DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Aviation Administration
14 CFR Part 39
[Docket No. FAA-2020-1132; Project Identifier MCAI-2020-01386-R]
Airworthiness Directives; Airbus Helicopters
AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DOT.
ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).
SUMMARY: The FAA proposes to supersede Airworthiness Directive
2018-15-02, which applies to certain Airbus Helicopters Model AS350B,
AS350B1, AS350B2, AS350B3, AS350BA, AS355E, AS355F, AS355F1, AS355F2,
AS355N, and AS355NP helicopters. AD 2018-15-02 requires repetitively
inspecting the tail rotor (TR) pitch rod for a damaged elastomeric ball
joint, and corrective action if necessary. Since the FAA issued AD
2018-15-02, the FAA determined that the manufacturer had developed
improved inspection procedures and identified conditions that would
allow the repetitive inspection intervals specified in AD 2018-15-02 to
be extended to correspond with the intervals for the inspection of the
TR pitch rod specified in the airworthiness limitation section of the
applicable helicopter maintenance manual. This proposed AD would retain
the requirements of AD 2018-15-02 and allow the repetitive inspection
interval to be extended under certain conditions, as specified in a
European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) AD, which is proposed for
incorporation by reference. The FAA is proposing this AD to address the
unsafe condition on these products.
DATES: The FAA must receive comments on this proposed AD by February
ADDRESSES: You may send comments, using the procedures found in
11.43 and 11.45, by any of the following methods:
Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to https://www.regulations.gov. Follow
instructions for submitting comments.
Mail: U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket
Operations, M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New
Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590.
Hand Delivery: Deliver to Mail address above between 9
a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
For material that will be incorporated by reference (IBR) in this
AD, contact the EASA, Konrad-Adenauer-Ufer 3, 50668 Cologne, Germany;
telephone +49 221 89990 000; email ADs@easa.europa.eu; internet
www.easa.europa.eu. You may find this IBR material on the EASA website
at https://ad.easa.europa.eu.You may view this IBR material at the FAA,
Office of the Regional Counsel, Southwest Region, 10101 Hillwood Pkwy.,
Room 6N-321, Fort Worth, TX 76177. For information on the availability
of this material at the FAA, call 817-222-5110. It is also available in
the AD docket on the internet at https://www.regulations.gov by
searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2020-1132.
Examining the AD Docket
You may examine the AD docket on the internet at https://www.regulations.
gov by searching for and locating Docket No. FAA-2020-1132;
or in person at Docket Operations between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.,
Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The AD docket contains
this NPRM, any comments received, and other information. The street
address for Docket Operations is listed above. Comments will be
available in the AD docket shortly after receipt.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Katherine Venegas, Aviation Safety
Engineer, Cabin Safety, Mechanical and Environmental Systems Section,
Los Angeles ACO Branch, FAA, 3960 Paramount Boulevard, Lakewood, CA
90712-4137; phone: 562-627-5353; fax: 562-627-5210; email:
The FAA invites you to send any written relevant data, views, or
arguments about this proposal. Send your comments to an address listed
under ADDRESSES. Include "Docket No. FAA-2020-1132; Project Identifier
MCAI-2020-01386-R" at the beginning of your comments. The most helpful
comments reference a specific portion of the proposal, explain the
reason for any recommended change, and include supporting data. The FAA
will consider all comments received by the closing date and may amend
this proposal because of those comments.
Except for Confidential Business Information (CBI) as described in
the following paragraph, and other information as described in 14 CFR
11.35, the FAA will post all comments received, without change, to
https://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information you
provide. The agency will also post a report summarizing each
substantive verbal contact received about this proposal.
