Luggage Threatens Control of Fire Fighting Airplanes


     WASHINGTON (CN) – The rudder pedal stuck on an Air Tractor 802 airplane, threatening steering, until “the pilot stomped on it so hard that it worked,” according to an Air Tractor engineering representative, who asked that his name not be used.
After the plane landed, a mechanic and the pilot found a rudder pulley broken and surmised that a piece of something stored on the plane for the flight must have come loose and jammed the controls. The plane was making a cross-country repositioning flight in Northern Canada, last June.
     The Air Tractor representative was surprised that it has taken so long for the Federal Aviation Administration to issue an Airworthiness Directive requiring owners and operators of AT-802s to strap down items stored on the plane, and install a shield over the rudder cable system. After the incident “we had told ’em it’s probably a good idea,” he said.
     The AT-802 is used for fire-fighting and crop dusting, and is called a “Fire Boss” when it has amphibious floats allowing it to sit on a lake while scooping up water to douse a fire.
     The Federal Aviation Administration plans to require owners and operators of 200 AT-802 one- or two-seaters to spend $1,000 each to install cable shields by the end of the year. The FAA is allowing public comment for two months before it publishing a final rule. After that, the agency will require that stowed items be secured with tie downs or a cargo net. The agency states that it has delayed compliance to the end of December to allow crop dusters to finish their season before adding this safety feature.

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