There has always been something that felt wrong to me about how the walkway on many models of Beechcraft extends onto the right hand flap. I have never felt right about stepping onto the flap as I make my way into and out of my dad’s E33A Bonanza and therefore I generally try to step over top of it and place my foot on the wing instead. But does this effort actually make any difference, or am I just making my self look silly for no reason?
Well, as it turns out, it wasn’t such a bad idea. In 2007, a pilot flying a Beech reported a split flap condition. Upon inspection, it was found that there was damage to the actuation rod attachment as well as the nose rib and nut plates. Six other aircraft were checked and found to have similar damage. These findings were submitted to Hawker Beechcraft and in 2008 and they issued a maintenance alert regarding the issue. In 2011 the FAA issued SAIB CE-11-21 (Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin) to alert owners, operators, and maintenance personnel about the problem; specifically warning of the potential for cracking in the nose flap rib (part number 35-165050-84). And while its true that this type of damage is not limited to the right hand flap, it is known to be much more common on that side. Stepping over the flap instead of on it is recommended by both the FAA and Beechcraft as a solution.
Unfortunately, the flap cracking is known to span a wide variety of aircraft types. A 2011 “Safety Communique” issued by Hawker Beechcraft lists the affected models as:
-Bonanza 33, 35, and 36
-Baron 55, 56, 58, and 95
According the the FAA, the cracking can been found most commonly on airframes which are between 4,000 and 6,500 hours, but has also been found on aircraft with as few as 2,000.
So, what do we do about it?
First off, although much of the damage is difficult to detect without dis-assembly, the paperwork from both the FAA and Beechcraft recommend taking a look at the flap yourself to see if there are any obvious signs of problems. They also suggest taking special care looking in this area during your preflight inspections.
Next, if you have an airplane which may be susceptible to cracking, talk to who ever is doing your maintenance work and have them look carefully during your annual inspections. I talked to one of the IA’s at our shop who has dealt with this issue before and he told me that most shops will remove the flap and send it away to a repair station to have it fixed. It’s possible that if you purchased your airplane used it may have already had this issue taken care of; a quick look through the maintenance logbooks should clear up any questions.
Regardless of whether your airplane is known to suffer from this problem or not, do your best to avoid stepping on the flap when getting in and out of the cockpit. It is also a good idea to ask your passengers to do the same as this simple act could end up saving you big headaches and big money someday down the road.
For more information regarding the flap issues discussed above, talk to your maintenance provider and visit these links:
ABS Flight Controls, Flaps, and Trim System Inspection, Repair and Rigging Guide (See Page 17)
ABS Information on SAIB CE-11-21
Andrew Robinson is a 135 Charter Pilot and flight instructor in Pennsylvania. He flies Pilatus PC-12s and instructs in Beechcraft Bonanzas.