Are any Mallards still flying in the US?

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Are any Mallards still flying in the US?

Postby Rajay » Sun May 20, 2012 6:27 pm

Does anyone know if there are any Mallards currently "airworthy" and flyable in the US?

I never really had the "need" to do so, so I only recently read through the text of AD 2006-01-51 which effectively grounded all Mallards in the US pending a hugely invasive and comprehensive inspection of their wing center sections. I once heard that all "Commercial" Mallards were grounded pending development of new more comprehensive service instructions from Frakes, but this AD does not differentiate between Commercial and Private G-73 Mallard aircraft. It applies to "all Frakes Aviation (Gulfstream American) Model G-73 (Mallard) series airplanes; and Model G-73 airplanes that have been converted to have turbine engines; certificated in any category."

The full text of the AD is here:
http://www.airweb.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgAD.nsf/0/84f647438cf632c6862570e70062a9e6/$FILE/2006-01-51%20(Emergency).pdf

I was just wondering if anyone here knew for a fact that any US-registered G-73 Mallard aircraft in particular had already complied with this AD and had been approved for return to service accordingly.

By comparison, Precision Valve Corporation's N777PV (G-73T s/n J-49) has been listed for sale for a couple of years now with a note that it is still in need of approximately $750K worth of wing center section repairs.

On a side note, the identification of the aircraft in the AD is not correct. Frakes Aviation may be the current TC Holder and Gulfstream American may be a former TC Holder, but all of the actual G-73 aircraft ever built were built by the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation of Bethpage, NY. As such and per FAR 45.13(a) they are all still just "Grumman" G-73 Mallard aircraft because that is who actually "built" them - a fact that does not change with the transfer of ownership of the type certificate, A-783. So now, while the "design" and the TC may belong to Frakes Aviation, the aircraft themselves are still properly identified as "Grumman" G-73 Mallards.
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Re: Are any Mallards still flying in the US?

Postby MrWidgeon » Sun May 20, 2012 10:52 pm

Piston Mallards were exempt from the AD notice and as far as I know all of them that were active before still are.
There is only one Turbine Mallard in the US that I know of (N730RS cn J50) that was exempt since it had had a complete center section rebuild prior to the AD notice.
After FAA review it was cleared for flight.
All of the Paspaley Pearls airplanes are exempt too since part of their conversion process was a center section overhaul/rebuild.
VP-CLK (cn J34) is registered overseas and I don't know if it's been affected, but as far as I know it's still flying.
The rest of the Turbine Mallards will continue to sit until the FAA and the owners can come to some agreement regarding the type testing needed to re-certify the airplane.
The owners and the FAA can't agree on how to proceed.
The FAA basically want to have a destructive test of the center section on each airplane (which is ridiculous) OR each airplane must have a completely new center section built (also ridiculous).
The destructive testing would involve removal of the wing, center section skins and all fuel tank sealant, then have an FAA approved test (x-ray testing of the center section preferred) prior to the wing being re-certified.
This test would have to be done on each airplane.
The owners are looking for an inspection process that's less destructive (read expensive).
What the FAA is demanding would cost nearly as much as the airplanes are worth (well over 1 million dollars each).
I think there's probably a cheaper way to get it done, but that the FAA doesn't want the airplane flying because they think they're too old.
No other reason than that, they have a history of trying to ground types they consider old & outdated, witness the DC-3/C-47 fight a few years back.
The DC-3 squabble was only one of several that have happened involving older airplanes.

Personally I think the failure of the wing on N2969 (cn J27) was an anomaly, caused by one poorly drilled rivet hole probably done in Chalks maintenance hangar.
The airplane had had a fuel weep from that spot for a few years prior to the crash, that SHOULD have told them something was wrong, they ignored it.
In the months prior to the accident that weep had gotten larger in size, again it was ignored.
From what I've heard, the pilots didn't like flying it, the just "felt" something was wrong with it.
Nobody could quantify it, it was a "seat of the pants" type thing, but they didn't like the airplane.
It wasn't that way when it was first brought into Chalks fleet, but something that developed over time.

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Re: Are any Mallards still flying in the US?

