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Piper PA-28 and PA-32  Wing Spar NPRM  2018-CE-049-AD

Piper PA-28 and PA-32 Wing Spar NPRM 2018-CE-049-AD

A proposed AD requires an inspection of the lower wing spar cap on airframes with high-load or unknown usage history (as determined by a formula). STEVE ELLS shows you how to calculate your airplane’s “factored service history” and details the compliance steps and costs involved.

Dec. 21, 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), to define the proposed protocol for an inspection process to address the possibility of cracks in the lower wing spar cap of Piper PA-28 and PA-32 series airplanes.

After the crash of an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) Piper PA-28R Arrow due to a wing separation on April 4, 2018, I researched and wrote a story about the accident, and looked back at the history of PA-28 and PA-32 wing cracks. The story appeared in the July 2018 issue oraf Piper Flyer. (See Resources for more information. —Ed.)

The importance of this proposed eddy current inspection is detailed in this sentence from the NPRM:

We are issuing this AD to detect and correct fatigue cracks in the lower main wing spar cap bolt holes. The unsafe condition, if not addressed, could result in the wing separating from the fuselage in flight.

The NPRM process

In my experience, the FAA often issues important NPRMs and Airworthiness Directives (ADs) just before a long weekend. This NPRM, 2018-CE-049-AD, was published Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. (See “Aviation Safety Alerts” on page Page 54 of this issue. —Ed.)

The NPRM proposal specifies that the AD will apply to the following Piper single-engine aircraft:

Model PA-28-140, PA-28-150, PA-28-151, PA-28-160, PA-28-161, PA-28-180,

PA-28-181, PA-28-235, PA-28R-180, PA-28R-200, PA-28R-201, PA-28R-201T, PA-28RT-201, PA-28RT-201T, PA-32-260, and PA-32-300 airplanes.

An NPRM is a preview of a proposed AD. The NPRM is an opportunity for owners, operators and other interested parties to respond to the proposal with comments, corrections and suggestions. 

The comments must have depth, breadth and be constructive. It’s important that the comments and corrections be based in experience and be factual. Comments that amount to nothing more than raging about cost or how the AD will decimate the fleet are of scant value. 

The comment period is 45 days from the date of issuance. Feb. 4, 2019, is the end of the comment period for 2018-CE-049-AD. 

“Factored service hours”

This proposed AD is unusual in that it requires owners and technicians to calculate “factored service hours.” The NPRM says:

This proposed AD would require calculating the factored service hours for each main wing spar to determine when an inspection is required, inspecting the lower main wing spar bolt holes for cracks, and replacing any cracked main wing spar.

The NPRM cites the discovery of a crack in the lower wing spar cap of a Piper PA-28R-201 as the reason for the proposal. It goes on to say:

An investigation revealed that repeated high-load operating conditions accelerated the fatigue crack growth in the lower main wing spar cap. In addition, because of the structural configuration of the wing assembly, the cracked area was inaccessible for a visual inspection. Model PA-28-140, PA-28-150, PA-28-151, PA-28-160, PA-28-161, PA-28-180, PA-28-181, PA-28-235, PA-28R-180, PA-28R-200, PA-28R-201T, PA-28RT-201, PA-28RT-201T, PA-32-260, and PA-32-300 airplanes have similar wing spar structures as the model PA-28R-201.

100-hour inspections as an indicator of high-load operations

Factored service hours are derived by researching the aircraft records to determine (1) the number of 100-hour inspections and (2) the total airframe hours, also called time in service (TIS). 

The factored service hours for each airframe are calculated by plugging the number of 100-hour inspections and TIS hours an airplane has accumulated into an equation. 

The rationale for using factored service hours (rather than total airframe time) is because the FAA believes that PA-28 and PA-32 airplanes used in flight schools, for-hire operations and other high-load environments such as low-altitude pipeline patrol, for example, are the airplanes that are subject to the heavy loading necessary for cracking to occur.

