aircraft for the accident, but an FAA spokesperson confirmed to AVweb that it refers to a May 2012 crash in Chanute, Kansas. The NTSB said the pilot attempted to make an emergency landing in a field, but "the smoke likely interfered with the pilot's ability to identify a safe landing site." The wing of the airplane, a twin-engine Cessna 401, contacted the ground during the landing attempt, and the airplane cartwheeled.

The heaters cited in the proposed AD were previously sold under the names Stewart Warner South Wind Corporation and Stewart Warner South Wind Division. The FAA is accepting comments on the AD proposal until Oct. 6.