Confidential Business Information
CBI is commercial or financial information that is both customarily
and actually treated as private by its owner. Under the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) (5 U.S.C. 552), CBI is exempt from public
disclosure. If your comments responsive to this NPRM contain commercial
or financial information that is customarily treated as private, that
you actually treat as private, and that is relevant or responsive to
this NPRM, it is important that you clearly designate the submitted
comments as CBI. Please mark each page of your submission containing
CBI as "PROPIN." The FAA will treat such marked submissions as
confidential under the FOIA, and they will not be placed in the public
docket of this NPRM. Submissions containing CBI should be sent to
Katherine Venegas, Aviation Safety Engineer, Cabin Safety, Mechanical
and Environmental Systems Section, Los Angeles ACO Branch, FAA, 3960
Paramount Boulevard, Lakewood, CA 90712-4137; phone: 562-627-5353; fax:
562-627-5210; email: Katherine.Venegas@faa.gov. Any commentary that the
FAA receives that is not specifically designated as CBI will be placed
in the public docket for this rulemaking.
The FAA issued AD 2018-15-02, Amendment 39-19334 (83 FR 34029, July
19, 2018) (AD 2018-15-02), which applies to certain Airbus Helicopters
Model AS350B, AS350B1, AS350B2, AS350B3, AS350BA, AS355E, AS355F,
AS355F1, AS355F2, AS355N, and AS355NP helicopters. AD 2018-15-02
requires repetitively inspecting the TR pitch rod for a damaged
elastomeric ball joint, and corrective action if necessary. The FAA
issued AD 2018-15-02 to address damage to the elastomeric ball joint on
the TR pitch change rod. This condition could result in failure of the
TR pitch change rod and subsequent loss of control of the helicopter.
Actions Since AD 2018-15-02 Was Issued
Since the FAA issued AD 2018-15-02, the FAA determined that the
manufacturer had developed improved inspection procedures and
identified conditions that would allow the repetitive inspection
intervals specified in AD 2018-15-02 to be expanded to correspond with
the intervals for the inspection of the TR pitch rod specified in the
airworthiness limitation section of the applicable helicopter
The EASA, which is the Technical Agent for the Member States of the
European Union, has issued EASA AD 2017-0020R1, dated May 22, 2019
(EASA AD 2017-0020R1) (also referred to as the Mandatory Continuing
Airworthiness Information, or the MCAI), to correct an unsafe condition
for certain Airbus Helicopters Model AS350B, AS350BA, AS350BB, AS350B1,
AS350B2, AS350B3, AS355E, AS355F, AS355 F1, AS355F2, AS355N and AS355NP
helicopters. Model AS350BB helicopters are not certificated by the FAA
and are not included on the U.S. type certificate data sheet; this
proposed AD therefore does not include those helicopters in the
This proposed AD was prompted by a report of several cases of
damaged TR pitch rod ball joints. The FAA is proposing this AD to
address damage to the elastomeric ball joint on the TR pitch change
rod. This condition could result in failure of the TR pitch change rod
and subsequent loss of control of the helicopter. See the MCAI for
additional background information.
Comments on AD 2018-15-02
The FAA gave the public the opportunity to comment on AD 2018-15-02.
The following presents the comments received on AD 2018-15-02 and
the FAA's response to those comments.
Request To Allow Pilots To Do the Inspection
Four commenters requested that the FAA allow pilots to do the
inspection specified in the required action paragraph of AD 2018-15-02.
The commenters observed that the Airbus Helicopters service information
specified in AD 2018-15-02 identified qualified personnel as a
mechanical engineer technician or a pilot. Three of those commenters
also noted that the repetitive inspection required by AD 2018-15-02 is
required at intervals not to exceed 10 hours time-in-service (TIS).
These commenters explained that because many of the affected
helicopters are utilized for firefighting, law enforcement, and utility
applications, operators might not have access to a mechanic to do the
inspection every 10 hours TIS, therefore a pilot should be allowed to
perform the inspection.
The FAA disagrees. Per 14 CFR 43.3, the persons listed as
authorized to perform maintenance do not include pilots. In addition,
AD 2018-15-02 requires actions where a device to measure degrees of
rotation is needed. Because this precision measuring equipment must be
used, a pilot is not allowed to perform the inspection. The FAA did not
make any changes to AD 2018-15-02 regarding this issue. However, the
FAA reviewed these comments again in light of this NPRM, which proposes
to supersede AD 2018-15-02, and to incorporate EASA AD 2017-0020R1 by
reference. EASA AD 2017-0020R1 identifies conditions where operators
can revert to the original repetitive inspection intervals specified in
the applicable airworthiness limitations section for the affected
helicopters. The intervals specified in the airworthiness limitations
section are every 50 flight hours, and for the purposes of this
proposed AD, every 50 hours TIS.
