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Thu, Mar 19, 2009

FAA Investigates Bearing Problems On 2,800 Bell Helos

Model 206, 407 And 427 Helis Subject To AD

A problem that first crept up during a customer delivery flight last week led the FAA Wednesday to ground approximately 2,800 Canadian-built Bell helicopters until operators can search for improperly installed bearings on the co-pilot cyclic controls, and replace the suspect parts if necessary.

Emergency Airworthiness Directive 2009-7-51, issued Wednesday, calls for immediate inspections of cyclics installed in Bell Model 206A series, 206B series, and 206L series helicopers with a lever assembly, part number (P/N) 206-001-401-111, 206-001-400-115, or 206-001-400-111, installed; and Model 407 and 427 helicopters with a lever assembly, P/N 407-001-320-105 or 407-001-320-109, installed, certificated in any category.

Bell spokesman Greg Hubbard said the company discovered the problem during a delivery flight last week. Hubbard did not specify where that delivery took place, though the FAA cites a Transport Canada directive as basis for its AD. The Canadian mandate was issued March 12, and applies to helicopters produced in Canada.

"Transport Canada, the airworthiness authority for Canada, notified the FAA that an unsafe condition may exist on certain helicopters with less than 50 flight hours or with a cyclic lever assembly installed within the last 50 flight hours," reads the AD. "Transport Canada advises that 'it is possible that an incorrectly installed bearing could be found in any helicopter with a cyclic control lever assembly recently installed.' Failure of the cyclic control lever assembly could lead to loss of control of the helicopter. Transport Canada classified the ASBs as mandatory and issued AD No. CF-2009-10, dated March 12, 2009, to ensure the continued airworthiness of these helicopters in Canada.

"This unsafe condition is likely to exist or develop on other helicopters of the same type designs," the FAA added, explaining the wide net cast by the agency in the initial AD.

Hubbard told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram the company expects the FAA to narrow the field considerably in coming days, down to less than 110 newer helicopters affected by the AD.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.bellhelicopter.com

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