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Q&A: Adding Toe Brakes to a Cherokee, Hand Controls for Wheelchair Aviators

Q&A: Adding Toe Brakes to a Cherokee, Hand Controls for Wheelchair Aviators

Q: Hi Steve,

I just bought a 1968 PA-28-180 Cherokee 180 B. So far, it’s been wonderful, but there’s one thing that I haven’t yet gotten used to. I trained in a newer Cherokee and it had toe brakes. My airplane just has a brake handle that I pull on to apply both main brakes at the same time. 

How can this be a good idea? Every airplane I flew in my training had toe brakes and whenever I wanted to turn sharply, I used the brake to sharpen my turn. I can’t do that in my “new” Cherokee and I am hoping you can point out how I can install toe brakes in my airplane. 

 

A: When I looked in the PA-28 and PA-28R Parts Catalog (Piper Part No. 753-582) for the PA-28-180, the way I read it, toe brakes were available on the left side on the PA-28-180 from Serial No. 28-1 up through 28-7305611.

The serial number range for your airplane, the Cherokee 180 B, includes serial numbers from No. 28-671 through 28-1760.

Toe brakes were an option from the factory. All Cherokees were equipped with hand brakes, but only the ones that were ordered with toe brakes also got the factory-installed toe brakes. 

There is no STC to install toe brakes on Cherokees. I have heard of owners who went to an aircraft salvage yard for the entire toe brake package—pedals, crossbar supports, links, firewall reinforcements, master cylinders and other parts that were available—and had these parts installed. Since all the parts are listed in the parts manual for the Cherokee 180, this is certainly doable. 

Some mechanics will say this change is a minor alteration for two reasons. First, Piper already approved the installation of the toe brake system at the factory and all the parts are Piper-produced. Second, it is not listed in the list of major alterations in Appendix A of Part 43 of the regulations. Minor alterations require only a logbook entry for a return to service.

Despite those facts, these days most shops will seek FAA approval in the form of a field approval sign off on a Form 337 (Major Repair and Alteration). This is despite the fact it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get a maintenance inspector at a local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) to sign off a 337.

For what it’s worth, I did see a set of Cherokee toe brake pedals on eBay today. It lacked the master cylinders and the necessary firewall reinforcements, so you’d have to source those parts elsewhere.

My 1960 Piper PA-24 Comanche is the first airplane I’ve ever owned that does not have toe brakes. At first, I was skeptical too. 

I soon learned that I didn’t miss the toe brakes at all. Part of the reason is that I used to lock up and flat-spot tires when I had toe brakes. That got expensive. Yes, I had to learn to live with the turning radius of my Comanche, but now that I know about it, the larger turning radius hasn’t been a headache. 

Many owners with the handbrake controls, myself included, strongly suggest that you live with your hand-actuated brake system for a few months before you make your final decision. It’s a good system.

Happy flying,

Steve

A Piper handbrake, like this one installed in Steve’s PA-24 Comanche, is simple to operate. The brake system applies equal braking pressure to the main wheels. Just pull the handle to slow down.


Q: Hi Steve,

I expect my mechanic can answer this, but I haven’t asked him yet. I have a Piper PA-28 Cherokee that I’ve owned for years. This airplane has been a central part of our family trips and vacations. 

My son was severely hurt last year in a motocross accident and has lost the use of his legs. He gets around fine in his wheelchair and has expressed an interest in flying. I have heard something about wheelchair pilots, but don’t have any details. 

Is there a way to equip my Cherokee so that my son can take flying lessons?

Flying Dad


A: Hi Dad,

I’m sorry to hear about your son’s accident.

Yes, theoretically there’s a way to equip your Cherokee with controls that will enable your son to safely fly your airplane. But unless you can find a used set of hand controls to install in your airplane, it’s going to be tough.

Unfortunately, the two companies that developed hand controls for disabled pilots and had them approved through what’s called a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) are no longer producing the hardware and paperwork for installation of the controls.

STC SA1741WE approves the installation of hand controls in PA-28-140, -150, -160, -180, -235 and PA-28R-180 and R-200 aircraft. This modification is sometimes known as the “Blackwood hand control” after the originator. The STC is presently owned by Mike Smith, but is not in production.

During my research, I spoke with Justin Meaders at International Wheelchair Aviators. Meaders is a pilot and uses a wheelchair. He was able to update me on the state of STCs for equipping Pipers for pilots who require hand controls to fly. 

Meaders told me he is working to get the FAA to recognize the Blackwood hand control for Pipers as a medical device that would not require an STC for installation.

Vision Air of Australia has Australian approval for a hand controls system for Cherokees, but it hasn’t been approved for use in the United States.

There is a similar STC for Cessna hand controls known as the Union control. The STC is in suspension now, but has been purchased by Linwood Nooe of Operation Prop in Brandon, Mississippi. 

I asked Nooe if he knew of a source for the hand controls. He told me that his nonprofit organization offers flights and flight training to men and women that can’t operate foot controls, and that people donate used controls to him from time to time. 

Nooe also invited anyone who needs hand controls to fly to come to his facility in Mississippi  for both introductory flights and flight training. (Nooe’s contact information is in Resources. —Ed.) 

You can view videos of hand-controlled flights using the Vision Air controls and Union control on the website of the United Kingdom-based nonprofit Freedom in the Air. (See link in Resources. —Ed.)

Best wishes on helping your son fly,

Steve

These diagrams, provided by Linwood Nooe, show the Union hand control.
It is similar to the Blackwood control used on Piper Cherokees. 

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 >>>>>

FAR PART 43, APPENDIX A
Federal Aviation Administration

BLACKWOOD HAND CONTROL STC FOR PIPER PA-28
Federal Aviation Administraton
rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgSTC.nsf/WebSearchDefault?SearchView&Query=SA1741WE

INFORMATION FOR WHEELCHAIR AVIATORS
Able Flight
ableflight.org

Freedom in the Air (flight videos)
freedomintheair.org/hand-controls

International Wheelchair Aviators
wheelchairaviators.org

Operation Prop (Linwood Nooe)
operationprop.com

Vision Air
mirageair.com.au/vision.shtml

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Proper Entry Procedure: Fitting & Adjusting the Piper PA-28 Entry Door

Proper Entry Procedure: Fitting & Adjusting the Piper PA-28 Entry Door

Before you can properly seal the door, you must ensure it is fitting properly. Here is a step-by-step guide for removing, checking and adjusting the door.

