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Airworthiness Directives; Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Limited Helicopters

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ACTION:

Final rule; request for comments.

SUMMARY:

We are publishing a new airworthiness directive (AD) for Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Limited (Bell) Model 206L, 206L-1, 206L-3, and 206L-4 helicopters with certain main rotor blades installed to reduce the life limit of those blades. This AD is prompted by two accidents and the subsequent investigations that revealed that, in each accident, a main rotor blade failed because of fatigue cracking. These actions are intended to prevent failure of the main rotor blade and subsequent loss of control of the helicopter.

DATES:

This AD becomes effective May 4, 2012 to all persons except those persons to whom it was made immediately effective by Emergency AD No. 2012-02-51, issued on February 1, 2012, which contained the requirements of this AD.

We must receive comments on this AD by June 18, 2012.

ADDRESSES:

You may send comments by any of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Docket: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for sending your comments electronically.
  • Fax: 202-493-2251.
  • Mail: Send comments to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590-0001.
  • Hand Delivery: Deliver to the “Mail” address between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

Examining the AD Docket: You may examine the AD docket on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov or in person at the Docket Operations Office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The AD docket contains this AD, the economic evaluation, and other information. The street address for the Docket Operations Office (telephone 800-647-5527) is in the ADDRESSES section. Comments will be available in the AD docket shortly after receipt.

For service information identified in this AD, contact Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Limited, 12,800 Rue de l'Avenir, Mirabel, Quebec J7J1R4, telephone (450) 437-2862 or (800) 363-8023, fax (450) 433-0272, or at http://www.bellcustomer.com/files/. You may review a copy of the referenced service information at the FAA, Office of the Regional Counsel, Southwest Region, 2601 Meacham Blvd., Room 663, Fort Worth, Texas 76137.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Sharon Miles, Aerospace Engineer, FAA, Rotorcraft Directorate, Regulations and Policy Group, 2601 Meacham Blvd., Fort Worth, Texas 76137, telephone (817) 222-5110, email sharon.y.miles@faa.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Comments Invited

This AD is a final rule that involves requirements affecting flight safety, and we did not provide you with notice and an opportunity to provide your comments prior to it becoming effective. However, we invite you to participate in this rulemaking by submitting written comments, data, or views. We also invite comments relating to the economic, environmental, energy, or federalism impacts that resulted from adopting this AD. The most helpful comments reference a specific portion of the AD, explain the reason for any recommended change, and include supporting data. To ensure the docket does not contain duplicate comments, commenters should send only one copy of written comments, or if comments are filed electronically, commenters should submit them only one time.

We will file in the docket all comments that we receive, as well as a report summarizing each substantive public contact with FAA personnel concerning this rulemaking during the comment period. We will consider all the comments we receive and may conduct additional rulemaking based on those comments.

Discussion

Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) issued TCCA AD No. CF-2011-44R1, on February 1, 2012, to correct this same unsafe condition on the Bell Model 206 L, L-1, L-3, and L-4 helicopters. TCCA advises that there is no reliable inspection method to detect the cracks on these blades before blade failure and has reduced the life limit on all affected blades from 3,600 hours time-in-service (TIS) to 1,400 hours TIS and mandated removal from service of those blades that exceed the new life limit. Bell has determined that the fatigue cracks occurred as a result of the use by a Bell supplier of unapproved manufacturing processes, which have since been corrected, and are limited to a specific range of part numbers and serial numbers.

We issued EAD 2012-02-51 also on February 1, 2012, for Bell Model 206L, 206L-1, 206L-3, and 206L-4 helicopters with certain main rotor blades installed and reduced the life limit on these blades to correct the unsafe condition caused by this fatigue cracking.

FAA's Determination

These helicopters have been approved by the aviation authority of Canada and are approved for operation in the United States. Pursuant to our bilateral agreement with Canada, TCCA, its technical representative, has notified us of the unsafe condition described in the TCCA AD. We are issuing this AD because we evaluated all information provided by the TCCA and determined the unsafe condition exists and is likely to exist or develop on other helicopters of these same type designs.

Related Service Information

Bell Helicopter Alert Service Bulletin No. 206L-09-159 Revision A, dated November 13, 2009, describes procedures to identify and mark the affected main rotor blades, requires a “recurring wipe check,” and requires performing a one-time radiographic inspection with the results to be determined by Bell.

AD Requirements

This AD requires reducing the life limit from 3,600 hours time-in-service (TIS) to 1,400 hours TIS for certain part-numbered and serial-numbered main rotor blades, revising the life limit in the Airworthiness Limitations section of the Instructions for Continued Airworthiness or maintenance manual, and recording the revised life limit on the component history card or equivalent record.

Costs of Compliance

We estimate that this AD will affect 697 helicopters of U.S. Registry. At an average labor rate of $85 per work-hour, we estimate the following costs:

  • Determining the main rotor blades' part and serial numbers will require about 1 work-hour for a cost per helicopter of $85, or $59,245 for the U.S. fleet.
  • Replacing an affected main rotor blade will require about 8 work-hours for labor cost of $680 per helicopter and parts costs of about $44,958 per helicopter, for a total cost per helicopter of $45,638.

