WASHINGTON, D.C. — From the 1940s to the 1970s, Max Karant was a senior vice president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) who tirelessly and fearlessly fought for the interests of GA. Even though he frequently was blunt and sometimes vicious in his discussions with — and about — the FAA, most people respected him. In fact, on one occasion, an FAA official told me, “we weren’t always right, but he made us be right.”
On one of the lighter occasions, Max asked an FAA official how he got ideas for proposing and writing regulations. “Well,” replied the official, “I’m sitting in my office and I hear a booming voice say ‘write a rule.’ I say ‘yes sir, good or bad? And the voice replies ‘BAD.’”
That friendly exchange was good for a few moments of laughter, but the latest proposal from the FAA might have more serious consequences. That booming voice undoubtedly said BAD.
This is a proposed airworthiness directive (AD) to limit the allowable time-in-service on cylinders produced by Engine Components International (ECi) that are in more than 6,000 Continental engines. The estimated cost of compliance is $82.6 million.
Not only would enactment of the proposed rule have a devastating effect on owners of today’s aircraft, it could have an even greater impact on the entire general aviation world in the future.
A few of the secondary effects: It could raise the cost of new and used aircraft and it could mean shorter time between overhauls. It also could result in fewer aircraft available, as the lack of replacement parts could ground an entire group of aircraft. Rob Hackman, a vice president for regulations at AOPA, and Dick Knapinski, senior communications advisor at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), point out these and other concerns.
And on what is the proposed regulation based? Alleged problems in 30 instances out of more than 30,000 cylinders installed. This comes out to 1/100th of 1%. Add to this the lack of evidence that shows even one accident attributed to the alleged problem.
Officials with all of GA’s alphabet groups want more information before filing their formal comments. The FAA needs to be more forthcoming with information, says Hackman. EAA and AOPA are exploring avenues for getting more information, including asking for public hearings. Another is to ask for an extension on the date comments are due to the FAA. Currently, Oct. 11, 2013, is the deadline for comments. (Comments can be made at Regulations.gov.
The proposed AD is based on recommendations from the NTSB. NTSB recommendations are just that — recommendations. They have no governmental or legal authority.
To paraphrase the jokester who said the way to eliminate mid-air collisions is to allow only one plane in the sky at a time, the only way to avoid engine parts problems is to allow only gliders in the air. Then, some government official would have to form an agency to figure out to get those safe vehicles in the air.