The only way to properly adjust a door on a Piper PA-28 series aircraft is with the door seal removed. Only then will you know if the door is fitting properly. The following procedures should be accomplished before installing a new seal, and they can only be done by or under the supervision of an A&P mechanic.

Remove the door

Remove the screw, step bushing and washer attaching the doorstop to the doorsill plate. Remove the cotter pins, clevis pins and washers from door hinges. Set the door aside on a blanket or other protective covering.

Remove the old seal

There is no easy way to remove the old seal and adhesive, but I’ve found that using an electric heat gun (such as those used for paint removal) aids this process considerably. First, locate the seal joint and with the heat gun apply heat to the seal and carefully begin to lift the seal from the edge of the door. Continue applying heat in the apex of the seal as you lift it from the edge of the door until you have it completely separated from the door.

Remove the door seal adhesive

Removing old adhesive can be performed using one of two methods. One way is to use a small (three-inch) brass brush on a drill motor and literally peel the adhesive off the door. This method does require that the door edge be repainted. (An aerosol such as Krylon paint may be used to repaint the edge of the door, and it stands up well over the years.)

The second method is to dissolve the adhesive with a product called Goof Off. Goof Off, touted as “The Miracle Remover,” will not affect paint or Plexiglas.

I’ve found that applying heat to the old adhesive and then wiping the area using a rag saturated with Goof Off will remove the residue. Use caution to prevent combustion. Ensure any Goof Off liquid remaining on the door has fully dried before reapplying heat from the heat gun.

When the door edge is cleaned up, you are ready proceed with the adjustment.

Check for wear in the hinge

Over the years, the eyebolts and clevis pins (door hinge system) can become worn to a point where the door will sag and not close or seal properly. It’s imperative that these parts be checked for wear before proceeding.

 

A good way to check the parts for wear is to slightly open the door and see if you can raise up on the door. There should be no movement (or very little movement) of the door vertically.

If you can raise up on the door, the eyebolts and clevis pins are worn out and should be replaced. (The tolerance when new is only three thousands of an inch.)

These items are not expensive, yet they are critical to properly closing and sealing the door. Aircraft Door Seals sells eyebolts and clevis pin sets. The new eyebolts and clevis pins come with complete instructions for installation and can be replaced in less than five minutes.

 

Reinstall the door

Place the door into position over the eyebolts and install the washers and clevis pins in the door hinges. (Do not reconnect doorstop to the doorsill on the fuselage at this time.) Close the door and secure the upper latch.

With the door closed and latched, verify the front edge of the door is flush with the fuselage. Many times the door will not be flush; instead, it will actually be fitting inside of the fuselage anywhere from 1/8 inch to 3/16 inch. It must be flush with the fuselage before you proceed.

If you find the door is not fitting flush, this may be corrected by the installation of spacers (washers) under each eyebolt (or as required) which will move the upper or lower portion of the door and enhance the door’s fit. The washers you’ll need are AN960-516 (thick) and AN960-516L (thin)—typically, just one or two under each eyebolt will correct the fit.

To remove the eyebolt, you must remove the door. Just inside the cabin in front of the door opening (behind the interior trim), you will find a 5/16-24 nut for the upper and lower eyebolt. Slide a half-inch box wrench behind the upholstery, placing it over the nut.

Using a crescent wrench on the eyebolt, unscrew the eyebolt (counterclockwise) and remove it. It is helpful to have an assistant place the washers on the eyebolts so you do not have to move the wrench and nut. Install one or more washers as required on the eyebolt(s) and reinstall. Do not over-tighten—just snug is sufficient.

Reinstall the door and verify the front edge of the door fits flush with the fuselage. If not, repeat this procedure using thick and/or thin spacers until it does fit flush.

Note: Many times the factory installation leaves a little to be desired. With the door fully closed, inspect the clearance between the edge of the door and outer periphery of the fuselage door opening. Many times I have found the edge of the door skin actually hitting the fuselage, especially at the front edge. You should have a minimum of 1/16 inch clearance. If not, file the edge of the door until it has the proper clearance.

Adjust the door

If the door does not fit flush with the fuselage around the entire opening, start with the adjustment of the main latch by loosening the two flat head screws and move the striker plate (in or out) as required. Re-tighten the two screws. Repeat this as necessary until the door fits flush. The door should have a 1/16 inch to 1/8 inch clearance around the entire edge of the door and fuselage.

 

On early Piper models (pre-1968) I’ve found the latch clevis pin to be bent, which will prevent the door from latching properly. If it is bent, it must be replaced. Aircraft Door Seals stocks this clevis pin.

To provide the proper vertical adjustment of the door, insert the necessary washer combinations between the cabin door hinge(s), clevis pins and the fuselage eyebolts. Also verify that the fittings riveted to the door have not been bent. The fittings forming the portion that fits over the eyebolts should be straight.

Adjust the upper door safety latch

To adjust the door upper (hook) latch, remove the two screws from the latch plate on the top of the fuselage door opening. Remove the plate and rotate the loop clockwise or counterclockwise (a small amount of WD-40 on the threads will help) to make necessary adjustments.

 

Replace the latch plate and secure with the two attachment screws. Check the fit of the door.

Many times the upper latch hook can become bent and actually hit the upper portion of the door opening (fuselage). The upper hook should be centered in the upper opening. If not, using vise grips, clamp the hook at the point where there is a slight bend in the hook and slightly bend the hook until it is centered in the opening. Caution: When bending the hook, support the hook with your thumb in the area where you are bending. This will prevent the latch from being damaged.

 

Check the fit and make final adjustments

When the door is properly adjusted, there should be approximately a 1/16 to 1/8 inch gap around the outer periphery of the door between the door edge and the fuselage.

Insert the cotter key(s) in the clevis pins and bend the cotter key ends around the clevis pins and trim off the excess cotter key length as required.

It is not uncommon for the forward top edge of the door to not fit totally flush with the top edge of the fuselage. This condition is due to the variables in the assembly process of the door. Many times I have found it necessary to adjust the fit of this portion of the door by slightly bending the door upper edge.

This procedure will not damage the door and has been done by the factory for years, but it must not be done with the door installed. It is best done with the door lying flat on a blanket and manually massaging the upper portion of the door with your knee until you are satisfied with the fit.

The entry door has been cleaned up, fitted and adjusted, but you’re not done yet. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter for successful installation of the new door seal.

