Aircraft Spotlight: How the Lakes Region Flying Club Dealt with a Major AD

As an aircraft owner, one of the last things you want to hear is that the FAA is issuing a new Airworthiness Directive (AD) for your plane, especially if it is a major one. In the past few years there have been two major wing spar ADs—one for the Piper Cherokee family in 2020 and another for the Cessna 210 and 177 Cardinal in February of this year.

Complying with either of these ADs could have serious consequences for a flying club. If a major repair is necessary, the plane may be unavailable for some time and the repair could be expensive.  

In 2018, there was a fatal crash of a PA-28R-201 Piper Arrow in which a wing separated from the aircraft due to fatigue cracks in the spar. After an investigation, the FAA issued AD 2020-26-16 in January 2021. It required aircraft that had 5,000 hours of service time to be inspected for cracks at a specific bolt hole location in the main wing spars.

The Lakes Region Flying Club’s Archer met the criteria of the AD.  The club is based in Laconia, NH has 15 members and operates a 1981 Piper PA-28-181 Archer II. The plane has been in the club since 1982 and has about 6,800 hours on the airframe. Even before the AD came out, the club took action. As the club’s Operations Director, Bob Stephens, gets notified by Piper of any Service Bulletins (SB). When he received SB 1345, released in March 2020, the club’s board of directions held a meeting to talk about the issue.

One of the problems they had is the formula to calculate service hours included 100-hour inspections. The club doesn’t use the Archer for training, so they aren’t required to do 100-hour inspections, making the calculations challenging. However, the club correctly assumed the Service Bulletin would become an AD. 

“We decided that we would take a proactive position because if it became an AD and there were a bunch of people out there with failures in the eddy current, there weren’t going to be any serviceable wings available,” Bob said.

Part of what drove the decision to act on the Service Bulletin was the aircraft history. About 20 years ago the Archer was “pancaked on the deck” from about 30 feet over the frozen lake, Bob said. One wing was destroyed, the other wing was damaged, and some belly pan work was necessary. It took a year to find the parts, including a serviceable wing. However, there was no history on it. “We spent a lot of time researching, contacting organizations whose name was on the paperwork to see if there was any way we could trace it back to its origin,” Bob said. “And we could not.” 

SB 1345 called for an eddy current inspection of bolt holes during the next regularly scheduled maintenance, but not to exceed the next 100 hours. Given the plane’s history of replacing the wing with an unknown history, the club chose to have the inspection done. They contacted Samuel H. “Beau” Harrison, Jr., an authority on eddy inspections, and arranged to have him come to New Hampshire. To reduce the costs of paying his expenses, the club worked with the FBOs on the field and found two other owners that wanted to have their aircraft inspected at the same time. The club spent about $1,500 for the inspection, including paying part of Beau’s expenses to come to New Hampshire.

The inspection was conducted on July 1, 2020. Everything looked good. Beau cleaned the hole a little bit, put in new bolts, and signed off the aircraft as in compliance with the Service Bulletin. So, what did that mean when the AD was issued in January 2021? “I had to file a letter with the FAA, an AMOC, for them to approve a prior activity to meet a future requirement,” Bob said. An AMOC is an Alternate Method of Compliance. “We got a letter back that the AMOC was approved indicating we had performed the required inspection to the requirements specified by the Service Bulletin prior to it becoming an AD and that we were free of any defects.” 

Advice for Clubs

There were a few important factors to the Lakes Region Flying Club’s successful compliance with the AD. First, the club was financially stable and had a healthy reserve. That allowed the club to be proactive and take immediate action to schedule an inspection rather than wait.

The club culture is also one of safety and keeping the aircraft well maintained. A few years ago, they upgraded the avionics with the installation of two Garmin G5s and the GFC 500 autopilot to improve the safety and reliability for cross country flights and flying in IFR conditions.

“The club has always adopted a very conservative outlook when it comes to maintenance,” Bob said. “Every time I get a service bulletin, I’m on the phone with my A&P.” Once the A&P reviews the Service Bulletin, he’ll make a logbook entry noting that it was either complied with or why the SB doesn’t apply. 

Bob’s advice to other clubs is to quickly evaluate any Service Bulletins that come out that look like they may be significant because there will be a lot of other people looking for the same used parts.

“Be proactive. What do you need to do to determine whether or not you need to replace the part and begin to source out what you have for options,” Bob said. “Being proactive is clearly the most cost-effective way of dealing with ADs as far as I’m concerned.”

The Piper Spar AD could have been a costly and potentially long-term repair. The Lakes Region Flying Club’s quick action to address the Service Bulletin “was an investment in having the plane available,” Bob said. “It was also an investment in piece of mind.”



Lakes Region Flying Club


Laconia Municipal Airport (KLCI)

Gilford, NH



[email protected]

Year formed



1981 PA-28-181 Archer ($100/hr)


Rates are Hobbs time, wet

Joining fee

$3,500 non-refundable


$135 per month


15 (capped at 15)


Flight Schedule Pro


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