Last month in this space, we reported on a Special Investigative Report (SIR-17/02) from the NTSB, “Improving Pilot Weather Report Submission and Dissemination to Benefit Safety in the National Airspace System.” It’s a 68-page collection of everything that’s wrong with the Pireps system. We also highlighted as “most interesting” one of the NTSB’s recommendations: for the FAA to “provide a reliable means of electronically accepting pilot weather reports directly from all users.” The NTSB added that the FAA should “ensure that the system has the capacity to accept and make available all such reports to the [NAS].” Since then, the FAA has seen fit to remind pilots that capability already exists, even if it’s a bit cumbersome.
A recent Notice from the agency advised, “The FAA has a new, electronic PIREP submission tool at the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Aviation Weather Center Digital Data Service (ADDS) website. Registered users can electronically submit turbulence and icing PIREPs on the site, which are instantly displayed in graphical form and distributed nationwide. Visit www.aviationweather.gov/user/register to register on the Aviation Weather Center site.”
Presently, operators interested in participating in the program must have a registered account on the ADDS site, and make formal request for electronic Pireps submission capability. “Users are required to register prior to accessing the PIREP submission form. Validation of user accounts will consider whether the user has:
– a pilot’s license
– a .gov or .mil email address
– a group id number for airlines,” according to NWS guidance.
It appears the NWS must telephonically verify each application, however. To see how well this works, we applied for access to the system and will report back as soon as possible.
In the meantime, the FAA wants you to know that free Pirep training is available on the agency website FAASafety.gov. “Look for the Air Safety Institute’s SkySpotter ‘PIREPs Made Easy’ course (FAASafety.gov course ALC-96).” Like other courses on that website, registered users will receive WINGS credit usable in completing a flight review.
Two recent Special Airworthiness Bulletins (SAIBs) may be of interest to a large number of readers. A SAIB, of course, is a document prepared by the FAA that “alerts, educates, and makes recommendations to the aviation community. SAIBs contain non-regulatory information and guidance that does not meet the criteria for an Airworthiness Directive (AD).” One recent SAIB addresses Continental Motors, Inc. (CMI) 520- and 550-series engines and advises their operators of “available service instructions for identifying causes of engine kickback and recommended engine inspections following a kickback event.”
According to the SAIB (NE-17-11, dated May 10, 2017) the FAA has field reports involving fractured crankshaft gear retaining screws related to engine kickback events. An engine kickback is when the propeller blades stop abruptly or rotate backward during an engine start sequence.
The SAIB notes that CMI “conducted extensive engine testing, which showed that engine kickback during a failed engine start can cause high instantaneous torque loads resulting in damage to engine components including the starter, starter adapter assembly, as well as the crankshaft gear and its retaining screws.”
Following a kickback event, according to the SAIB, the FAA recommends inspecting starter system components for damage, including rotating the starter adapter to determine if it’s free of binding or “ratcheting.”
If discrepancies are found during the rotational check, the FAA recommends “replacing the starter adapter and crankshaft gear retaining screws” and following CMI Service Bulletin, SB16-6, October 19, 2016, when performing related maintenance.
Meanwhile, another SAIB (CE-17-12, dated May 11, 2017) focuses on many models of the Cessna 150/152. According to this SAIB, “The FAA recently received a report through the Safety Difficulty Reporting (SDR) system of the elevator hinge bolt backing out on Cessna Model 150 airplanes. This allowed the elevator to separate from the horizontal stabilizer in-flight, which resulted in reduced controllability in the pitch axis. The main issues identified include excessively worn attach hardware and the use of incorrect attach hardware. Corrosion may have been a contributing factor in some instances.” The FAA reportedly found similar reports going back to 1979.
For Cessna 150/150 models listed in the SAIB, the FAA recommends performing the inspections detailed in Cessna’s supplemental inspection document (SID) 55-10-01. Worn or incorrect hardware found during such an inspection should be replaced per the SID.