Door Opens For T-34s to Resume Flight
February 22, 2005 - EAA Warbirds of America Executive Director Bill Fischer represented members at a public meeting with FAA and industry officials held February 15-16 in Kansas City regarding the status of Beechcraft T-34 aircraft. The FAA proposed short-, medium-, and long-term actions that could help return T-34s to airworthy status. Over 70 industry representatives were in attendance including the T-34 Association, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), and aircraft owners/operators.
“On behalf of EAA Warbirds of America, we offer our support to the T-34 Association and community, with whom we have many common members,” Fischer pledged. “We’ll be following the situation very closely with the FAA and report back to our members as soon as we learn of new developments.”
Discussion centered on technical issues and potential corrective actions related to the type’s continued operational safety in the wake of several recent wing failure accidents. FAA-proposed actions include:
The FAA issued Airworthiness Directive (AD) 2004-25-51 late last year, essentially grounding the fleet because evidence from a fatal accident of a Beech T-34A airplane on December 7 showed fatigue in critical locations not evaluated from two previous accidents.
“In all cases, the FAA expects proper documentation of inspections and modifications,” Fischer said. “They would like to base their decisions on detailed information on aircraft usage and maintenance history, using hard data, facts, and figures. With proper data, higher time aircraft could return to airworthy status.”
T-34 Association representatives Dan Thomas and George Braly reported that alternative means of compliance (AMOC) procedures had been performed on 235 airframes at costs ranging from $15,000 to $50,000 each. They pointed out the only fatigue problems found were in the mock air combat/upset training aircraft.
The T-34 Association proposed to conduct an initial surface eddy current test of 12 high-time air combat and commercial aerobatic aircraft. Assuming no cracks are found in any aircraft other than those operated in the air combat/upset training environment, the association proposed that the fleet be immediately returned to limited flight in Utility category.
After an initial surface eddy current inspection, each aircraft would be returned to the original flight limits. Additional surface eddy current inspection of the center section on each T-34 will be followed by periodic inspections at intervals to be determined. In addition, the T-34 Association proposes to have all AMOC holders:
Dave Saunders of Aviadesign, Inc. reported on the success of the T-34 strap modification manufactured by his company. The FAA commented that the strap modification reduces stress, which is a positive result.
Marv Nuss, FAA Continued Operational Safety Program Manager at the Small Airplane Directorate, said, “The door is open to get the T-34s flying again.”
The T-34 community will work closely with the FAA to continue developing short-, medium-, and long-term solutions to this issue.
Complete meeting transcripts are available from Argie Reporting Service, 816/942-2050. FAA also plans to post the transcripts on its website by the end of February.
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