The NPRM says further:

Only an airplane with a main wing spar that has a factored service life of 5,000 hours, has had either main wing spar replaced with a serviceable main wing spar (more than zero hours TIS) or has airplane maintenance records that are missing or incomplete, must have the eddy current inspection.

How to determine factored service hours

The following is a summary of the formula for determining an airplane’s factored service life, published in the NPRM.

Step 1: Review the maintenance records (logbooks) to determine: a) the number of 100-hour inspections and b) total hours on the airplane since new or since any new wing or new wing spar replacement. 

Note: If a used spar or wing has been installed; or if the aircraft’s maintenance records are unclear as to the number of hours on the airplane, the bolt hole eddy current inspection must be done since it is impossible in those cases to determine how long the wing has been in service.

Step 2: Calculate the factored service hours for each main wing spar using the following formula: (N x 100) + [T-(N x 100)]/17 = Factored Service Hours, where N is the number of 100-hour inspections and T is the total hours TIS of the airplane. 

Thereafter, after each annual inspection and 100-hour TIS inspection, recalculate the factored service hours for each main wing spar until the main wing spar has accumulated 5,000 or more factored service hours.

The same formula is used to determine the factored service hours for all PA-28 and PA-32 airplanes. It works for those that have had only 100-hour inspections, those that have had no 100-hour inspections and airplanes that had some (but not all) 100-hour inspections over the life of the airplane.

Factored service hour calculations

Now, let’s do a few. Remember N is the number of 100-hour inspections and T is the total hours TIS of the airplane.

Picking numbers out of the air, let’s say our sample airplane has been used exclusively as a trainer for a well-known flight school for 4,662 hours and has had 46 100-hour inspections. What are the factored service hours of this airplane?

The formula for factored service hours is given in the NPRM as (N x 100) + 

[T – (N x 100)]/ 17 

For this airplane, that’s (46 x 100) + [4,662 – (46 x 100)]/17 

Simplified, (4,600) + [4,662 – (4,600)]/17

And finally, 4,600 + 3.657, which means this airplane has 4,603.65 factored service hours.

The inspection isn’t due yet, but will be soon, once the airplane reaches 5,000 factored service hours.

What about a privately-owned Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee 180 with complete maintenance records that has never had a 100-hour inspection?

Here’s an example straight out of the NPRM for determining factored service hours for an airplane with no 100-hour inspections. 

The airplane maintenance records show that the airplane has a total of 12,100 hours TIS, and only annual inspections have been done. Both main wing spars are original factory-installed. In this case, N = 0 and T = 12,100. 

Use those values in the formula as follows: (0 x 100) + [12,100 - (0 x 100)]/17 = 711 factored service hours on each main wing spar.

Despite the high number of airframe hours, this airplane has relatively few factored service hours and thus won’t need the inspection for quite some time.

Then, there are airplanes that have been used by a flight school, yet are now privately-owned. Here’s an example for an airplane that has 5,500 hours TIS and 25 100-hour inspections.

Use the same formula: (25 x 100) + [5,500 – (25 x 100]/17 equals 2,676 factored service hours.

This airplane is a little more than halfway to needing the inspection.

Math whizzes will recognize that the factored service hours formula is written based on an engineering calculation that wing spars in airplanes used for hire are 17 times more likely to have a spar crack than those that haven’t been flown for hire. 

My friend Mike Busch remarked:

The idea is that factored service hours are the sum of “abusive hours” and one-seventeenth of “non-abusive hours,” where “abusive hours” are defined as those hours during which the airplane was engaged in operations requiring 100-hour inspections (i.e., ops that included carrying passengers for hire and/or giving flight instruction for hire).

The only gotcha is for airplanes that have incomplete or approximated airframe hours instead of actual airframe hours. For instance, if an aircraft maintenance record (logbook) was lost or if one of the continuous record logs is missing, that airplane must have the wing spar bolt hole eddy current inspection specified in Paragraph (h) (1) and (2) of the NPRM and the inspection protocol in Appendix 1 of the AD. 

