In the last week or so I’ve connected the dots on a serious aging problem on our Pipers that I want to call your attention to. Specifically, the steps that we use to get into our aircraft.
These steps were made when our aircraft were built, as long as 45 years ago. And guess what, they’re cracking and breaking, and it’s not related directly to time on the airframe as I’ve seen a 3,000-hour Piper with a broken step. I’m not privy to any statistics on these step cracks but here’s what I do know: I just heard about a Seneca on which the step was cracked and painted over by a paint shop without detection. And on my Arrow last year it was caught during my pre-purchase inspection by JA Aero in Chicago.
Can you imagine stepping off the wing of your aircraft onto the step and having it snap off? The results would be horrific: broken foot, broken ankle, broken leg. Maybe worse. Painful, expensive, and possibly even a lawsuit by a passenger. Or even worse yet, your spouse refuses to fly with you ever again!
Here’s something else that I know: When these aircraft were built, we all weighed a lot less than we do now. We’re older and heavier and we put much more stress on these steps.
What to do? Have your shop check it out soon. If they find a crack, have them weld it — $100 and the problem is solved. So, put this on your squawk list soon.