EAA Warbirds of America, NATA Report on T-6/SNJ Issue
Note: The following correspondence was sent to EAA Warbirds of America (WOA) headquarters. We applaud the efforts of Rick Siegfried, WOA Safety Chairman, in helping coordinate the response to the T-6 Airworthiness Directive.
To All North American T-6/SNJ/Harvard Owners:
Shown below is a “Time Line” outlining what NATA and EAA Warbirds of America, (WOA), have been doing on your behalf, dealing with the recent AD concerning our aircraft. This will help outline what got us here, where we have been, and where we are going.
The tragic accident involving an SNJ on Florida May 9, 2005, brought forth some inspection issues with our fine aircraft. Thus far, approximately 400 aircraft in the fleet have been inspected. Twelve aircraft reported problems with the attach angles that required replacement. Five of those aircraft had cracks. Some of those cracks were similar to the cracks in the aircraft lost in Florida. One aircraft in the fleet with a problem is one aircraft too many.
Many operators have suggested that there are actually two fleets of aircraft in operation—aircraft that have been abused, and a fleet that have not been abused. The FAA will not consider this “two fleet” concept. Few, if any, of us can definitely say that our aircraft was never over stressed in flight. The aircraft may have had an over stress event due to an accident/incident on the ground. Even with the best of records there may have been an incident where the aircraft had components replaced that were not clearly documented. For these reasons a “two fleet” concept will not be accepted by the FAA.
This brings us back to the “Time Line.” Hopefully this attachment will answer some questions about what NATA and EAA WOA have been doing to relieve some of the burden of AD 2005-12-51. We do believe it is important that we communicate with the FAA with one voice through the NATA and EAA WOA banner.
We all solicit your opinions, concerns, and ideas to any one of the team members. We certainly do not have all the answers. We are soliciting a contribution to help with cost associated with resolving this issue. Any contribution will be well used and greatly appreciated. NATA is a 501c3 organization.
The T-6/SNJ/Harvard aircraft has complied an impressive history of excellent service to all of its operators for the last sixty years. We need to make sure that we continue this outstanding record thru proper maintenance and operation of our beloved aircraft.
Rick Siegfried, T6rick@aol.com
Paul Redlich, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stoney Stonich, email@example.com
Mike Pangia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Tobul, email@example.com
Sequence of events regarding T-6 Aircraft Issues
- NWOC Meeting February 25, 2005 - The FAA Small Aircraft Directorate sent a team of individuals to discuss the aging aircraft issue with warbird operators. Marv Nuss presented the concern of the FAA based on the T-34 fatigue issues. Marv also bought up his concern over fatigue in the rest of the warbird fleet. In closing he mentions the concern over T-6 aircraft.
- May 9, 2005 - Warbird Adventures loses two pilots in a North American SNJ aircraft in Florida. The investigation centers around an undetected crack in the wing attach angles. It is presumed that the crack propagated to the point that resulted in the loss of the aircraft’s right wing followed by the loss of the aircraft.
- May 20, 2005 - NATA and EAA Warbirds of America (WOA) petition to have a representative designated as an interested party to the investigation to aid in answering questions about North American T-6/SNJ/Harvard aircraft. The lead investigator, Eric Allyene of the Atlanta NTSB office granted Paul Redlich, of NATA, interested party status.
- The preliminary information about the crack is turned over to the FAA in Los Angeles to determine if an Emergency AD is required. The FAA learned about a South African Air Force wing failure in 1975 and the Service Instructions adopted by the SAAF. The FAA reviewed the accident data and current inspection procedures. The FAA also contacted NATA and EAA WOA for input into a possible AD. We suggested ferry time to get aircraft home, credit for the inspection being done early and alternate methods of compliance (AMOCs).
- June 8, 2005 - Emergency AD 2005-12-51 covering the North American
- T-6/SNJ/Harvard was issued. This action grounded the fleet until the inspection required by the AD was completed. The FAA also required a Wing Attach Inspection Report form be returned to the FAA, even if no defects were noted. The return of this report is required to complete the AD.
- NATA and EAA WOA also developed a separate online survey to be completed voluntarily by operators of the T-6/SNJ/Harvard fleet. The data from this survey will be used to make recommendations to the FAA if the final version of the AD needs to be modified. NATA and EAA WOA are looking at inspection methods and the interval at which the industry believes should be recommended. The questionnaire is found at, www.eaa.org/survey/warbirdsnata.htm
- Currently we are still in the data collection phase of this project. The FAA came out with a Special Airworthiness Information Letter on July 18, 2005. This letter explained some of the actions the FAA has taken this far. It included a report that this far they have received about 400 reports of completed inspections. There were 12 reports of cracks or corrosion in the fleet. The NATA/EAA survey has only had about half that number of completed reports. The results of the NATA/EAA survey are similar to the FAA’s results.
