FAA Issues Emergency AD on Precision Fuel Injection Systems—Experimental Pilots Should Check Anyway

The FAA on Wednesday announced an Emergency Airworthiness Directive on certain Precision Airmotive RSA-5 and RSA-10 fuel injection servos to be inspected before further flight. Two recent incidents have been blamed on a loose servo plug. According to the AD, the servo plug gasket is thought to have shrunk with engine heat, which causes it to lose torque against the servo housing. These plugs have been found loose as well as completely separated from their threaded housings. Loss of the plug could cause a lean condition.

The gasket part number is 365533, and has been used in new and factory overhauled servos since August 22, 2006. This plug-and-gasket combination is found in both the certified and Experimental-class SilverHawk injection system. Pilots are urged to check the security of the main hex by hand. If the hex moves at all, it is loose.

For more information, visit Precision Airmotive.

AEA Advises FAA: Evolution Not Revolution on ADS-B

The Aircraft Electronics Association commented recently on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding ADS-B, or Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast technology. (ADS-B employs Mode S transponders and universal access transceivers to manage datalink-equipped aircraft, potentially improving use of airspace and overall safety.) While the AEA supports the requirement to adopt ADS-B, it does not support the FAA’s proposed regulation, because the proposal doesn’t include the total cost of Next Gen requirements, will cause the industry an excessive financial burden and will compromise safety claims. Further, AEA members will be unable to manufacture, install or service equipment with assurance that it will be viable for the duration of the equipment’s life, AEA says.

What’s worrisome in the NPRM, according to AEA, is the FAA’s “Vision of the Future,” which defines the Next Gen system as one that is “flexible enough to accommodate safely whatever number, type and mix of aircraft there will be in the U.S. skies by 2025.” Described as an “aircraft-centric system with performance-based requirements,” the future system will detail performance for communication, navigation and surveillance (CNS). The problem with that, as the AEA sees it, is that the ADS-B proposal is only the first element in broad changes to the CNS requirements for flying in U.S. airspace. AEA says that it is inappropriate for the FAA to propose sweeping changes, and then perform an economic analysis on only one element of a complete revamping of CNS requirements for Next Gen systems.

Per the FAA’s statements, AEA concludes that aircraft-centric requirements for Next Gen will be required in less than 17 years, and a complete new suite of avionics will be required only five years after the ADS-B proposal. While the FAA will publish the performance requirements of the equipment, it will not require that the equipment be FAA-approved.

Furthermore, AEA says the FAA is estimating the cost of equipment and installation for equipment that does not yet exist. For example, the FAA estimates that it will take one week for each installation of new equipment in GA light aircraft. With roughly 800 certified repair stations to work on about 160,000 light aircraft, each station could process an estimated 50 aircraft per year, or about 40,000 aircraft total per year, which would mean four years of constant production just to meet the implementation deadline. However, the TSO’d equipment doesn’t exist today, and installations cannot begin until it does, which could take five years or more. With an FAA deadline of January 1, 2020, 12 years hence, that would leave only seven years to equip the entire fleet.

AEA advocates adopting a proposal that uses existing avionics as much as possible rather than requiring wholesale replacement of equipment. The FAA proposal, AEA says, does not build upon the investment of thousands of owners of first generation ADS-B equipment. The proposed requirements make that equipment obsolete, says AEA.

Tool Tech: Does That Bolt Need a Washer?

Do all bolts need washers? Usually, only two factors are involved. Is the hole oversized, and is the bolt configured to work without the washer?

Turn the bolt over and look at the underside.

The first one on the left is simply flat. Number two is an AN bolt and has an area that acts as a washer. The third one has an enlarged surface, and the fourth has a separate, permanently attached washer. Only the first one must have a washer. The second one, does not require one, the third one has a washer built in, and that last one has a permanently attached washer.

Only the second one should be used on aircraft, though, as it’s the only one whose manufacture is fully pedigreed.

AC 43-13 section 7 allows you to skip the use of washer under an AN bolt. But a few AD's do, at times, require washers under both the bolt and the nut.

If you’d like to read further on this topic and don’t have a copy of AC 43-13 beside your bed, you can download it HERE.

Products: Castleberry Attitude Indicator

Aircraft Spruce & Specialty is now carrying the Castleberry Instruments & Avionics attitude indicator, which is an approved substitute for the previously mandated rate of turn indicators in Part 23 aircraft operating in Part 91 and less than 12,500 pounds. (This substitution is based upon the FAA Advisory Circular AC91-75, which promotes the installation of a backup attitude indicator.) But, even better, it's a suitable backup for Experimentals with glass panels.

The internally lighted electric attitude indicator replaces the turn and bank and is a straightforward installation in the same panel location, according to AC Spruce. It will fit a standard 3.125-inch instrument mount; the erecting knob passes through one of the mounting holes. The unit has a standard inclinometer and a failure warning flag to indicate loss of gyro rpm. When used with the Castleberry Emergency Power Unit (Model EPU 28-24RMT), this instrument offers a margin of insurance in case of an aircraft electrical power failure.

The Castleberry AI is available in either 14 volt (P/N 10-02823) or 28 volt (P/N 10-02824) and sells for $2095; the Emergency Power Supply (P/N 11-05822) is $1685. Both units may be purchased online at Aircraft Spruce & Specialty.