Inspection timeline and ongoing inspection requirements

The AD, as proposed, will require each airplane affected to have its number of inspections and TIS hours recalculated using the formula in the AD at each annual or 100-hour inspection to determine if it has gotten to the 5,000-hour factored service time point. 

Airplanes that get to 5,000 factored service hours per the formula, or airplanes with unknown airframe or wing hours TIS must have the eddy current inspection done within the next 100 hours time in service or 60 days, whichever occurs later.

According to figures in the NPRM, the eddy current inspection should take 1.5 man-hours. 

Reporting inspection results

The AD will require a written report within 30 days following each inspection. Here’s how it’s explained:

Within 30 days after completing an inspection required in Paragraph (h) of this AD, using Appendix 2, “Inspection Results Form,” of this AD, report the inspection results to the FAA at the Atlanta ACO Branch. Submit the report to the FAA using the contact information found in Appendix 2 of this AD.

Interim action

We consider this proposed AD interim action. The inspection reports will provide us additional data for determining the cause of the cracking. After analyzing the data, we may take further rulemaking action.

Based on these calculations, affected airframes that have never been operated where 100-hour inspections were required, seem to have little to be concerned about.

Airframes that have a factored service life of 5,000 hours or more will need to find a facility that can do a bolt hole inspection in accordance with the guidelines in Appendix 1 of the AD. 

If cracks are found, the wing spar will need to be replaced. The AD estimates that that repair will take 32 work hours and estimates that, at a labor cost of $85/hour the total cost will be $2,720 in labor. The FAA projects the part cost at $5,540, for a total cost of $8,260. 

However, since many of affected airframes are approaching 60 years’ time in service, I suspect that there will be owners and operators that elect to get the bolt hole eddy current inspection done regardless of the number of factored service hours on the airframe. It’s the only way to make sure there are no cracks. 

Know your FAR/AIM and check with your mechanic before starting any work.

Steve Ells has been an A&P/IA for 45 years and is a commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings. Ells also loves utility and bush-style airplanes and operations. He’s a former tech rep and editor for Cessna Pilots Association and served as associate editor for AOPA Pilot until 2008. Ells is the owner of Ells Aviation (EllsAviation.com) and the proud owner of a 1960 Piper Comanche. He lives in Templeton, California, with his wife Audrey. Send questions and comments to .

 

RESOURCES >>>>>

PIPER FLYER ARTICLES

“PA-28 and PA-32 Wing Spar Cracks: What You Should Know”
by Steve Ells, July 2018

 

NPRM 2018-CE-049-AD
Federal Aviation Administration
AirVenture Roadmap

AirVenture Roadmap

A report on the 2018 Gathering at Waupaca, a recap of Oshkosh—and tips to help you plan your next trip.

Based on what I saw (and a lot of the things I didn’t have the energy or time to see this year), AirVenture is now officially on the aviation must-do map like it’s never been before. I have no doubt that whatever in aviation holds your interest, you’ll be able to find it, learn more about it or do it at AirVenture. 

The Gathering 

One of the many benefits of being a Piper Flyer Association member is The Gathering at Waupaca.

More than 70 PFA members started arriving early for The Gathering at the Waupaca Municipal Airport in Wisconsin (KPCZ) on Friday, July 20. The official welcome reception barbecue took place 24 hours later on Saturday afternoon, at a hangar at the airport. 

Waupaca is 29 nm northwest of Wittman Regional Airport at Oshkosh (KOSH), the site of AirVenture. Since most inbound traffic to AirVenture is over there, flying into Waupaca is stress-free (relatively speaking) compared to the infamous Fisk VFR arrival process onto the grounds at AirVenture. 

Waupaca has an RNAV approach to the runway down to 500 and a mile. It’s also so much easier to depart from Waupaca when it’s time to finally head home. There’s none of that 22-airplanes-ahead-of-you conga line action, and Waupaca’s Avgas price is quite reasonable ($4.10 per gallon when I was there). 

