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Volume 25, Number 20b
May 16, 2018
 
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NTSB Finds Wing Crack In Piper Trainer
 
Mary Grady
 
 

NTSB investigators working to determine the cause of the recent in-flight breakup of a Piper trainer have discovered a wing crack in another Piper PA-28R-201 aircraft, the agency said on Tuesday. The crack measured about 0.040 inches long and deep. “The plane inspected had a similar number of total airframe hours and cycles [to the accident airplane] and was used exclusively for flight training of students,” the safety board wrote in its investigative update. After the crack was found, the wings were removed. “The airplane’s wings were subsequently reinstalled and examined using new inspection procedures developed by Piper Aircraft,” the safety board said in its investigative update. “A bolt-hole eddy current inspection probe was used to confirm the location and size of the previously identified crack.” Nine additional PA-28R-201 airplanes were inspected using eddy-current inspection (ECI) techniques under NTSB supervision. No crack indications were detected in those inspections, the board said.

ECI techniques can be used to detect cracks in metal structures, using an inspection coil that creates a magnetic field. When placed next to a conductor, this field induces an “eddy current” in the metal, which creates an imbalance when it detects a flaw. This imbalance then is magnified and shown on an oscilloscope. The NTSB update says the investigative team is examining the corrective actions taken after an accident in March 1987, in which a Piper PA-28-181 lost a wing in flight. After that accident, an Airworthiness Directive was issued (PDF), which required owners to remove the wings of their airplanes to check for cracks. That AD was rescinded in 1989. The NTSB’s observation that a crack was located successfully using Piper’s new inspection procedures seems to imply that a new directive might allow the use of ECI techniques rather than wing removal. Piper spokesperson Jacqueline Carlon told AVweb on Tuesday: “Piper Aircraft continues to support all investigative efforts by the NTSB.” The NTSB did not respond to AVweb’s request for comment.

A student pilot from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and an FAA examiner were killed in April when the Piper PA-28 they were flying crashed shortly after takeoff from Daytona Beach International Airport. A wing detached from the aircraft prior to the crash.

IMAGE 1: In this April 10 NTSB photo taken at the NTSB Materials Laboratory, the NTSB says fracture features consistent with metal fatigue can be seen in the aft spar web doubler of the Piper PA-28R-201 involved in the April 4 crash.

IMAGE 2: This NTSB graphic highlights the left-wing assembly and attachment bolt for a Piper PA-28R-201. The wing spar attachment bolt hole is an area of interest to the NTSB in its investigation.

JP Instruments 'Primary JPI EDM 930'
First Officer ‘Partially Blown Out’ When Windscreen Shatters
 
Mary Grady
 
 

A Chinese crew landed an Airbus A319 safely on Monday morning after the cockpit windscreen shattered at 30,000 feet, and the first officer was “partially blown out of the aircraft,” according to Captain Liu Chuanjian. "The situation was very critical,” said Jiang Wenxue, an official with China’s Civil Aviation Administration. “The windshield was blown off at a 10,000-meter-high altitude. The aircraft was in a state of low pressure and the temperature was minus 30 to minus 40 degrees Celsius.” Captain Liu said there was no sign of trouble before the windshield burst. “Just a huge noise," Liu told the China News Service. "When I looked at the other side, the co-pilot was partially blown out of the aircraft. Luckily, he had the belt buckled up. Many devices malfunctioned and the plane was jolting strongly. It was very difficult to control.”

The first officer suffered scratches and a sprained wrist, the CAA said. A flight attendant also was injured, but none of the 119 passengers were hurt. The aircraft landed safely at Chengdu Shuangliu Airport in southern China. The cabin crew were serving meals to the passengers when the incident occurred, and several of them were thrown into the air, and food was strewn about, according to media reports. The incident occurred about 6:27 a.m. local time on Monday morning, about 80 minutes after takeoff. The flight originated from the southern city of Chongqing and was heading for Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. A month ago, a woman died on a Southwest flight after a window blew out in the passenger cabin.

Lord Of The Bolts
 
Paul Berge
 

The Citabria’s annual inspection was so close to completion I became giddy with irrational exuberance that after a month of slathering new parts on the old machine, I might fly again. But not to be. The delay was two miscreant bolts that hold the tailwheel rudder horn to the rudder. The rudder horn connects the tailwheel springs to the rudder so you can steer on the ground. It’s simple. Ikea makes more complicated devices.

Here’s the layout: The horn’s vertical arm has a smaller outer diameter (OD) than the rudder’s vertical tube ID (inner diameter); ya poke one into the other and snug them in place with two AN3-13 bolts, available online for 89 cents each. Done. FAA/PMA-approved, paperwork to follow, go fly and have a nice day. And they’re not super critical bolts, either, such as the bigger ones holding the wings on. If both of these rudder horn bolts failed in flight, you wouldn’t know until landing when you’d experience crappy ground steering. Not likely and who cares? Oh, yeah, the mechanic signing off the annual who said, “These are slightly loose. Let’s replace them with over-sized bolts (1/32-inch thicker shank).”

I’m not new to airplane ownership, so I know that aviation parts are made by Black Forest elves for a limited market of airplane junkies, so we can expect to pay more for an odd-sized aircraft bolt than a for slightly used Tesla. I got it. No complaints. But, c’mon, man, I’m Jonesin’ here! Haven’t flown the Citabria in a month. All I want is to replace the two standard AN bolts with two ever-so-slightly oversized NAS ones that would take up the slack caused by the old bolts hogging out the holes in the rudder tube. And, there, the search for the unobtainable began.