- NATA’s and EAA WOA’s NTSB interested party representative, Paul Redlich, is in contact with Eric Allyene, monitoring the progress of the accident investigation. The metallurgy report from the accident aircraft should be released soon. NATA and EAA WOA will have a qualified metallurgist review that data and make his recommendations based on the findings.
- NATA and EAA WOA have also been in contact companies that may offer alternate methods of compliance (AMOCs). Ultrasound inspections are one such promising method.
- NATA and EAA WOA are attempting to get copies of the engineering data on the attach angles so we can have a DER, (Designated Engineering Representative) evaluate the strength of North American Aviations original design. Armed with this information we can have a qualified opinion on potential changes to the AD.
- NATA and EAA have also learned that Boeing may be interested in donating the engineering data to the public domain via a type club such as NATA. This would be a helpful situation as we, (NATA) would have the original drawings on many areas of our aircraft.
- One other solution to the attach angle replacement problem may be to have new parts manufactured. Although this may seem cost prohibitive, several members have looked into it. Having new parts built out of new materials as strong or stronger than what the current 50-year-old parts is possible. The cost is estimated to be lower than what the current price of old stock, provided there is enough interest. This action would probably eliminate the recurring AD. However this action of removing attach angles and replacing with new is not an easy task and must be done correctly. We could do more damage to the fleet than the original problem.
- So far all of this work has been done voluntarily. The team has been spending many hours of their own personal time, which has so far earned us respect and trust from the FAA that we cannot afford to lose. We will continue to work in your behalf representing you, the owner/operator. However, we would like to run a stress analysis of the angles. To do so we will be compelled to hire a least one designated engineering representative to help resolve these issues. It will be expensive. Thus far, the T-34 Association has spent in excess of $35,000 and still have not completely resolved their problems, although they have come a long way in the past few months. We would like to suggest that all owners contribute $350 to NATA. This fund to be administered through NATA’s Board of Directors to help offset the cost of solving the threat to our aircraft. If not all funds are used to resolve this issue, it is suggested that we bank it with the NATA for the sole purpose of solving future AD’s or aging aircraft issues on our aircraft. An alternative is to refund any excess, but we can decide that later.
- Should we just sit back and hope this will go away, hoping that the FAA will move on to other things, satisfied that the current AD will be sufficient? After having the benefit of meeting with the highest levels of FAA Flight Standards, we can assure you that the problem will not self-resolve. Our efforts have been to contain this problem to the question of the attach angles and work with the FAA to come up with a final solution, be it through the inspection process or replacement, whatever turns out to be the correct and safe way to go. Aging aircraft has become a major concern of many within the industry and the government in recent years, and we do not want our aircraft to become a statistic that would support future restrictions that are unnecessary. The good news is that the FAA has acknowledged it has no intention of grounding our aircraft, but rather keep them flying for years to come. The FAA seems to be very pleased with our acceptance of responsibility and have been dealing with us with a very supportive disposition so far. Losing that respect and trust could be very costly.
- One of the concerns expressed at a meeting with the FAA is that reports have not come back from the entire fleet. We expressed to the FAA that that situation could occur with any aircraft AD. There are aircraft that may not be ready to be flown and the inspection could be deferred until it is returned to service. We assured the FAA that our members will report their findings as completely and accurately. On that issue, although it is probably unnecessary to mention to most of us, the AD is not complete until the report required by the AD is sent in to the FAA. If you have successfully inspected your aircraft, please be sure that the report is mailed in before the aircraft is flown.
- We as operators also have a vested interest in the value and safety of our aircraft. If we do not take an obvious interest and become pro-active in this matter, the FAA will. The FAA assured us that they will be continually looking for the next “Hot Spot” in the airframe that may be a potential area for fatigue and failure. It reminds us that inspections must be thoroughly completed. Any operating limitations must be strictly followed. Potential “Hot Spots” must be identified and communicated in a timely manner thru all available means i.e. Type Clubs, EAA WOA, CAF, NWOC, etc. The T-6 is not the only aircraft under scrutiny. Beech 18/C45 owners have just been advised of a new potential new AD dealing with aging aircraft issues. We need to show the FAA and the industry that as owner operators we are ready to lead the way in “KEEP ‘EM FLYING” - SAFELY.