Jennifer and Kent arrange ground transportation for members landing at KPCZ to and from the event hotel, the Par 4 Resort. But that’s not all.

The cost of The Gathering this year was a measly $110 for early registrants and $125 for those that missed the early opportunity. Where I live—and it is expensive here in California—it’s pretty easy to spend that many dollars for a good meal with wine for two. The Gathering bucks are a prudent outlay, since they include three meals, bus transportation back and forth to AirVenture for the first three days of the show, and maintenance and product seminars all day Sunday.

The Gathering provides a great value and a convenient way for members to meet other Piper owners, trade flying stories, compare purchases and get to and from AirVenture. Oh, and Gathering members are automatically entered in the door prize raffle Sunday afternoon after the presentations. This year, every Gathering attendee took home at least one door prize. It’s a can’t-lose deal.

Hotel costs for PFA members in Waupaca average a little over $125 per night for a room with two beds at the Comfort Suites Foxfire. 

For the first three days of the show, members can eat a free breakfast at the hotel and then board a bus to be whisked to Oshkosh. Then in the afternoon, after adventuring, shopping, learning and getting together with old friends, everyone gets back on the bus for a no-stress ride back to the hotel in Waupaca. 

This arrangement is one of the most stress-free ways to “do” AirVenture and is so cost-effective that fly-in members who attend The Gathering can scratch the cost of car rental off their AirVenture budget sheet. 

One-day admission tickets to AirVenture in 2018 were $34 for EAA members and weekly passes were $125. Ticket costs were around 30 percent higher for non-members. 

The Gathering at Waupaca group poses with their raffle prizes. Each attendee went home with something.
Lunch on Sunday of the Gathering, one of three meals included for Gathering attendees.

 

A&P/IA Steve Ells discussed owner-performed maintenance at this year’s Gathering.
A little bit of weather

Despite weather cells that dumped buckets of rain in the Oshkosh area Friday and overcast skies Saturday that slowed AirVenture-bound arrivals to a trickle prior to the official start of the show Monday, over 10,000 airplanes eventually touched down and stayed for at least a day. 

The numbers and facts about AirVenture 2018 are getting close to hard-to-believe. Attendance increased again, as more than 601,000 folks from all corners of the United States and many foreign countries passed through the gates during the seven-day show. Campers in tents and motorhomes packed over 12,600 sites. The number of show planes reached 2,979, and there were 867 commercial exhibitors spread across the width and breadth of the grounds. 

I especially like the opportunities available at AirVenture to approach and get to know the vendors that provide information on everything from fuel cells to avionics, ADS-B options, Rajay turbocharger systems and whatever else could interest a pilot/owner. (For a list of the speakers at the 2018 Gathering at Waupaca, see Page 52. —Ed.)

If you seek face-to-face discussions with vendors of the products you use, or are planning to upgrade your airplane, interior, paint or avionics, the opportunity to confer with and compare information from vendors across the board is one of the biggest reasons I like AirVenture. 

An original Gloster Meteor came from the United Kingdom to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the RAF at AirVenture.
AirVenture offers daily airshows. The Candian Harvard Aerobatic team performed for a record-setting crowd in 2018.

 

A walk around the grounds

Passes can be purchased online (and printed at home) or on-site near the main gate. You’ll take your ticket to a booth near the main gate in exchange for a wristband. An EAA staff member will put it on for you. It’s your gate pass for the day, days or week. Once you have a wristband, there are other show entry points. (A link to a map of the AirVenture grounds is in Resources.—Ed.)

Be sure to gather your group together for a photo under the big sign that marks the entrance. From there, the show spreads out as you walk east along Celebration Way toward Boeing Plaza where the really big and significant airplanes are parked. Most of the big companies (Piper, Lycoming, Continental, etc.) exhibit on or near Celebration Way. 