FAA's Justification and Determination of the Effective Date

Providing an opportunity for public comments prior to adopting these AD requirements would delay implementing the safety actions needed to correct this known unsafe condition. Therefore, we find that the risk to the flying public justifies waiving notice and comment prior to the adoption of this rule because the required corrective actions must be accomplished before further flight, a very short period of time.

Since an unsafe condition exists that requires the immediate adoption of this AD, we determined that notice and opportunity for public comment before issuing this AD are impracticable and contrary to the public interest and that good cause exists for making this amendment effective in less than 30 days.

Authority for This Rulemaking

Title 49 of the United States Code specifies the FAA's authority to issue rules on aviation safety. Subtitle I, section 106, describes the authority of the FAA Administrator. “Subtitle VII: Aviation Programs,” describes in more detail the scope of the Agency's authority.

We are issuing this rulemaking under the authority described in “Subtitle VII, Part A, Subpart III, Section 44701: General requirements.” Under that section, Congress charges the FAA with promoting safe flight of civil aircraft in air commerce by prescribing regulations for practices, methods, and procedures the Administrator finds necessary for safety in air commerce. This regulation is within the scope of that authority because it addresses an unsafe condition that is likely to exist or develop on products identified in this rulemaking action.

Regulatory Findings

We determined that this AD will not have federalism implications under Executive Order 13132. This AD will not have a substantial direct effect on the States, on the relationship between the national Government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government.

For the reasons discussed, I certify that this AD:

1. Is not a “significant regulatory action” under Executive Order 12866;

2. Is not a “significant rule” under DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures (44 FR 11034, February 26, 1979);

3. Will not affect intrastate aviation in Alaska to the extent that it justifies making a regulatory distinction; and

4. Will not have a significant economic impact, positive or negative, on a substantial number of small entities under the criteria of the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

We prepared an economic evaluation of the estimated costs to comply with this AD and placed it in the AD docket.

List of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 39

Adoption of the Amendment

Accordingly, under the authority delegated to me by the Administrator, the FAA amends 14 CFR part 39 as follows:

PART 39—AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVES

1. The authority citation for part 39 continues to read as follows:

Authority: 49 U.S.C. 106(g), 40113, 44701.

[Amended]

2. The FAA amends § 39.13 by adding the following new airworthiness directive (AD):

2012-02-51 Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Limited: Amendment 39-17016; Docket No. FAA-2012-0395; Directorate Identifier 2012-SW-007-AD.

(a) Applicability

This AD applies to Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Limited (Bell) Model 206L, 206L-1, 206L-3, and 206L-4 helicopters, certificated in any category, with a main rotor blade part number (P/N) 206-015-001-107, 206-015-001-109, 206-015-001-111, 206-015-001-115, 206-015-001-117, 206-015-001-119, or 206-015-001-121, and a main rotor blade serial number listed in Table 1 of this AD.