Dick Russ is a multi-thousand-hour commercial, multi-engine and instrument-rated pilot. He’s also a flight test engineer and an A&P/IA who has restored many Pipers. In addition to his career as a freelance writer and aviation business owner, he was senior engineer on the Shuttle Enterprise Approach and Landing Test Program at Edwards AFB. Russ holds three patents on aviation components. Send questions or comments to . 

RESOURCES

Aircraft Door Seals
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“Bold Warrior”: A New Pilot Buys a Piper PA-28-151 for Training & Traveling

“Bold Warrior”: A New Pilot Buys a Piper PA-28-151 for Training & Traveling

Photos by Mike Maez

Ever since I was a kid I’ve always been obsessed with anything fast. Anytime a plane would fly overhead, I was—and still am—the boy that would stop everything to look up and watch it fly by. I spent a lot of my teenage years playing various flight simulator games. 

As I grew older, my obsession with speed and adrenaline obviously led me to cars. I started racing cars as soon as I could drive and did everything from drag racing to professional-level drifting. 

One of the things I was always fascinated with though, was aviation. I just never thought it was possible to get into it so early in life. Boy, was I wrong. 

 

The fast track

A little over a year ago, I came across a picture on social media of my friend Alex Luke flying a C-172. Having no idea that he was a pilot, I messaged him immediately to tell him how envious I was of him flying planes. I begged him to take me for a ride. 

As it turns out, Alex was building time for an instrument rating, and was constantly spending money to rent the C-172. He was excited to hear how into aviation I was, and agreed to take me up on one of his flights.

I knew this was going to be something special, but I could never foresee what would be coming next. 

We went on one airplane ride and the aviation bug hit me hard. Less than a month later, Alex and I bought a plane together, and my life changed forever. 

I picked up my PPL within two-and-a-half months: I scored 93 percent on my written and passed my checkride on the first try. 

We. Went. Everywhere. 

It seemed like Alex and I were in the air more than we were on the ground—and I was loving every minute of it. We managed to put 300 hours on the airframe in the first four months of ownership. By then, Alex had finished his IFR, and I bought out his share as we had planned from the beginning.

 

A shiny new panel

Once the plane belonged solely to me, I began researching ways to personalize it. I have always been a tech nerd of sorts, so the panel was definitely something I had my eye on upgrading. 

I started the upgrade by installing a PMA450 audio panel from PS Engineering. I had all the audio panel wiring redone with four-place headset jacks and panel-powered Bose LEMO plugs. I then installed a Garmin GTX 330ES transponder and GNS 430W GPS, and linked them all together for ADS-B compliance. 

I also did my own custom mount under the throttle quadrants for a Stratus 2S to receive ADS-B In, and had an AirGizmos’ iPad panel mount installed. Finally I bought a sheet of real carbon fiber that I had laser cut to complete the panel.

 

A custom interior

Next up, I really wanted to bring the interior of the Warrior back to life. All of the aviation interiors I was finding online seemed very standard and ordinary. I really wanted something different that wasn’t run-of-the-mill and would also be durable. 

Through my research, I found that Ron from Aviation Creations was the go-to guy to talk to about this. Working with Ron, I carefully crafted my own overall design and picked all of the colors and fabrics to make it a truly custom interior. 

I completely revamped the Warrior’s interior head-to-toe, replacing everything that was worn out or broken, mainly with new OEM Piper parts and all new hardware. This included the headliner, rear bulkhead, glareshield—all of it. I had most of the interior plastics, including the overhead panel, wrapped in aviation-grade Ultrasuede, a synthetic microfiber. 

Doing all of the installation work myself with the help of my friend Alex Simpson, we also replaced all the windows with new solar control windows from Great Lakes Aero Products. I just took my time, and tried to research how to do the stuff online. I also got a lot of advice from my A&P/IA at Falcon Executive.  

I do my own oil changes and my own tire/tube changes as well. Basically anything that I am allowed to do I prefer to do myself. I am a perfectionist, and have the mindset of “do it once, do it right,”—and the same mindset applies to the Warrior. When I am not allowed to do something I work with the staff at Falcon Executive at Falcon Field Airport (KFFZ) in Mesa, Ariz.

 

Speed mods and STCs

The Warrior already had various speed mods installed when Alex Luke and I bought it. These included upgraded wheel pants from Knots 2U; wing root seals; and Laminar Flow Systems’ flap gap seals, flap hinge fairings and aileron seals. I did replace the landing light with a Teledyne LED light since the OEM light doesn’t provide as much illumination for night ops.

In addition, N4402X had the 180 hp “Bold Warrior” STC applied to it back in 1998. According to the STC, #SA1842NM was issued to Auto-Air and includes installation of a Lycoming O-360-A4M engine and a Sensenich 76EM8-0-60 propeller and associated installation components. 

The STC helps with flying all year long in the hot Arizona desert with high density altitude airports such as Sedona and Flagstaff. Given the flexibility of the extra horsepower—it essentially turns the aircraft into an Archer—and the robustness of the O-360 platform which is known to run well over its 2,000-hour TBO, we managed to put 450 hours on in the first year with no major issues or unwanted downtime. 

 

A variety of experiences

Over the first year of flying I have experienced a vacuum pump failure in flight, an alternator failure during runup, and got stuck on the taxiway of a very small airport due to a punctured tube. 

I’ve currently have amassed almost 200 hours of cross-country time in just over a year by doing trips all over the Southwestern United States with a lot of night cross-country stuff as well. I have also done numerous flights in and out of fairly busy airports like John Wayne-Orange County Airport (KSNA) in Santa Ana, Calif. and Tucson International (KTUS). 

Most of my flying these days consists of cross-country trips with my girlfriend to some of our favorite stops including San Diego, Orange County and Las Vegas. 

My future plans include adding an instrument rating—and likely upgrading to a larger single, so that I can haul more people to the beach.

After a little over one year of flying, I feel like I have seen a lot already. One of the things that I love about aviation is no matter how much you do, there is always so much more to learn.

 

Special thanks to Bruce and Brad at Falcon Executive Aviation; Ron Matta at Aviation Creations; and Alex Luke, Alex Simpson and Dax Rodriguez. Justin Derendal is a 34-year-old pilot residing in Peoria, Ariz., and an avid aviation enthusiast. He is a former race car driver and Honorary Commander of the USAF 607th Air Control Squadron at Luke AFB. Send questions or comments to .