Four large buildings (A, B, C and D), located halfway to Boeing Square, are where you’ll find a tight concentration of vendors. After passing through Boeing Square, you’ll arrive at Wittman Way. A left turn will take you to the Homebuilt and Warbird areas; a right turn will lead to the Vintage and Ultralight display airplanes. 

The Piper Flyer Association booth had a new location in 2018: Hangar C, Booth 3126.
BendixKing announced its new product lines and subscription plan for avionics equipment.

 

The AirVenture app

Anyone attending AirVenture will benefit greatly by downloading the AirVenture app onto a smartphone. The app lists the location of all the vendors and provides information about buses (not the Gathering bus) that run regularly to the seaplane base and stores near the site.

The app helps users distill the event into manageable portions. There’s so much to do and so much to learn that I believe it’s impossible to take it all in during one week. 

Want to learn to weld; work wood, sheet metal and composites; tear down and reassemble a Lycoming engine; catch up on no-lead 100-octane Avgas progress; learn how to grow your EAA chapter; explore an ag pilot career; learn how to efficiently lean your engine or any of a thousand other topics and subjects? 

You’ll need a roadmap so the next shiny airplane or gadget doesn’t pull you off your path. That’s where the app comes in. Select the events, vendors or demonstrations that interest you, and they’re moved to a day-by-day calendar in the app. 

The app also provides information about the free shuttles that run often to different areas on the grounds. Unless you have the endurance of a triathlete, the shuttles are a must if for nothing more than touring the different reaches of all that is AirVenture. 

The latest in…ADS-B

Foreflight and Sporty’s introduced Sentry, an ADS-B In receiver that has it all. Features include a 12-hour battery life (so there’s no need to plug into a backup battery during a long cross-country), a pressure altitude sensor, weather replay, a backup attitude source (AHARS), a carbon monoxide monitor and alarm and a built-in WAAS GPS. Every Sentry is shipped with a RAM suction cup mount and will support up to five devices on its Wi-Fi network. Price is $499.

 

The Sentry ADS-B In receiver will support up to five devices on its Wi-Fi network.
…head-up displays

Head-up displays (HUD) got a lot of attention at AirVenture, and at least three companies had HUD products on display. While I’m not an active IFR pilot, I can see how a HUD would be a real asset while flying a low IFR approach.

The Epic Optix Epic Eagle 1 connects to all major electronic flight bag (EFB) apps from either an iOS or Android phone or tablet via Wi-Fi. The Epic Eagle 1 displays a wealth of flight data, including synthetic vision, onto an infinity-focused screen that is part of the 1.6-pound unit that mounts on the airplane glareshield. The unit measures 7.8 inches by 12.8 inches by 4.7 inches. The Epic Eagle 1 was sold at AirVenture for $1,699. (Currently, it’s listed for $1,799 on the Epic Optix website.—Ed.) 

The Epic Eagle 2 connects to modern avionics equipment through both Wi-Fi and HDMI and is now set up for the Garmin G1000. The Epic Eagle 2 requires the installation of a GPU (3.7 inches by 2.8 inches by 1.5 inches). It has more capabilities and costs more than the Epic Eagle 1. The HUD is $1,999 and the GPU is $1,500. (This version is not yet listed on Epic Optix’s website.—Ed.)

According to the FAQs on the company website, approval is not needed to install or use the Epic Eagle. It is secured on the glareshield using a variety of mounts. Power (it draws less than 2 amps) is supplied through a cable to the airplane cigarette lighter. According to Epic Optix, a USB power port does not supply enough power for operation. 

Textron Aviation is listing the Epic Eagle on the options list for new Beech and Cessna aircraft. If it works at all well, it seems to be a bargain at $1,999. 

The MGF SkyDisplay HUD-LCD180 was also featured at AirVenture. The system projector is mounted to the roof of the cabin; the screen is suspended from an arm that’s connected to the projector. Information from installed avionics is fed through a display processor before being sent as video to the projector. Certification is expected in late 2018. Prices start at around $15,000.

