Frederick, MD – The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has filed formal comments with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) opposing a proposed airworthiness directive that could affect thousands of ECi cylinders. AOPA is asking the FAA to withdraw the proposal and re-examine the data before taking any further action.
AOPA’s comments warn that the drastic course proposed by the AD is not supported by the data, could cost much more than the FAA estimates and has the potential to cause more safety problems than it solves.
The AD, proposed by the FAA in August, calls for repetitive inspection and early retirement of replacement cylinders with serial numbers manufactured between May 2003 and October 2009 by Airmotive Engineering Corporation and marketed by Engine Components International Division, better known as ECi.
“This AD simply goes too far,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “The FAA needs to step back from this proposal and take a hard look at the available data before taking any further action.”
AOPA’s own analysis of the supporting data provided by the FAA found that the AD proposal is based on only 15 cases of documented cylinder failures out of a population of some 30,000 cylinders affected by the AD.
AOPA’s formal comments may be viewed by visiting: http://www.aopa.org/-/media/Files/AOPA/Home/News/All%20News/2013/December/2013123%20AOPA%20Comments%20ECi%20AD%20Final.pdf
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in November took the unusual step of telling the FAA it supports a more conservative approach to handling problems affecting thousands of engines with aftermarket ECi cylinders. In formal comments, the NTSB asked the agency to take action, “more consistent” with NTSB recommendations released in February 2012, saying there was no available evidence to support the FAA’s more drastic proposal.
“The proposed AD covers an inappropriately broad swath of affected cylinders while also requiring an extremely draconian and economically harsh call for the early retirement of affected cylinders,” AOPA wrote in its comments. “The proposed actions are based upon inadequate and flawed data and improper assumptions in applying the FAA’s Risk Analysis guidelines. There are no known cases of failures of these cylinders leading to accident or injury, further bringing into question the FAA’s proposal for early retirement.”
The FAA has estimated the proposed AD would cost $82.6 million and affect 6,000 aircraft with Continental 520 and 550 engines. But AOPA is concerned that costs could go much higher as aircraft are grounded for extended periods of time. Possible ramifications of inadequate capacity at overhaul facilities and the sudden need to replace thousands of cylinders in the field could create additional safety issues, AOPA noted in its comments.
AOPA asked the FAA to work with stakeholders to educate pilots about operational concerns and symptoms of problems. “We strongly contend that better education is often the most effective tool to improve aviation safety and offer our assistance in any educational effort,” AOPA wrote.
Since 1939, AOPA has protected the freedom to fly for thousands of pilots, aircraft owners and aviation enthusiasts. AOPA is the world’s largest aviation member association. With representatives based in Frederick, Md., Washington, D.C., and seven regions across the United States, AOPA provides member services that range from advocacy at the federal, state, and local levels to legal services, flight planning products, safety programs and award-winning media products. To learn more, visit www.aopa.org.