RESOURCES >>>>> Upgrades and modifications – PFA supporters

Aviation Creations 
 
Bose Corp.
 
Garmin Ltd.
 
Great Lakes Aero Products, Inc.
 
Knots 2U, Ltd.
PS Engineering, Inc.
 
Stratus 2S
 
Teledyne Technologies Inc.

Other upgrades and modifications 

AirGizmos
Laminar Flow Systems
STC #SA1842NM
FAA certified repair stations
Arizona Aircraft Accessories, LLC
Falcon Executive Aviation
Read more...
PA-28 & PA-32 Wing Spar Cracks: What You Should Know

PA-28 & PA-32 Wing Spar Cracks: What You Should Know

STEVE ELLS delves into the history of Cherokee wing spar cracks and investigates inspection methods. 

By now, every Cherokee owner, from the earliest PA-28-180 to the most recent Arrow, has heard about the inflight wing separation that occurred April 4, 2018, to a Piper Arrow owned by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. 

A very experienced flight instructor/check airman and a student perished when the left wing of a 1997 Arrow with slightly more than 7,000 airframe hours broke off. 

The NTSB issued Preliminary Report No. ERA18FA120 following the April 4, 2018, wing separation. The report said, “The airplane entered the traffic pattern and performed a touch-and-go landing.” ATC issued a transponder code and the pilot asked for approval to turn crosswind. ATC told the pilot to continue his upwind heading. 

The next sentence in the NTSB report stated, “Radar data indicate the aircraft climbed to 900 feet MSL at a groundspeed of 80 knots and a heading of 240 degrees before radar contact was lost. According to multiple witness, all within 2,500 feet of the accident site, they saw the airplane flying normally, then watched as the left wing separated from the aircraft.”

Wing separation history

Unfortunately for Piper Aircraft, the FAA, and PA-28 and PA-32 owners, this is not the first wing separation in PA-28/-32 series aircraft.

The first recorded separation took place 31 years ago when the left wing of a PA-28-181 Archer II broke off. 

Following that accident, Jim Burnett, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, sent this letter to Donald Engen, Director of the Federal Aviation Administration:

On March 30, 1987, a Piper PA-28-181, N8191V, crashed following an in-flight separation at the wing root attachment while in cruise flight at low altitude near Marlin, Texas. The airplane, which was owned and operated by Griffin Pipeline Patrol Company, was patrolling a pipeline right of way at the time of the accident.

The pilot, the sole occupant, received fatal injuries.

Although the investigation is continuing, preliminary examination by the Safety Board’s Materials Laboratory disclosed features indicative of fatigue cracking in the separated left wing main spar. Fatigue cracking initiated at two locations just outboard of the outermost forward attachment bolt hole in the lower T-shaped spar cap of the main spar. Fatigue propagation was upward through the thickness and chordwise completely through the forward leg of the lower spar cap (about 1.3 inches). A small area of fatigue cracking also was noted in the forward web fracture piece adjacent to the forward outboard attachment bolt hole. 

Examination of the left wing at the accident site disclosed evidence of an approximate 10-inch-long crack that had been stop-drilled in the upper wing skin. The crack was located forward of the main spar at the wing root and was oriented chordwise parallel to the fuselage.

The accident airplane had been flown 7,488 hours since new. Following the separation, the operator then inspected a second PA-28-181 with 7,878 hours and found upper wing skin cracks that the maintenance department had stop-drilled. When the wings were removed, a visual inspection of the spar caps at the outboard attachment hole showed “crack indications” in the same area. 

The Burnett letter also included this: “Representatives of Piper Aircraft Corporation (Piper) indicate that other Piper models have wing spar structures similar to that of the PA-28.”

The NTSB issued three recommendations to the FAA: 

1. Issue an airworthiness directive to require an immediate inspection of the main wing spars and upper wing skin at the wing root of Piper PA-28 airplane with over a specified number of service hours for evidence of cracking. Particular attention should be placed on inspecting the bottom surface of the lower spar cap adjacent to the outboard forward attachment bolt hole at the wing root attachment, as well as along the upper wing skin adjacent to the fuselage just forward of the main spar. (Class I, Urgent Action) (A-87-40)

2. Based on the inspection described in Safety Recommendation A-87-40, establish a recurrent periodic inspection of the wing root area for cracks by an approved method to identify those cracks before they become critical. (Class I, Urgent Action) (A-87-41)

3. Conduct a Directed Safety Investigation to inspect the lower spar cap and upper skin on other Piper model airplanes that have a similarly configured wing spar structure to that of the model PA-28 airplane. (Class I, Urgent Action) (A-87-42)AD 87-08-08 and Service Letter 997

The FAA published Airworthiness Directive 87-08-08, issued May 5, 1987, only 36 days after the wing separation.

Piper followed with Service Letter 997, issued May 14, 1987, which detailed the importance of proper wing removal procedures.

AD 87-08-08 applied to all PA-28 models, including the PA-28-201T Turbo Dakota. It also included PA-32-260 and PA-32-300 aircraft. Additionally, the AD applied to PA-28R retractable gear versions of the PA-28. The only model excluded was the PA-28-236 Dakota.

Aircraft with less than 5,000 hours total time in service (TIS) had to comply before reaching 5,050 hours; aircraft with more than 5,000 hours TIS had to comply within the next 50 hours of flight time.

The AD required that both wings be removed. One shop owner I spoke with told me than his two-man experienced crew could support the fuselage and remove both wings in 16 man-hours. His shop already had the fixtures to support the fuselage and wings. A shop doing the inspection for the first time would need to build these tools.

Compliance required a visual inspection—using a magnifying glass of at least 10 power—“for cracks in the lower spar cap from the wing skin line outboard of the outboard row of wing attach bolt holes to an area midway between the second and third row or bolt holes from the outboard row.” 

The AD also mandated the use of non-destructive crack detection tools such as the dye penetrant method and eddy current testing to aid in the search for cracks. 

If no cracks were found, the wings could be reinstalled. 

If even the tiniest crack was found, the airplane was deemed to be unairworthy until a new spar or a wing with no spar cracks was installed. 

The upper wing skins were also inspected for cracks. If found, the skin cracks had to be repaired using repair methods acceptable to the Administrator.

AD 87-08-08 did not require further inspections. Apparently, the author(s) of the AD didn’t plan for any future cracking. That assumption was incorrect. 

In an effort to determine the extent of the cracking in the fleet, AD 87-08-08 also mandated that within five days of the completion of each inspection, that all inspection results be sent to the National Safety Data Branch of the FAA in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

AD 87-08-08 was rescinded Sept. 28, 1987, less than six months after it was issued. PA-28 and PA-32 owners and operators no longer had to pull the wings to inspect for cracks.

Piper Service Bulletin 886 

On June 8, 1988, Piper Aircraft issued Service Bulletin (SB) No. 886 entitled “Wing Spar Inspection.” (This and a related Service Bulletin are available under “Magazine Extras” on the forums at PiperFlyer.org. —Ed.)

SB 886 divided the PA-28 and PA-32 airplanes into two groups.1

Group I applies to all PA-28-140 through PA-28-181 Archer II; and PA-28R-180 and PA-28R-200 Arrow II aircraft.

Group II applies to all PA-28-235 airplanes; PA-32-260 and PA-32-300; as well as all PA-28R-201 Arrow III, PA-28R-201T Turbo Arrow III and PA-28RT-201 Arrow IV and PA-28RT-201T Turbo Arrow IV aircraft. 

The SB—in CAPITAL LETTERS—warns operators and owners that: “FAILURE TO FULLY COMPLY WITH THIS SERVICE BULLETIN COULD SERIOUSLY AFFECT THE STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY, SAFETY AND AIRWORTHINESS OF THE AIRCRAFT!”

It also includes this sentence: “To date, over five hundred (500) inspections have been accomplished. Only two (2) negative findings were reported on a pair of PA-32s operating in a severe environment and with considerable damage histories.”

The SB directs owners and operators to determine which “usage class” applies to their airplane.

This Service Bulletin provides instructions for:

1. determining the aircraft’s “usage class;”

2. determining the initial and recurring inspection times; and

3. accomplishing the wing spar inspection(s).

Determining aircraft usage class

The usage classes that Piper provides in SB 886 are Normal Usage (Class A), Severe Usage (Class B), Extreme Usage (Class C) and Unknown Usage (Class D).

The SB defines “normal flight training operations” as Normal Usage (Class A). 

Severe Usage is defined as “aircraft which have engaged in severe usage, involving contour or terrain following operations, (such as power/pipeline patrol, fish/game spotting, aerial application, aerial advertising, police patrol, livestock management or other activities) where a significant part of the total flight time has been spent at below one thousand (1,000) feet AGL.”

Extreme Usage is defined as aircraft that have been significantly damaged, such as damage which “required major repair or replacement of wing(s), landing gear or engine mount.”

Unknown Usage is defined as “aircraft and/or wings of unknown or undetermined operational or maintenance history.”

The SB warns owners: “However, if there is any doubt as to the aircraft’s operating history, it is recommended that the initial inspection be conducted in accordance with the UNKNOWN USAGE CLASS ‘D’ Compliance Time.”

Determining inspection compliance times

Once the Usage Class has been defined, it is used to “determine the applicable initial or repetitive wing spar inspection compliance time from TABLE 1.”

The compliance times differ somewhat between Group I and Group II aircraft. Based on engineering studies completed by Piper, all Group I aircraft in the Normal Usage category must have an initial crack inspection at 62,900 hours total TIS. The aircraft must also have repetitive inspections thereafter every 6,000 hours TIS.

All Group II aircraft in the Normal Usage category must have the initial inspection at 30,600 hours TIS, and the repetitive inspections every 3,000 hours TIS. 

Group I aircraft in the Severe Usage category must comply with the initial inspection requirement at 3,700 hours TIS with repetitive inspections every 1,600 hours TIS thereafter.

Group II requirements are initial at 1,800 hours TIS and repetitive inspections every 800 hours thereafter. 

Interpreting this complex bulletin

The catch here is that the Piper SB says that aircraft in the Unknown Usage category should have the wings pulled to complete the initial inspection within 50 hours TIS unless the crack inspection required in AD 87-08-08 has been completed. The repetitive inspection intervals are then based on which Usage Category applies.

What this means for owners is that if the usage history prior to their purchase of the airplane is unknown, this SB, which Piper considers mandatory, requires that the wings be pulled, and the crack inspection completed right now. 

I have purchased the ownership and major repair records from the FAA Aircraft Registry office—available to all owners on CD for nothing more than a phone call and less than $20—for all the airplanes I’ve owned. (For a link to the online request form, see Resources. —Ed.)

But these records only hint at how each airplane was flown prior to my ownership. Unless past ownership and flight conditions are known, an airplane is automatically in the “Unknown Usage” category. 

The smoking guns

In 1987, William Johnson was an A&P mechanic and station manager for Yute Air in Dillingham, Alaska. Johnson, in addition to holding an A&P, also holds an Inspection Authorization (IA), and is an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) with over 20,000 Alaska flying hours. 

During my annual trip to the Alaska Airman’s meeting at Anchorage International Airport (PANC) in early May 2018, Johnson told me that every PA-32 that he and his crew inspected following the 1987 AD had cracks in the suspect area. 

“I sent in over 40 Malfunction and Defect (M&D) reports to the FAA about cracks,” he explained during a recent phone conversation.

At the time of the AD, Yute Air was flying 4 PA-32-300 Cherokee Six 300s. In addition to changing the spars on the company Cherokees, Williams also changed spars on other western Alaska Cherokees. 

Johnson told me that Ray Boyce of the FAA and a representative from Piper Aircraft visited him in Dillingham to view the results of his inspections. Comments from the FAA engineer seem to back up Johnson’s concerns that this will be a big problem.

Inspection methods

Since it takes about 16 man-hours to remove the wings prior to the inspection, an estimate of the costs for wing removal, inspection and reattachment, assuming a $75/hour shop rate, would probably start at $3,000. This unexpected cost could be daunting to many owners.

What if there’s a way to do the inspection without removing the wings? 

I wondered if an inspection panel could be cut that would expose the inspection area, so I asked this question of Paul New of Tennessee Aircraft. New is very experienced with structural repairs of Piper and Cessna aircraft. 

New said there’s no way to cut an inspection hole to perform the inspection.

However, in an Investigative Update to the original NTSB Preliminary report (ERA18FA120) on the April 4 wing separation, a second Embry-Riddle flight training PA-28R-201 Arrow (Serial No. 2844135) was inspected using an eddy current inspection (ECI) method. Wing cracks were found. The second airplane had 7,661 hours TIS. 

It was further reported that the cracked wings were reinstalled and subsequently inspected using a new ECI inspection procedure developed by Piper Aircraft. The new method, utilizing a bolt-hole probe inspection technique, was able to confirm the location and size of the previously identified cracks.

Based on the reported success of the bolt-hole ECI inspection, this method may be the fastest and least expensive method to inspect for wing cracks. Additionally, eddy current inspections are much more effective than dye penetrant inspections.

In every AD, there’s a paragraph saying that users are encouraged to submit alternate methods of compliance (AMOC) to solve the condition cited as causing the AD. The question now is whether there is a company that could create an eddy current inspection—or other definitive inspection technique that doesn’t require wing removal—for approval as an AMOC. Due to the equipment required and the possibility of stressing the wing structure during removal and installation, removal of the wing is the least desirable inspection mode.

 

Liability concerns

In another classic case of “be careful what you pray for,” and, “behind every survivor is a lawyer,” any change to an airplane structure runs into a liability glitch. 

In 1987, Cessna had stopped the manufacture of piston-powered airplanes as a statement to Congress; calling for the need for legal protection from enormous losses in civil courts. A common practice in aviation civil lawsuits to “name everyone who has deep pockets and has ever touched the airplane” meant Cessna was always listed as a defendant—even though it had not touched the subject airplane for decades, in some cases. 

Piper Aircraft did not stop production, but the effects of high product liability costs contributed to the company closing its Vero Beach plant in 1990 and declaring bankruptcy in 1991. 

The entire industry breathed a huge sigh of relief and celebrated Jan. 25, 1994, when Congress enacted Senate Bill 1458, also called the General Aviation Revitalization Act (GARA) of 1994. The bill was enacted to “amend the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to establish time limitations on certain civil actions against aircraft manufacturers, and for other purposes.”

Cessna resumed production in 1996—a full nine years after it stopped production of piston-powered GA aircraft. 

The most important provision of GARA was the implementation of an 18-year window of responsibility by light airplane manufacturers. This “Statute of Repose” excused Cessna (and Piper) from involvement in civil suits in accidents involving airplanes that had left the factory more than 18 years before.

However, Paragraph 2 of the Act is worded that if Cessna (or Piper, or any other light airplane manufacturer) creates a significant change and mandates the installation of that change on an airplane outside the 18-year window, the company is again subject to civil lawsuits during a new 18-year window. 

In my opinion, installation of a new wing spar or installation of an airworthy used wing does not constitute a change that would reopen the statute window.

The takeaway

So that’s where Piper and the owners and operators of its PA-28 and PA-32 aircraft stand today. According to Piper SB 886 and 978A, if owners and operators can’t determine the usage history, a crack inspection should be performed immediately. 

If cracks are found, and the aircraft is returned to airworthy status by installing a used wing, that used wing must be inspected for cracks prior to installation. 

Given the gravity of a failure, and that 7,000 hours was the tipping point for the two spar failures, and that a well-maintained airplane was found to have cracks at around 7,000 hours, I strongly suggest that Piper Flyer owners start to budget for this inspection. I expect a new AD will be issued mandating inspection for cracks. Hopefully, a low-cost inspection will eliminate the need for wing removal and reinstallation to determine if cracks exist.  

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 .

1 Service Bulletin 978A was issued Aug. 6, 1999 and includes serial numbers not manufactured in when SB 886 was issued. A note on page 2 of Piper Service Bulletin No. 978A reads, “This Service Bulletin is similar to Service Bulletin 886 issued June 8, 1988 with the identical purpose and has been released to add models and serial numbers not manufactured at the time of the original Service Bulletin.”

RESOURCES >>>>> 

NTSB Safety Recommendation
(A-87-40, -41, -42)

 

Piper Aircraft Service Letter No. 997, “Wing Removal and Reinstallation”
Piper Aircraft Service Bulletin No. 886, “Wing Spar Inspection”
Piper Aircraft Service Bulletin No. 978A, “Wing Spar Inspection”
PiperFlyer.org/forum under “Magazine Extras”

 

Request Copies of Aircraft Records

 

Piper Wing Spars Explained - Video
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Premier Edition Piper Dakota

Premier Edition Piper Dakota

A “new-from-the-wheels-up” Premier Edition Dakota from Premier Aircraft Sales is a leading example of Piper’s legendary PA-28 series. 

Like many of you, I learned to fly in what is now described in Piper parlance as a high-wing “Wichita Spam can.” Cessna’s 150, 172, 182, 206, 210 and 336/337—I worked my way up through them all. I thought high-wings were the way to go.

Then in 1983 I got introduced to a brand-new Piper PA-28-236 Dakota. This, to me, was a game changer. Sure, the 182 was and is a wonderful airplane, but the 235 hp Dakota was all that and a bag of chips. In particular, the Dakota can carry a bigger load than the 182s of that era and, of greater significance to me, I think it looks cooler than the Skylane. 

That combination of good looks and good performance are two of the many reasons why Fort Lauderdale-based Premier Aircraft Sales selected the venerable Dakota to create what many would call a better-than-new option for today’s pre-owned aircraft buyer.

“What we chose to do was to take a very good Piper product and update it to today’s standards,” explained Fred Ahles, president and founder of Premier Aircraft Sales, Inc. “I was looking for a project and then I was approached by Bill Nutt about creating a next-to-new Dakota for his son and the project took off from there.”

“There is no good used equivalent for the Dakota, and you can’t buy a new equivalent at close to the price that we can refurbish one for,” he explained. “I think a comparably-equipped new Archer sells for around $500,000 today.”

“Basically, we are selling our Premier Edition Dakotas for between $260,000 and $325,000 depending on the avionics,” Ahles added. 

“That’s a lot to pay for a 37-year-old airplane, but it’s a heck of a lot less than buying a new Piper Archer. And the Premier Edition Dakota is faster and can carry more. All in all, we—and our customers—think it’s a very good value.”

While Premier doesn’t promote the Premier Edition Dakota as a next-to-new airplane, that’s essentially what it is. Premier takes the elements of a typical refurb project and kicks it up quite a few notches.

 

First comes the “mother of all annuals”

As Barry Rutheiser, Premier’s sales manager explained it, when the company locates a low-time candidate for the Premier Edition makeover, the engine is removed and the airframe is subjected to what he describes as “the first really good annual inspection any of these airplanes have had in at least 10 years.”

