Posted on Fri, Apr. 03, 2009
Bell Helicopter urges inspections on thousands in fleet
By BOB COXrcox@star-telegram.com
Bell Helicopter has warned customers and government safety officials that urgent inspections need to be made on potentially thousands of helicopters to check for an improperly installed bearing in a critical flight control component.
It's the second time in less than a month that Bell has issued an alert to check for a potentially hazardous problem that covers much of the Bell manufactured fleet.
Bell spokesman Greg Hubbard said the company issued two types of service alerts affecting the Bell 206, 407, 427, 222, 230 and 430 model helicopters, which would comprise much of the active Bell fleet.
The 206 and 407 are widely used in the U.S. and around the world for many purposes including law enforcement agencies, air medical services and private transport.
The service bulletins were issued after a helicopter owner discovered the problem and notified the company and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Hubbard said Bell was communicating the alerts directly to helicopter owners and operators and to officials of Transport Canada and the FAA. The government agencies will likely soon follow-up by issuing airworthiness directives mandating the inspections.
The service alerts advise helicopter owners to immediately inspect the aircraft for an improperly installed bearing in the swash plate mechanism that controls the rotor. The inspections, depending upon the part involved, are to be completed within the next five or 10 hours of operation of the helicopter.
On March 10, Bell issued a similar service alert after discovery of an improperly installed bearing in the cyclic controls of a new helicopter assembled at the company's plant in Montreal. Transport Canada and the FAA followed that up with directives ordering that all similar aircraft be inspected before their next flight.
After completing hundreds of inspections, Hubbard said no additional problems were found with that particular part. The alerts all involve "staked bearings," which refers to an approved procedure for properly assembling parts containing the bearings.
In addition to advising immediate inspections of the swash plate bearing, Bell also issued a safety notice for all bearings of the same type installed in any part of any Bell helicopter. The notice requires operators to inspect these bearings during their next regular required phased inspection.
Hubbard said appropriate alerts have also been sent to the military services covering any affected military aircraft.
"Bell’s rapid and thorough response to this situation clearly demonstrates that our safety and inspection processes are robust and effective," Hubbard said.
BOB COX, 817-390-7723