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Australia grounds three Beechcraft models on flight control fears

Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has issued airworthiness directives that ground all Beechcraft Bonanza, Debonaire and Baron aircraft pending mandatory inspections of flight control cables.

"Owners and operators of these aircraft must replace any damaged forward elevator control cables before further flights," CASA said in a statement.

A CASA spokesman said the grounding affects 370 aircraft: 270 single-engine Bonanzas and Debonaires as well as 100 twin-engine Barons.

If the aircraft is not located at an airfield where an inspection can be carried out, CASA will allow it to be flown with only the pilot aboard to a location where an inspection can take place.

In addition, CASA is giving owners and operators 60 days to replace control cables that have been in service for over 15 years.

The spokesman said the cable problem emerged in December 2011 at Echuca town in Queensland state. A Bonanza pilot conducting pre-flight checks found that his horizontal elevator controls "did not feel right".

He asked an engineer to inspect the aircraft. After discovering that the forward elevator cable was completely severed, the engineer inspected another Bonanza at the airfield and found its forward elevator cable "extensively frayed" at the same location.

Both aircraft were manufactured in the late 1960s. One aircraft had more flight hours than the other, but the spokesman was unable to provide specific details on the flight hours.

The spokesman added that it is difficult to determine the condition of these aircraft's elevator control cables with a cursory visual inspection and a more intrusive inspection is required to ascertain their condition.

After CASA was notified of the Echuca incident, it consulted the US Federal Aviation Administration and Beechcraft before issuing the airworthiness directives.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority has said it is considering issuing an airworthiness directive for these types of aircraft. It noted in a statement that there are a total of nine Bonanza and Debonaire aircraft in the country.

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