“We follow the Piper factory recommended guide and do everything in the book,” Rutheiser said. “We’ve found that typically these older airplanes have been in the hands of owners and mechanics who were doing the minimum to pass FAA muster every year. But that’s not what a Premier Edition buyer wants to have.”

“Our annuals have been running between $20,000 and $30,000 on these airframes—and that doesn’t include the engine,” Rutheiser explained. “That’s bringing everything up-to-date, including replacing every piece of cracked plastic and fixing all of the fiberglass components to like-new.”

The Premier annual also includes a super-detailed inspection by the experienced Piper technicians at Premier Aircraft Services, the company’s in-house MRO. 

“We see all kinds of age-related issues in the airframe, which all get addressed by the shop,” Rutheiser said. “Nothing is left unfixed. It’s really the mother of all annuals.”

One of the items that Premier addresses is the long-standing Piper Service Bulletin 1006 that details a corrosion inspection of the main spar behind fuel tanks. “The inspection is recommended to be done every seven years, so that’s what we do,” Ahles said. 

“You may not have a visible fuel leak, but we find seepage in the little lines at the back of the tanks that feed the fuel system. It’s small, but over time it can build up and cause corrosion on the wing spar. So, of course, we inspect the spars for any signs of damage.”

“When we have the fuel tanks out, we clean and inspect it all. We have yet to find one that doesn’t have some type of leak,” he said. “These are simple little eight-dollar rubber hoses that cost around $2,200 to change—but to do [the job] right, it has to be done.”

“Who wants to buy an airplane with a leaking fuel line? Not me,” Ahles said. “And I won’t sell one, either.”

After the airframe is inspected tip-to-tail and repairs are made, the control cables are all recalibrated to factory-new specifications and new stainless steel hardware is installed. 

As mentioned earlier, when the airframe begins its annual, the engine is removed and sent to Certified Engines Unlimited, Inc. at North Perry Airport (KHWO) in Hollywood, Florida. 

“Certified Engines does a complete overhaul of the Dakota’s 235 hp Lycoming O-540, including new factory cylinders,” Rutheiser said. “It’s a first-rate overhaul.”

 

It’s exhaust-ing work…

“Another thing I’ve always liked about the Dakota is the way the exhaust pipes come down on the side of the lower cowling. It’s pretty cool,” Ahles said. “But when you open the cowl and look inside these older airplanes, the exhaust looks like a patchwork quilt—there are so many patches welded on. It’s pretty ugly.”

“That’s not in keeping with the Premier Edition concept, so we take all that off and have a local sheet metal fabricator remake all those components,” he said. “When it’s all assembled and put back on the engine, inside the freshly-painted cowling and firewall, it just looks brand-new.”

Rutheiser pointed out to me that Premier is currently doing its first Premier Edition transformation on a Turbo Dakota. And while it’s exactly the same ground-up process, there is one big difference: they replace the original fixed wastegate turbocharger with a new generation Merlyn variable wastegate unit.

“The Merlyn will literally transform the engine’s operation,” he said. “I put one on my airplane, and engine management is now so much easier—and you get way better performance. In the case of the Turbo Dakota, we are literally improving on Piper’s original design.”

Along with all the new goodies under the cowling, Premier Edition Dakota buyers also have the option of upgrading to a new Hartzell three-bladed propeller, which gives the airplane greater climb and cruise performance as well as a quieter cabin. 

 

New airplane smell comes standard

Once all the mechanicals are brought up to factory specifications—Ahles said the team turns its attention on the interior, starting with totally refurbishing the seats. “We have a really good interior shop nearby and they take the original seats and strip them down to the bare frames. This is not a low-cost operation—it’s first class stuff,” he said. 

The seat frames are tightened up and repainted. Then the shop uses the best seat foam on the market to reshape the seat bottoms and backs. 

“These are much more comfortable than what Piper originally installed,” Ahles explained. “We aim to make them as good as what you find in the new Meridian. The goal is to create seats that are really comfortable.”

“Depending on what the customer wants, the seats are covered in either a high-quality vinyl or leather—and all the owners so far have opted for leather,” Ahles added. “A couple of them have also wanted to go with wool carpeting. It’s very nice.”

When it comes to the avionics package, Ahles said each owner specs out the panel to their liking. Premier offers everything from a basic six-pack of steam gauges to a next generation-ready glass panel built around Garmin’s new G500 TXi display and GTN 750 touchscreen GPS units. Every Premier Edition Dakota leaves the shop fully ADS-B Out compliant. 

While every Premier Edition Dakota the company has completed to date is a custom completion, Rutheiser said that they do start with one of three basic configurations depending on cost. 

“Everyone wants a starting point,” he explained. “We offer a Premier Silver, Gold and Platinum—but I really try not to refer to them too much, because each owner has their own vision of what they want their Dakota to be.”

 

All dressed up and someplace to go

Obviously, you can’t do all this work on the airframe, engine, cabin and avionics and just rattle-can on any old paint job.

“We have all the paint work done by Ormond Beach Aviation in Ormond Beach, Florida,” Rutheiser said. “They do a great job. Colors are basically up to the individual owners, but we emulate the paint scheme found on the current PA-28s to ensure consistency.”

“After arriving at Ormond Beach, the airplane is stripped to bare metal and acid washed. All of the details—around the window surrounds, door edges, access panels—everything is prepped and painted to the highest quality,” he said. “Then it all gets clear-coated to ensure durability.”

“I’d dare say that the final finish on these airplanes is equal or better to anything that Piper turns out of the factory today,” Ahles said. “That’s not a knock on the factory—they do very good paint jobs in Vero Beach—ours are just that good.”

“And 20 years from now, Premier Edition airplanes will still look terrific.”

The devil is in the details

While investing nearly 900 man-hours totally refurbishing the airframe, engine, interior, avionics and paint down to the tiniest detail would be enough for most folks, it’s not quite enough for the folks at Premier. They want the Premier Edition Dakota program to offer benefits beyond what you’d expect

So Ahles’ team has taken their program further and provided buyers with the option to get great financing and a “power-by-the-hour” engine maintenance program. “The team at Scope Aircraft Leasing has agreed to finance these aircraft at the completed cost, and that’s a really big deal,” Ahles explained. 

“Most times, when you take a nearly 40-year-old airplane and upgrade it at the cost of a couple hundred grand, the finished price is a lot higher than the bluebook value—and that can make financing really hard to get.”