Commentary: Experimental "51%" solutions—is Primary Category the answer?

In February, when the FAA published the final report from the working group looking at “major portion” guidance, another proposal was floated to help manage what the feds believe is “excessive” use of commercial assistance in Experimental/Amateur-Built aircraft. That proposal centered on the Primary Category, a subset of certification rules introduced in the 1980s as a way to break an economic logjam in production aircraft.

In fact, the EAA and AOPA jointly proposed the category in 1984 because of two principal factors: Production aircraft were on the ropes, victims of an economic slowdown and ever tightening certification and production regulations, and kitbuilts were hot. Many people believed, at the time, that certified designs based on homebuilts could rid the land of boring Cessnas and pudgy Pipers, and all would be well. (Didn’t happen, but we’re getting ahead of the story.)

The Primary Category concept, much like what we have in Light Sport, was to reset certification and production approval standards in recognition of the fact that a simple, four-place airplane need not be certified to the same standard as transport aircraft. (This is, on the face of it, accepted among the more pragmatic builders and pilots I know, but is apparently difficult for regulators to grasp.)

As originally drafted, the Primary Category was limited to single-engine, non-pressurized aircraft weighing 2500 pounds or less with 200 or fewer horsepower. Your basic quasi Cessna 172, in other words, but not a 182. Or a Cirrus. Or, more central to our concerns, an RV-10.

But the EAA provided feedback and the FAA took the surprising step of reopening the comment period in 1991. Among the changes were to bump maximum weight to 2700 pounds and, to keep stall speeds in check, to specify a maximum landing-configuration stall of 61 knots, the same limit imposed on CAR3 and FAR Part 23 single-engine aircraft. Originally, the 2500-pound/200-hp limitation would take care of the whole wing-area argument. If you limited power, the designer would have to provide enough wing to have acceptable climb performance. The specter of mini wings and high stall speeds would remain locked in the basement.

Instead, industry managed to convince the FAA that an equivalent level of safety could be found by limiting stall speed, which returned the possibility of good performance using more than 200 hp. The other main limitations were that the engine not be turbo- or supercharged, nor could the cabin be pressurized.

By the time the rule was finally implemented in 1993—nearly a decade after the initial proposal—the industry was beginning to rebound and interest in alternative certification means was waning. Homebuilt Experimentals continued to grow, and the few companies with the wherewithal to pursue certification realized there wasn’t quite enough of a market there to justify the costs. Quicksilver certified the GT-500 as a Primary Category aircraft and sold almost none. At the time, the category was a bust.

But how about today? Could, as the Aviation Rulemaking Committee suggests, Primary Category be the bridge between super-fast-build Experimentals and the turnkey (but noncertified) aircraft the market seems to demand? Is the so-far good record of LSA enough to make it viable?

Dick VanGrunsven thinks so. “I think there’s a lot of merit here,” he says. “We would definitely look at the category.” According to the Van’s Aircraft founder, the certification process could be simplified to follow the ASTM-formed process that underpins Light Sport aircraft. “It would cost us money to prove our aircraft met the rules,” VanGrunsven says. “But we think we would make it back. We could develop new kinds of quickbuild kits. With Primary, the whole ‘major portion’ goes out the window. We could even produce airplanes ourselves.” Conspiracy theorists might note that the RV-10 seems to fit the category to a T: It’s right at the maximum weight, can make the stall speed requirement, and uses a normally aspirated engine. But there are many worthy designs that clear the limbo pole with headroom to spare; and they make up the bulk of the volume in our world, if not the majority of the money spent.

Sure, but what of the high-end pressurized turboprops that are also in demand? By the definition of Primary Category, they’d be out of luck, too big, too complex to be certified this way. Indeed, the only way for these aircraft to survive a comprehensive makeover of the “major portion” guidance would be to backtrack on what is provided in the kits—moving a significant portion of the work back to the builder—and, perhaps, to recast the way commercial builder assistance is applied to the project. (Meaning: You can actually take one home and build it.)

Where will this all land? That’s the question on the lips of many in the industry. The worry is that Primary Category is going to be used as the passageway for highly complete kits to be sold and built (and receive approval) while the screws are turned on both quickbuild kits and commercial assistance. A way, in essence, for the feds to say, “Look, we’re not putting you out of business,” while creating a huge gap: much less complete kits on one side and much more expensive quasi-production aircraft on the other. There’s great potential for the legitimate builder to get squeezed out of the middle as the FAA struggles to put clamps on the abusers.

—Marc Cook, editor in chief, KITPLANES

You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

Yes, you do, if you’re going to fly safely. And while there are a lot of websites out there that give you all the information you need, some of them are buried in advertising or not reliably updated.

One that suffers neither of these flaws comes from our own gummint. Yes, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration have a wonderfully complete and up to date plethora of pages on the subject.

When you’re done here, browse over to http://www.weather.gov/forecasts/graphical/sectors/ and click on your area of interest on the map. Down the left you’ll find a matrix of times and weather parameters. You can easily kill an hour just watching the predicted changes. This series will become a favorite if you're headed out for lunch in that it shows ground conditions. If you're going further, you'll also find links to pages specifically for aviation. As for those other sites? This is where they get their data.

NOAA needs to work on the name though; "Administration" at the end of it implies control of said oceans and atmosphere and that’s a long way off.