The SkyDisplay HUD-LCD180 from MyGoFlight is expected to be certified in late 2018.

The Valkyrie HUD from Alpha System AOA is a glareshield-mounted “adjustable beam splitter” that provides a small head-up type display for either of the Alpha Systems angle-of-attack indicators. 

…com radios

I noticed a couple of new small-footprint com radios from Trig Avionics and TQ General Aviation. Both companies sell very capable coms that can be mounted in a round 2.25-inch hole—the small-sized instrument hole that’s often used for a clock. 

…electronic ignition systems

The team at Electroair announced two advances. First off, the company’s EA15000 ignition switch panel is now approved to replace all key-type magneto switches. The EA15000 can be mounted vertically or horizontally. Removal of the key switch system eliminates AD 93-05-06, a recurrent AD for certain Piper ignition switches. 

Electroair also announced it has obtained approval to install its electronic ignition system on turbocharged Lycoming engines (TIO-540, TIO-541 and TIGO-540 series) and on classic Continental engines (O-300, GO-300, E-165, E-185 and E-225).

…electronic flight instruments

Aspen Avionics introduced its low-cost building-block Evolution E5 Dual Electronic Flight Instrument (EFI), which takes the place of both the vacuum-driven artificial horizon and directional gyro instruments. The E5 Dual EFI has a backup battery to power the unit if aircraft power is lost and provides ARINC 429 and RS-232 busses that allow it to interface with some autopilots. 

In addition to a built-in air data computer and attitude heading reference system (ADAHRS), the E5 can be reconfigured and upgraded to include all the features of the Evolution 1000 Pro and further to the Pro Plus PFD, which features an angle-of-attack indicator and ADS-B and synthetic vision capabilities. Aspen also announced improvements to customers’ previously-installed Evolution flight display units. The E5 EFI is approved for installation under an STC and is priced at $4,995. 

...100-octane Avgas

Don’t expect PAFI to approve a new unleaded 100-octane Avgas soon.

The testing protocol administered by the Piston Aircraft Fuels Initiative (PAFI) was suspended in June 2018. Neither of the two candidate fuels—Shell and Swift—proved able to meet all the requirements. 

Consequently, the FAA invited other fuel providers to submit fuels. Phillips 66 and Afton Chemical announced that they had teamed up to create their version of an unleaded 100-octane Avgas. According to the presentation, the Phillips/Afton fuel will be almost identical to today’s 100LL except that a manganese additive (HiTec®3000) will be blended instead of lead. 

…Rajay turbocharger parts

If you’ve been looking for a source for new parts for your Rajay supercharger installation, look to Rajay Turbo Products. The company is also working to supply a hose kit that would terminate the repetitive five-year inspections required by AD 81-19-04.

I admit this is not a very comprehensive report, so I suggest you start saving now to get yourself to the 50th anniversary of AirVenture in 2019. I can guarantee EAA will be pulling out all the stops.

As I write this in mid-August 2018, there are only 49 weeks and one day before the show starts July 22, 2019. Attendees and show volunteers will begin arriving days and even weeks before the start date. 

At my age, I live by the rule, “The days seem long, but the years whiz by.” Now is the time to start making plans to attend AirVenture 2019. 

Steve Ells has been an A&P/IA for 44 years and is a commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings. Ells also loves utility and bush-style airplanes and operations. He’s a former tech rep and editor for Cessna Pilots Association and served as associate editor for AOPA Pilot until 2008. Ells is the owner of Ells Aviation (EllsAviation.com) and the proud owner of a 1960 Piper Comanche. He lives in Templeton, California, with his wife Audrey. Send questions and comments to .