Related Service Information Under 1 CFR Part 51
EASA AD 2017-0020R1 describes procedures for repetitively
inspecting the TR pitch rod for a damaged (debonding, extrusion, or
cracking) elastomeric ball joint and corrective action. The corrective
action includes replacing an affected TR pitch rod with a serviceable
TR pitch rod. This material is reasonably available because the
interested parties have access to it through their normal course of
business or by the means identified in the ADDRESSES section.
FAA's Determination and Requirements of This Proposed AD
This product has been approved by the aviation authority of another
country, and is approved for operation in the United States. Pursuant
to the bilateral agreement with the State of Design Authority, the FAA
has been notified of the unsafe condition described in the MCAI
referenced above. The FAA is proposing this AD because the FAA
evaluated all the relevant information and determined the unsafe
condition described previously is likely to exist or develop in other
products of the same type design.
Explanation of Retained Requirements
Although this proposed AD does not explicitly restate the
requirements of AD 2018-15-02, this proposed AD would retain all of the
requirements of AD 2018-15-02, except this proposed AD would allow for
extended repetitive intervals. Those requirements are referenced in
EASA AD 2017-0020R1, which, in turn, is referenced in paragraph (g) of
this proposed AD.
Proposed AD Requirements
This proposed AD would require accomplishing the actions specified
in EASA AD 2017-0020R1 described previously, as incorporated by
reference, except for any differences identified as exceptions in the
regulatory text of this AD.
Explanation of Required Compliance Information
In the FAA's ongoing efforts to improve the efficiency of the AD
process, the FAA initially worked with Airbus and EASA to develop a
process to use certain EASA ADs as the primary source of information
for compliance with requirements for corresponding FAA ADs. The FAA has
since coordinated with other manufacturers and civil aviation
authorities (CAAs) to use this process. As a result, EASA AD 2017-
0020R1 will be incorporated by reference in the FAA final rule. This
proposed AD would, therefore, require compliance with EASA AD 2017-
0020R1 in its entirety, through that incorporation, except for any
differences identified as exceptions in the regulatory text of this
proposed AD. Using common terms that are the same as the heading of a
particular section in the EASA AD does not mean that operators need
comply only with that section. For example, where the AD requirement
refers to "all required actions and compliance times," compliance
with this AD requirement is not limited to the section titled
"Required Action(s) and Compliance Time(s)" in the EASA AD. Service
information specified in EASA AD 2017-0020R1 that is required for
compliance with EASA AD 2017-0020R1 will be available on the internet
at https://www.regulations.gov by searching for and locating Docket No.
FAA-2020-1132 after the FAA final rule is published.
Costs of Compliance
The FAA estimates that this proposed AD affects 955 helicopters of
U.S. registry. The FAA estimates the following costs to comply with
this proposed AD:
Estimated Costs for Required Actions
|Retained actions from AD 2018-15-02
||0.5 work-hour x $85 per hour
This new proposed AD adds no new
costs to affected operators.
The FAA estimates the following costs to do any necessary on-
condition actions that would be required based on the results of any
required actions. The FAA has no way of determining the number of
helicopters that might need these on-condition actions:
Estimated Costs of On-Condition Actions
|1 work-hour x $85 per hour =
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.
The FAA is 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.
The FAA determined that this proposed AD would not have federalism
implications under Executive Order 13132. This proposed AD would 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 above, I certify this proposed
(1) Is not a "significant regulatory action" under Executive
(2) Will not affect intrastate aviation in Alaska, and
(3) 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.
List of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 39
Air transportation, Aircraft, Aviation safety, Incorporation by
The Proposed Amendment
Accordingly, under the authority delegated to me by the
Administrator, the FAA proposes to amend 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.
Sec. 39.13 [Amended]
2. The FAA amends Sec. 39.13 by removing Airworthiness Directive (AD)
2018-15-02, Amendment 39-19334 (83 FR 34029, July 19, 2018), and adding
the following new AD: