Getting Rid of Older Aircraft: Buybacks or lawsuits by owners?

Getting Rid Of Older Aircraft Buybacks or lawsuits by owners? By Stephen P. Prentice In case you missed it, Cessna has quietly added a huge SID (Supplementary Inspection Document) to its Maintenance/Service Manual for the 400 Series...


Getting Rid Of Older Aircraft
Buybacks or lawsuits by owners?

By Stephen P. Prentice

Steve PrenticeIn case you missed it, Cessna has quietly added a huge SID (Supplementary Inspection Document) to its Maintenance/Service Manual for the 400 Series piston aircraft early this year. But don't think that it will mean tons of work for us. Read on.

This should come as no surprise since it has been apparent for some time that many manufacturers have sought a method to get rid of aircraft that they perceive as threats to their pocketbooks. Apparently Cessna and others have found a way! But Cessna is the first of the crowd to set in stone a formal method to make aircraft maintenance too costly for ownership and operation. Indeed, one recent commentator stated, "If I were an OEM these days, I would be looking carefully at the older models in my fleets and figuring out how to get these airplanes out of circulation." Looks like they may have!

The justification
"Motherhood, apple pie, and safety. It's tough to argue against it . . ."

The data supposedly revealed by a multimillion dollar research grant (cash) by the FAA to Cessna is the alleged "justification" for Cessna's new inspection requirements and soon to be published AD's drafted and requested by Cessna, aimed at the 400, 300 Series fleet.

By the time this article is published yet another NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) comment period on an AD will have passed (Dec. 8) and unless extended, the AD involved will undoubtedly be published as set out in the NPRM. (Spar Strap on 400 Series.)

There seems little doubt that all of these steps will have more to do with getting rid of the aircraft than they do with safety. No substantial accident justification has been provided by Cessna or the FAA regarding these aircraft. In fact, the FAA and Cessna both have refused to provide the results of the studies that are supposed to be the backup for their actions.

The SIDs
The SID (supplemental inspection documents) for the 421, 421A, and 421B was published in March and distributed as a revision/supplement. It applies to all of that fleet. A separate SID was published Jan. 6, 2003 for the 421C Model equally applicable to the whole fleet and tracking the SID for the earlier aircraft.

The SIDs are described as a supplemental structural inspection program and stated as being developed by Cessna, 400 Series operators, and the FAA. I can just imagine an operator agreeing to these inspections. Right.

The purpose and objective as written is the detection of damage due to fatigue, overload, or corrosion through the practical use of NDI (nondestructive testing) as well as visual inspection. The SID addresses primary and secondary airframe components only. These are described as PSE's or principal structural elements. PSE's are defined as components that carry significant flight and ground loads, and if they fail, cause catastrophic destruction of the airframe. Monitoring of these PSE's is the reason for the SIDs.

The requirements for the performance of the extensive inspections are based on total flight hours and calendar years in service. Most of the fleet already exceed the calendar years if not the hours, required for the inspections.

SID #53-10-01 pressurized cabin structures
For example, under the heading of Pressurized Cabin Structure, SID #53-10-01, an initial inspection is to be performed at 6,000 hours or 12 years. Needless to say all of the fleet has been in service beyond 12 years! (Cessna stopped making 421s in 1985.) A repeat inspection is due every 3,600 hours or every seven years. Since all of the fleet is impacted, here is what must be done according to the SID:

1. Inspect all cabin entry door and emergency exit door frame structures and surrounding structures for corrosion, cracks, loose or missing fasteners, or any sign of deterioration.
2. Inspect all window frames and surrounding structures for corrosion, cracks, etc.
3. Inspect the entire forward and aft pressure bulkheads for corrosion, cracks, etc. Eddy current the forward and aft pressure bulkhead structures for corrosion, cracks, etc.
4. Inspect all cabin frame structure for corrosion, cracks, etc.
5. Inspect the entire forward and rear spar bulkheads for corrosion, cracks, etc.

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