RESOURCES >>>>>

EAA AIRVENTURE INFO

AirVenture app
Along-the-route special offers for AirVenture-bound fliers
AirVenture grounds map

THE GATHERING

Piper Flyer Association
piperflyer.org

ADS-B 

ForeFlight, LLC. (Sentry)

HEAD-UP DISPLAYS

Epic Optix (Epic Eagle 1 and 2)
MGF (SkyDisplay HUD-LCD180)
Alpha Systems AOA (Valkyrie HUD)

COM RADIOS

Trig Avionics Limited
trig-avionics.com

TQ Systems GmbH/TQ General Aviation
tq-general-aviation.com

ELECTRONIC IGNITION

Electroair
electroair.net

ELECTRONIC FLIGHT INSTRUMENTS

Aspen Avionics Inc.
aspenavionics.com

TURBOCHARGER PARTS

Talco Aviation/Rajay Turbo Products
Q&A: PA-34 Leaky Door Seals & Bouncing Fuel Gauges, PA-28R Main Gear Sidebrace Studs

Q&A: PA-34 Leaky Door Seals & Bouncing Fuel Gauges, PA-28R Main Gear Sidebrace Studs

Q: Hi Steve,

Couple of questions for you. I own a 1975 Piper PA-34-200T Seneca II Turbo. I have air leaks through the pilot entrance door. We’ve put in a new seal and adjusted it, but it still leaks. We think if we replaced the windlace with a new, more supple one that it would take care of the problem. Can you tell me where I could purchase this product? 

I also have a fuel gauge problem on the right engine. It does not indicate accurately and will vary between full and empty and anywhere between. What would be the best way to repair this problem? I read in your October 2016 issue on the Seneca II that Michael has had problems with this also. (See Resources for a link to the story. —Ed.)

I live in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and fly out of Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport (KGWS). The runway is 3,300 feet by 50 feet, at 5,916 feet msl. The Seneca II operates very well here. Love this PA-34; it performs everything
I ask of it.

I appreciate any advice you can give me.

Darwin

 

A: Hi Darwin,

Glad you like your Seneca. I wish I had one. 

The two companies that sell a variety of door seals are Brown Aircraft in Jacksonville, Florida, and Aircraft Door Seals in Wisconsin. I don’t have enough experience with these companies to recommend one over the other, but I believe both will send you a sample of the seal they recommend for your airplane so you can take a look at it. (Aircraft Door Seals is a Piper Flyer supporter. —Ed.)

I do know that Dennis Wolter of Air Mod, who is now writing for Piper Flyer, sometimes has to “build up” the surface behind the seal to get the seal he wants. Wolter uses flat rubber sheets in different thicknesses. He and his staff trim and adjust to get the proper build up. That tells me that you can have a very good length of seal, but you may still have to spend time tuning the installation to get the sealing you want. 

As far as your bouncing fuel gauge, it can be a couple of things. 

It can be problems with the gauge itself. Remove the signal wire at the sender and, while watching the gauge, touch the signal wire to the body of the fuel sender assembly. If the gauge is good, the needle should move smoothly from empty to full. If there’s hesitation or nonlinear needle movement, it’s probably a malfunction in the gauge.

If that looks good, you can test the fuel level sender by flying until the fuel level is below half so you can look inside the tank to locate the sender float.

Remove the signal wire from the sender. Then, by reaching in through the filler, use a safe tool to move the float on the sender arm up and down while an ohmmeter is attached to the signal stud on the sender. The varying resistance seen on the meter should be smooth and linear as the float is moved. I’ve used a long, smooth wooden dowel to move the float.

Other than visually inspecting the signal wire for bare spots—which is impossible in some installations—if you can find no other explanation for the bouncy needle, replacing the wire is probably the best solution. 

One option if you determine it’s the sender is to order new senders from CiES. They are much better and more accurate than the original Piper senders, and are FAA approved for installation on your Seneca. The CiES fuel level senders rely on a magnetic connection between the float arm and the signal arm. This type of connection eliminates corrosion and wear problems in the senders and provides a very linear signal. CiES senders are compatible with a wide variety of gauges and engine monitors.

