B-17 Wing Inspection AD Issued


As expected, the FAA has issued an AD that likely requires a complex inspection of the wing attachment assemblies on all the airworthy aircraft. The FAA says an eddy current inspection of bolt holes in the wing structure is likely the most efficient method and will take about 25 hours. If issues are found repairs will have to be done and that might be expensive.

The FAA was notified when a pilot on a walkaround noticed that the left wing on a B-17 he was getting ready to fly had a two-inch gap between it and the fuselage. “This AD was prompted by a report indicating that the left front spar lower fitting had completely separated at the wing-to-fuselage joint, and the equivalent joint on the right side of the airplane was cracked,” the AD says. “This AD requires inspections of the wing terminal-to-spar chord joints, and repair if necessary.”

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    • Unless the FAA writers of AD’s use their well used catch all phrase “may be installed on, but are not limited to, the following airplanes, certificated in any category:”. – Haw!!

  1. Anything in aviation is fixable. Keep flying the aircraft. It’s history and more than that. “expensive” is to loose these aircraft from flying. “Expensive” can be mitigated with having volunteers to the team fixing it.

  2. I took a ride in Aluminum Overcast at OSH back in 2008, it was like stepping back in time and one of my most memorable aviation experiences so far. The opinions (and budgets) of the folks that own these aircraft are what matters, not ours.

  3. It may be time. Possibly the flying ones can be exchanged for non significant machines that have been in museums and have low time? I am also sure that the industry will step up and find a way to make the parts. With modern CMC machines and 3D modeling I think it would be a fairly easy though expensive part to make.

  4. I think we should kill off the handful of remaining California Condors, have them stuffed and put in museums. That way our descendants can enjoy them forever. Plus nobody gets hurt. That’s what is important here, right?

    • I don’t think this is a fair analogy. Condors are capable of reproducing and as long as they are we should try to keep them doing so. I don’t believe B-17s are capable of reproducing. Even if they were – they are all female so it’s just not going to happen. Since there will never be more B-17s it makes sense to preserve the ones we have rather than risk losing them.

  5. Congrats and a pat on the back to the fellow who was conscientious enough to do a complete pre-flight instead of a casual ‘I’ve done this too many times before, what can possibly be wrong’ inspection. He may have saved part of history and more importantly, lives.

  6. What models, serial numbers, and total air frame hours are on the AD?
    Obviously there are a wide variation in original planes, uses, and time since rebuild.
    I can’t see a blanket AD on all types regardless of time in service.

  7. To immediately quell the rampant speculation about on the web, this new AD does not:

    Permanently ground all B-17s
    Require the spars to be replaced (yet)
    Affect the carry-through wing structure in the fuselage.

    The AD does answer most of the questions that have arisen in the past two years and, more specifically, the past four weeks, about the wing spars and attach points. As a recap, the EAA B-17G (44-85740, N5017N), otherwise known as Aluminum Overcast, was grounded by the EAA in April 2021 when a pre-flight inspection revealed an anomaly in the left wing attach structure at the fuselage. And last month, on May 15, 2023, the Yankee Air Museum voluntarily grounded its own B-17G (44-85829, N3193G), otherwise known as Yankee Lady, based on what was found in B-17 “Aluminum Overcast” and the anticipation of an AD. the problem found was in the left forward terminal fittings where bolted into the wing spar chord. Apparently, that joint separated and allowed the wing to shift two inches at that attach point, no doubt revealed with a bulge or separation with the fillet that covers the joint on the lower wing just outboard of the bomb bay. That the wing itself could shift two inches is pretty significant in that there remained two other points of attachment for the forward wing spar, the upper terminal fitting and secondary single-bolt shear attachment. In any event, the fact that the wing shifted two inches at that attach points indicates a significant structural failure; fortunately, a well-done pre-flight inspection by the SIC revealed the problem and the proactive EAA immediately grounded the airplane where it was, at Punta Gorda, Florida.

  8. If 25 hours of skilled labor and an eddy current inspection is all that’s required (and no issues detected) then let them do it and move on. The last two B-17s that we lost were due to human error while flying perfectly sound aircraft. That is where the real problem is. If wing spar replacement is required, then you can start relegating them to museums. It’s not rocket science.