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FAA proposes massive Piper airworthiness directive

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing that owners of nearly 42,000 piston-powered Piper-built aircraft have their right and left control columns inspected and possibly repaired due to faulty factory assembly work.

The directive, which covers the PA28, PA32, PA34 and PA44 models, is the result of two incidents that occurred on twin-engine PA-34 Piper Senecas.

 Piper's PA28 Archer II is one of the affected aircraft

In  the first incident, the right hand control wheel on a Seneca broke off due to a mis-drilled hole in the column at the universal joint, a situation that could leave a pilot with no direct pitch or roll control.

In the second incident, a ground inspection of a Seneca revealed similar flaw on the left control wheel.

Investigations revealed that the control wheel shafts “had been incorrectly assembled at Piper and holes were mis-drilled even though they may visually appear acceptable,” says the FAA. “The hole in the shaft may be too close to the end of the shaft, causing a significant reduction in joint strength.”

Piper has since added a step in the manufacturing process to correct the error, and issued a service bulletin (SB) for the in-service fleet on 1 September.

The FAA estimates the proposed AD affects 41,928 US-registered aircraft and will cost $40 per aircraft for the 30min inspection. Owners would have complete the inspections within 100h or 60 days, whichever comes first, of the date the AD becomes final. 

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