Happy flying,

Steve

Aircraft Door Seals, a PFA supporter, will send prospective customers a sample of the seal material best suited for their aircraft.

Q: Hi Steve, 

Every 500 hours, my 1971 PA-28R-200 Arrow requires a removal and inspection of the main sidebrace bracket assembly to comply with an AD. My time has come...and apparently, it’s a bit of a job to remove these brackets. 

My A&P mentioned that if the brackets are replaced by those from a PA-32, then they will not require inspection again. The part numbers he provided me are: Part No. 95643-06/-07/-08/-09. I’ve found some new, but they are over $2,000 each! Any assistance locating some reasonably-priced alternatives would be greatly appreciated.

Pete

 

A: Hi Pete,

Your mechanic is referring to AD 97-01-01 R1. The title is “Main Gear Sidebrace Stud.” It calls for removal and inspection of the sidebrace studs. 

The initial inspection does not require the purchase of anything.

I suggest you remove the sidebrace stud brackets. It’s an easy task in my PA-24 which is also affected by the same sidebrace stud inspection as your PA-28R. 

After you remove the sidebrace stud brackets, remove the stud from the brackets and get your mechanic to find a shop near where you live that can do the fluorescent penetrant inspection or the magnaflux inspections called for in the AD. I believe all aircraft engine shops have the tooling to perform the magnaflux inspections. 

If you don’t find any cracks, reinstall the stud in the brackets and reinstall the brackets in the aircraft. Fly for another 500 hours and repeat. When I did the inspection on my PA-24, there were no cracks in either of my studs. 

The AD provides two ways to comply if cracks are found in either of your sidebrace studs. 

First, since the original-sized stud is no longer available, owners have the option of installing a larger stud in the original bracket after installing a new bushing and machining the larger stud to work with the original bracket and new bushing. 

Piper Flyer Association member Jason Williams added this on the PiperFlyer.org forum: “You can buy the new 5/8-inch stud (Piper Part No. 78717-02) and bushing (Piper Part No. 67026-12), along with the washers, roll pin and nut for around $700. A good machine shop should be able to ream and chamfer your bracket to accept the new parts.”

Thanks, Jason, your help is appreciated.

The second option is to buy new brackets, studs and bushings, and install these parts. 

As far as buying less expensive parts, that’s not as easy as it once was. Piper now sells its parts through Aviall, a national parts house. 

You may find the parts you need through an internet search or used from a salvage yard (see Resources for more information on how to locate parts and parts suppliers —Ed.) but they will have to be inspected in accordance with the AD prior to installation.

Let me know what the inspection turned up.

Happy flying,

Steve

AD 97-01-01 R1 calls for removal and inspection of the sidebrace studs for Piper PA-24, PA-28R, PA-30, PA-32R, PA-34 and PA-39 series airplanes.

Know your FAR/AIM and check with your mechanic before starting any work.

Steve Ells has been an A&P/IA for 44 years and is a commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings. Ells also loves utility and bush-style airplanes and operations. He’s a former tech rep and editor for Cessna Pilots Association and served as associate editor for AOPA Pilot until 2008. Ells is the owner of Ells Aviation (EllsAviation.com) and the proud owner of a 1960 Piper Comanche. He lives in Templeton, California, with his wife Audrey. Send questions and comments to .

RESOURCES >>>>>

DOOR SEALS 

Aircraft Door Seals – PFA supporter
Brown Aircraft 

FUEL SENDERS 

CiES Inc. – PFA supporter

PIPER PARTS AND SPARES 

Piper Flyer Yellow Pages
Piper Flyer parts locating request form (must be logged in)

NEW PIPER PARTS

Aviall

FURTHER READING

“Life with a Seneca II” by Michael Leighton
Piper Flyer, October 2016
AD 97-01-01 R1, “Main Gear Sidebrace Stud”
Piper Flyer forum (must be logged in)
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