When Frodo inherited a stupid magical ring, his local wizard—Gandalf-the-Mechanic—said it had to go, and he couldn’t simply toss it into any dumpster in the Shire and go about happily being a leprechaun or whatever the hell he was. No, he had to walk halfway across New Zealand, barefoot, thwarting dragons, dorks and other FAA-unapproved monsters, before disposing of the ring in Mount Doom, the Middle Earth equivalent of FAA headquarters in Oklahoma City.

My Tolkienesque quest for two bolts would seem to pale in comparison but consider the results. None of my usual suppliers—Aircraft Spruce, the Champion factory, Wal-Mart—stocked the bolts, so the search expanded to the internet, where any search turns truly fantastic. Of my several requests for prices from companies that specialize in weird-sized hardware, I received three replies, each more vexing than the previous. Most requests were met with silence when I said that I only wanted two bolts from companies that normally ship bolts on massive oceangoing vessels.

The first response, from Bolts R Us But Not 4 U in Piscataway, New Jersey, said they’d sell them for $15 each. A bit pricey but not to a seasoned aircraft owner, so I bit. “I’ll take two; hold the nuts.” It is possible to detect giggling in an otherwise all-business email from a humorless company, which replied: “MOQ 100.” I had to ask what MOQ meant and learned it means Minimum Order Quantity, apparently something everyone but me knows. You’ve done the math and see that to procure my two bolts I would pay $1500 for 100 of them, plus shipping, leaving me with 98 spares to pass along to Trick or Treaters. They did say I would get a free catalogue when I placed my order and be automatically enrolled to receive their e-newsletter, Bolt Upright.

The second bolt supplier to reply wouldn’t give me a price until I successfully answered two riddles. First, it asked, “What is your price range?” Second (you really should read these in Monty Python’s Knights Who Say Ni voices), “What is your fax number?” I could more easily have provided a shrubbery, because, as I explained, I’d left my fax machine beside my pager in 1992.

As for the price range, I said that I was requesting a quote, not playing The Price Is Not Right, a favorite aviation game show, where there are no winners. I gave a false fax number (Domino’s Pizza in Billings, Montana) and said that my price range was $1 and up. I mean, why would they ask my range other than to see how much they could squeeze out of a pilot desperate for a couple of fat bolts? Yeah, well, sound tactic, since I was willing to pay just about anything at this point.

The third quote came from a company with an unpronounceable name, possibly Russian, that said the bolts could be mine at $500 each … plus shipping, allow six to eight weeks; credit card number, “pozhaluysta.”* On the bright side, I could order two and not a crateful. Shipping from Vladivostok, though, killed any savings.

The quest continues. I’m likely to find the Holy Grail or Nirvana before procuring these Holy Bolts for a simple old taildragger. At the quoted prices you’d think they were for a Bonanza. I may have to face reality and resort to JB Weld and spring for a couple of 50-cent AN bolts. Although, I should probably check Ikea first.

*Meaning “please,” according to online translator … or “fool."

GAO Reports On Pilot Supply Issues
 
Mary Grady
 
 

Flight schools are finding it hard to retain their instructor ranks because airlines are hiring away their staff, a government study reported this week. At the same time, flight schools find it challenging to recruit new students, due to the high cost of training, which can often exceed $50,000, on top of tuition. The U.S. Government Accountability Office said it undertook the study to address concerns about the supply of airline pilots. In response to these challenges, schools have raised instructor pay, and airlines have offered tuition reimbursement, the GAO found. Also, the federal Transportation Department has launched an initiative to assess the level of interest among veterans in becoming pilots, and to examine strategies for employing them in pilot jobs.

The GAO study comprised 147 schools. Representatives from the schools told the GAO they could use more help from the airlines. For example, one school negotiated an agreement with one airline to initially hire its graduates as part-time pilots and allow them to continue working part-time as flight instructors. School representatives said the airline benefits because the school is able to produce more qualified candidates for their hiring needs. Representatives of one pilot school told the researchers they are working with airlines to change the seniority system, so pilots can get their seniority number while they are still instructors. This could reduce the strong incentive to become an airline pilot as quickly as possible. The full text of the study is posted online (PDF).

AC Air's Remote Control Tugs
 
Larry Anglisano
 
 

For many aircraft operators, a tug is a must-have hangar accessory. Chino, California-based AC Air Technology has devised a unique take on the tug with its line of remote-control tugs running on rubber tracks. The tugs attracted lots of attention in the outdoor exhibit area at this year's Sun 'n Fun in Lakeland, Florida. In this video, Aviation Consumer Editor Larry Anglisano takes a close look.

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FAA Considers Changes To Supersonic Ban
 
Mary Grady
 
 

The FAA’s rules currently prohibit civil aircraft from exceeding speeds in excess of Mach 1 over U.S. land areas, and the FAA says that’s not going to change. However, the agency said this week it wants to support the development of civil supersonic aircraft, and will propose two new rules that suggest a move in that direction. The first proposed rule will address the noise certification for supersonic aircraft, and the second aims to make it easier to get the special authorization needed to conduct supersonic flight testing in the U.S. The FAA also said it is “working within the existing statutory and regulatory authority to consider the range of permissible supersonic operations.” In addition, the FAA is assessing the current state of supersonic aircraft technology in terms of mitigating the noise impacts associated with supersonic overland flight.

The two proposed rules will be published next year, the agency said. The rules would not rescind the prohibition of flight in excess of Mach 1 over land. Yet the FAA said it is “working within the existing statutory and regulatory authority” to consider the range of permissible supersonic operations. In addition, the FAA is assessing the current state of supersonic aircraft technology in terms of mitigating the noise impacts associated with supersonic overland flight. Several companies, including Aerion and Boom, are working to develop supersonic business jets. Members of Congress have pressured the FAA to revisit its prohibition on supersonic flight.

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