Transport Canada has issued a Civil Aviation Safety Alert to “operators and maintainers of Piper PA-28 Series Aeroplanes” to do an immediate “detailed visual inspection” of control columns in their aircraft with particular attention to the T-joint weld.
At annual, TC says the column should come out for magnetic particle inspection to check that weld for cracks.
The action comes eight months after a Manitoba flight instructor had the column in a well-used Cherokee break off in his hands while flaring to land.
Tom Larkin told Canadian Aviator he and his student heard a loud snap noise while the aircraft was settling to the runway. The landing was safe but there was no pitch or bank control available. A subsequent inspection showed the vertical part of the column had snapped at the weld to the horizontal member.
TC says the subject aircraft and a non-flying Cherokee on the ramp both had 18,000 hours of training use and the other aircraft’s column was cracked, too.
Flight training environments can be inherently more demanding on aeroplanes due to sudden, harsh and repetitive flight control inputs,” the alert said. “Prolonged operation of aeroplanes in such environments can result in fatigue of aeroplane components, including the control column.”
The potential problem could apply to all early Cherokee models from the 140 to 235 series aircraft.