Table 1

Affected Main Rotor Blade Serial Numbers
(All blade serial numbers listed in Table 1 of this AD have the prefix “A-.”)
901 through 9282285, 22862787, 27884293 through 42984684.
930 through 93522902808 through 281743014686 through 4708.
937, 9382292 through 22942819 through 282243054710.
9412297282443084713 through 4716.
943 through 9942301, 23022826 through 28284314, 43154719 through 4722.
996 through 10002304, 2305283243184725.
1002 through 10202308283543304728, 4729.
1022 through 103223112840 through 28424334 through 43364731.
1034 through 10472313, 231428444381, 43824734 through 4737.
1049 through 113423162848 through 285043924739 through 4742.
1136 through 11402318, 23192852, 28534394, 43954744 through 4751.
1142 through 11572322 through 232428554405 through 44094753 through 4757.
1159 through 11662328 through 2331285844164759.
1168 through 118223572862 through 286444184762.
1184 through 1351237429004423 through 44264764.
1353 through 13632379299644334774.
1365 through 13822515321244454778 through 4780.
1384 through 14012553, 2554321944484784.
1403 through 15192561, 256233394462, 44634786 through 4825.
1521 through 15902564 through 2570336944844827 through 4840.
1593 through 16462573338145004842 through 4863.
1648 through 17182576344745084865 through 4905.
1720 through 179825803571, 357245124907 through 4948.
1800 through 18212583362245174950 through 4957.
1824 through 18292585, 2586370545224959 through 4963.
1832 through 20602588, 258938314528, 45294965.
2062 through 20722593, 25943971, 397245324969 through 4973.
20742596, 25974025 through 403045344975.
2077 through 20812599411745474979, 4980.
2092 through 20952602414345504983, 4984.
2098, 20992604, 26054201 through 420545674987.
2101 through 21042607 through 2610420945734989.
2107, 210826214214 through 421745904992.
2110 through 21242623, 262442484604, 46054994 through 5006.
2126 through 214526384250, 42514608, 46095010.
2147 through 21582640 through 26724253, 42544612 through 46215015.
2161 through 21632674 through 27014256 through 42604624 through 46295018.
2165, 21662706 through 27084262 through 42674631, 46325023.
2169 through 21752727, 272842694638, 46395036.
2177 through 21832730 through 27424271, 427246525047.
2185 through 21922744 through 27644274 through 427646545054.
2220, 22212766, 2767427846575066, 5067.
224827694280 through 428446595071, 5072.
2257 through 22672771, 27724286, 428746625075, 5076.
2272 through 22832775 through 27774290, 42914666 through 46825081.
508753975535 through 55375679 through 56865851.
50945399 through 54005539, 554056885856.
51525402 through 541155425690 through 57055861 through 5865.
51555413, 54145546 through 55495707 through 57095870.
5158, 51595416 through 54395552, 55535711, 57125882.
5163, 516454415556 through 55615716 through 57215884 through 5886.
5166 through 51715443 through 54455566 through 55685723 through 57265889 through 5891.
5176 through 517854475570 through 55745729 through 57345899 through 5901.
5180 through 518254505576 through 55835736 through 57455903 through 5905.
5186 through 519154595588 through 55915747 through 57525912.
5193 through 51995465 through 5468559457575915.
5201 through 520554725598 through 560057625921.
520754755602 through 56055766 through 57695925, 5926.
5209 through 521254815608, 560957715929 through 5951.
5218 through 5253548356125781, 57825992.
5255 through 527354885616 through 562357916216.
5275 through 52885491, 54925625, 56265793 through 58006247.
5291, 52925495562858086270.
5297, 52985497 through 55075637 through 56415815 through 58176597.
5301 through 53215509 through 551256435822 through 58266611, 6612.
5323 through 533155165645 through 56535828, 58296661.
5333 through 53405518 through 55215655 through 566658336714.
53435526 through 55305668, 56695837.
5345 through 539555335671 through 56775844, 5845.

(b) Unsafe Condition

This AD defines the unsafe condition as fatigue cracking of a main rotor blade. This condition could result in failure of the main rotor blade and subsequent loss of control of the helicopter.

(c) Effective Date

This AD becomes effective May 4, 2012 to all persons except those persons to whom it was made immediately effective by Emergency AD No. 2012-02-51, issued on February 1, 2012.

(d) Compliance

You are responsible for performing each action required by this AD within the specified compliance time unless it has already been accomplished prior to that time.

(e) Required Actions

(1) Before further flight, reduce the life limit of the main rotor blades with a serial number listed in Table 1 of this AD from 3,600 hours time-in-service (TIS) to 1,400 hours TIS; revise the life limit in the Airworthiness Limitations section of the Instruction for Continued Airworthiness or maintenance manual; and record the revised life limit on the component history card or equivalent record.

(2) Before further flight, remove from service any main rotor blade which has accumulated 1,400 or more hours TIS.

(f) Special Flight Permits

Special flight permits are prohibited.

(g) Alternative Methods of Compliance (AMOCs)

(1) The Manager, Safety Management Group, FAA, may approve AMOCs for this AD. Send your proposal to: Sharon Miles, Aerospace Engineer, FAA, Rotorcraft Directorate, Regulations and Policy Group, 2601 Meacham Blvd., Fort Worth, Texas 76137, telephone (817) 222 5110, email sharon.y.miles@faa.gov.

(2) For operations conducted under a Part 119 operating certificate or under Part 91, Subpart K, we suggest that you notify your principal inspector, or lacking a principal inspector, the manager of the local flight standards district office or certificate holding district office, before operating any aircraft complying with this AD through an AMOC.

(h) Additional Information

(1) Bell Helicopter Alert Service Bulletin (ASB) No. 206L-09-159 Revision A, dated November 13, 2009, which is not incorporated by reference, contains additional information about the subject of this AD. For this service information, contact Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Limited, 12,800 Rue de l'Avenir, Mirabel, Quebec J7J1R4, telephone (450) 437-2862 or (800) 363-8023, fax (450) 433-0272, or at http://www.bellcustomer.com/files/. You may review a copy of this service information at the FAA, Office of the Regional Counsel, Southwest Region, 2601 Meacham Blvd., Room 663, Fort Worth, Texas 76137.

(2) The subject of this AD is addressed in Transport Canada Civil Aviation AD No. CF-2011-44R1, dated February 1, 2012.

(i) Subject

Joint Aircraft Service Component (JASC) Code: 6210, Main rotor blades.

Issued in Fort Worth, Texas, on April 3, 2012.

Kim Smith,

Manager, Rotorcraft Directorate, Aircraft Certification Service.

[FR Doc. 2012-9314 Filed 4-18-12; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4910-13-P