“Scope has seen what we are doing and offers, with 20 percent down, full financing on the rest of the purchase price,” he said. “That’s really helped the program get going. If you already own your Dakota, Scope offers attractive financing on the cost of the Premier Edition upgrade.”

With regard to the piston engine maintenance program, Ahles explained that while every Premier Edition Dakota is covered by a nine-month warranty from Certified Engines Unlimited, Premier has worked out an attractive program with PistonPower™ to provide an optional hourly cost maintenance program on the engines.

“It’s like a power-by-the-hour program you find on turbine engines, but it’s only for piston engines,” Ahles said. “They offer a menu of coverage options. For example, we offer a three-year program under PistonPower that covers the cost of any repairs to the engine up to a major overhaul. Owners can also sign up for a more extensive program that covers that cost when it comes around.” (See the sidebar on Page 47 for details. —Ed.)

“In addition, aircraft enrolled in a PistonPower program will also get a higher residual value from the Aircraft Bluebook, Vref and many banks,” he said. “That’s a double benefit for the owner.” 

Last but not least, as part of the Premier Edition Dakota program, Premier’s Chief Pilot Corbin Hallaran gives each owner a thorough checkout in his or her airplane as part of the delivery process.

“Corbin is not only a terrific pilot, but a terrific instructor as well—the best in the business,” Rutheiser said. “He does a very detailed walkaround with each owner and then gives them as much dual instruction as he feels they need before he will turn them loose with the airplane. It’s all about safety. If both the new owner and Corbin are not comfortable with the way they handle the airplane, they don’t leave here.”

 

You can make any Dakota a Premier Edition Dakota

While Premier Aircraft Sales started the Premier Edition Dakota program to stimulate sales of legacy Dakotas, Ahles said that if you’re lucky enough to already own one of these exceptionally capable airplanes, Premier is ready to work with you to upgrade it to your specifications.

“Should an owner bring us their Dakota, we can do any or all of our upgrades on their aircraft,” he said. “It’s totally up to the owner’s wants and wishes.”

As for the price, that’s based on what you want done. “I’d say it’s best to start with one of our detailed annuals and go from there,” he said. “That way, the owner will know what condition the aircraft is really in and determine their upgrade path.”

 

Bill Nutt “premiered” the Premier Edition Dakota

William “Bill” Nutt is the kind of guy you’d like to have in the next hangar over. He’s owned a lot of different kinds of airplanes over the years, and most recently he has had a Piper Archer, V-tail Bonanza, F33A Bonanza, T-34, a Baron, Piper Meridian and Piper Matrix. But the story behind why he went looking for what would ultimately become the Premier Edition Dakota revolves around his son, Alexander.

“My son is in medical residency in Billings, Montana and I wanted him to have an airplane that was a solid instrument platform and would also give him the performance to handle the high altitudes,” Nutt explained. “I’ve always been a huge fan of the Dakota so I started looking for a really nice low-time model for him.”

“I talked to Fred (Ahles) at Premier about the project and he thought it was a great idea. He shared my vision of making a Dakota better than Piper would today,” he said. “It’s one thing to refurbish an airplane for me, but when it’s for my son, it had to be perfect in every respect.”

And according to Nutt, that’s just how N43AN (for “Alexander Nutt”)—the first Premier Edition Dakota—turned out. Nutt found the ideal subject Dakota: a 1980 model in Georgia that was in excellent condition but had reached TBO so the owner wanted to sell.

“This was a great airplane to begin with,” Nutt explained. “The current owner had it for over 20 years and had taken excellent care of it. Premier sent their mechanic to do the pre-buy and then they flew it back to Fort Lauderdale Executive (KFXE) to begin the upgrade.”

“One thing I insisted on was to paint the new panel in light beige, because I think it makes the instrument scan easier,” Nutt said. “We painted it like a new factory Archer DX and it really looks great. It turned out exactly like I wanted.”

Nutt spends his winters living at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida and currently keeps the Dakota at the club’s private airport, 07FA. 

“The Dakota is the perfect airplane for having fun flying,” he said. “People think it’s just an Archer with a bigger engine, but it’s not. It’s a much stronger, more robust airframe.”

“I can get in it alone and get an honest 135 knots all day,” Nutt continued. “I recently did something I’d never done before. I took off from Ocean Reef and headed to Billings. It took me two-and-a-half days and was a lot of fun. With the new engine, smoother Hartzell propeller and modern avionics, it was really an enjoyable trip.”

“I’ll have another...”

Nutt said he’s having so much fun with the nimble Dakota, he doesn’t want to let it go—so he bought another one and Premier is doing its Premier Edition magic on this one, too.

“This one will have the complete Garmin glass avionics panel including the new Garmin autopilot,” he said. “Plus, I’m having the engine upgraded to 250 hp. That will make it even better suited for flying in and out of the grass strip we have at one of our ranches in Montana.”

“The Premier Edition Dakota lets me really enjoy flying,” he said. “Last week I made three great trips around South Florida: I took my one son and his girlfriend to Key West to see friends. I flew my other son and his wife to Naples and then I flew my daughter and her two boys to Palm Beach for the day.”

“The Dakota is just that kind of airplane,” he said. “And the Premier Edition Dakota is the best version yet of a wonderfully fun-to-fly airplane.”

 

Dale Smith has been an aviation journalist for 30 years. When he’s not writing aviation articles, Smith does commission aircraft illustrations specializing in seaplanes and flying boats. Smith has been a certificated pilot since 1974 and has flown 35 different types of aircraft. Send questions or comments to .

RESOURCES >>>>>

PISTON ENGINE SERVICE PROGRAM 
Piston Power

 

PREMIER EDITION DAKOTA
Premier Aircraft Sales Inc.
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NPRM affecting Cherokee main wing spar

From the FAA:

Docket No. FAA–2017–1059; Product Identifier 2017–CE–035–AD

SUMMARY: We propose to adopt a new airworthiness directive (AD) for certain Piper Aircraft, Inc. Models PA–28–140, PA–28–150, PA–28–160, PA–28–180, PA–28–235, PA–32–260, and PA–32–300 airplanes. This proposed AD was prompted by reports of corrosion found in an area of the main wing spar not easily accessible for inspection. This proposed AD would require installing an inspection access panel in the lower wing skin near the left and the right main wing spars if not already there, inspecting the left and the right main wing spars for corrosion, and taking all necessary corrective actions. We are proposing this AD to address the unsafe condition on these products.

Click link to download entire document

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