Originally created 07/12/97

Safety board urges Beech 1900 inspections, Piper restrictions



WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal safety investigators are calling for inspection of some wing parts on Beech 1900 commuter planes and changes in training procedures for Piper Tomahawks until further tests can be done on those planes.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued the pair of recommendations following incidents and accidents involving the two types of aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday it was preparing a response to the recommendations.

The safety board said it had received four reports of flap malfunctions in Beech 1900 turboprop planes causing the aircraft to suddenly roll to one side before the pilot could regain control.

Flaps are portions of the wing that can be extended downward to increase lift at slow speeds, usually during landing and takeoff. The malfunctions apparently caused the flap to fail on one side, resulting in the sudden roll.

Raytheon Co., which makes the planes, revised its maintenance manual last year to call for more detailed flap inspections, and issued a safety notice May 16 calling for prompt inspection of the flap bearings. But another incident was reported a month later. No deaths were reported in the incidents.

The board urged the Federal Aviation Administration to order an expedited inspection of flap attachment points and bearings for these 19-seat commuter planes and to require a repeat inspection every 2,500 flights or five years, whichever comes first.

The board also recommended the FAA set limits on the slow flight and stall training on Piper PA-38-112 Tomahawk planes until it completes additional flight testing of the lightplane.

The board said it acted after investigating a crash in which two people died when a Tomahawk spun out of control during a private pilot's flight review with an instructor.

Investigators discovered that the type had been involved in 12 fatal accidents in which stall or spin was a factor. Stall occurs when a plane slows down so much it loses the ability to fly, while in a spin a plane begins turning out of control, often slowing down and stalling.

Noting that the FAA is preparing a flight test program for the Tomahawk, the board urged it to include stall and spin tests and, until those are complete, to require that slow speed and stall training in the planes be done at high enough altitudes to be sure the pilot has time to recover in the event of a stall or spin.