Postby Rajay » Sun May 20, 2012 11:31 pm

Sorry Bill, but the notion that piston Mallards are exempt is erroneous. I put a link to AD 2006-01-51 in my original post, but for the sake of expediency, I'll post the "Applicability" section here:

"Applicability(c) This AD applies to all Frakes Aviation (Gulfstream American) Model G-73 (Mallard) series airplanes; and Model G-73 airplanes that have been converted to have turbine engines; certificated in any category."

I can see how some people might think from this that only "Frakes" Mallards are affected, but the truth of the matter is that no Mallard was ever "built" by Frakes and therefore there is no such thing as a "Frakes" Mallard in terms of official identification, certification, or registration. The turbine conversions were all done by means of a Frakes-owned STC (SA2323WE) but as such the aircraft themselves remained certified under TC A-783 as "Grumman" aircraft - hence my comment above about the improper identification of these aircraft as "Frakes" or "Gulfstream American".

Also hence the earlier note in the preamble to the AD:

"Emergency airworthiness directive (AD) 2006-01-51 is sent to all owners and operators of Frakes Aviation (Gulfstream American) Model G-73 (Mallard) series airplanes, and Model G-73 airplanes that have been converted to have turbine engines. These airplanes were originally manufactured by Grumman."

They did distinguish (although not so clearly) between regular (i.e. piston) G-73 Mallard aircraft and G-73 Mallard airplanes that have been converted to have turbine engines" and they included them both. If they had meant the AD to apply ONLY to the turbine Mallards, there was no need to send the AD to owners of piston Mallards and no need for the part of the sentence that read "Frakes Aviation (Gulfstream American) Model G-73 (Mallard) series airplanes, and...."

The way I read the "Applicability" section above, it should say or have said (and actually meant or intended to say):

"Applicability
(c) This AD applies to all Grumman model G-73 (Mallard) series airplanes; and model G-73 airplanes that have been converted by Frakes Aviation to have turbine engines per STC SA2323WE; certificated in any category."

And BTW, why is the FAA Rotorcraft Directorate (ASW-150) involved with this deal? Is it just coincidence that they were already located at the Ft. Worth ACO which geographically has authority over Frakes?
Last edited by Rajay on Mon May 21, 2012 3:41 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Are any Mallards still flying in the US?

Postby MrWidgeon » Mon May 21, 2012 3:12 am

Well, somebody better tell the piston Mallard owners, because they've been flying them since shortly after the AD notice came out.
One N2950 (cn J13) was at Reno last year sitting only a few hundred yards from where Jimmy Leeward impacted.
I know a couple Mallard owners and there's no problem with the piston Mallards re: the AD.

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Re: Are any Mallards still flying in the US?

Postby Rajay » Mon May 21, 2012 3:25 am

Don't you agree that the wording of the "Applicability" section of the AD would be completely redundant if the FAA meant for it to apply to only the turbine Mallards?

Don't you also agree that officially speaking (in terms of FAA registrations and CoA's) there is no such thing (aircraft) as a "Frakes" model G-73 Mallard?

According to the FAA registration database, every G-73 Mallard currently registered in the US - with or without turbines - is actually still a "Grumman".

I copied the e-mail that I sent to the FAA engineer listed as the primary contact for that AD asking about this issue to you as well, didn't I, Bill? Go ahead and forward it to the guys you know who own Mallards and ask them to comment or get back to either of us about what they think. Of course, if I hear back from the FAA engineer, I'll let everyone know as well.
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Re: Are any Mallards still flying in the US?

Postby MrWidgeon » Mon May 21, 2012 8:11 am

I got and read the email and I know where you're coming from on this and I agree the wording is confusing & incorrect (the FAA make a mistake ??? Horrors, SURELY you jest), but none the less the piston Mallards are exempt and not covered by this AD.
ALL US Mallards WERE grounded pending an initial investigation, but the piston Mallards were allowed to resume non-commercial flight operations within a month or so and remain unaffected by the AD (so far).
I'll pass it along and see what response I get.

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Re: Are any Mallards still flying in the US?

Postby Rajay » Mon May 21, 2012 2:46 pm

MrWidgeon wrote:... none the less the piston Mallards are exempt and not covered by this AD.
ALL US Mallards WERE grounded pending an initial investigation, but the piston Mallards were allowed to resume non-commercial flight operations within a month or so and remain unaffected by the AD (so far).

Bill

Based on what? Can you cite a specific reference? How were "piston Mallards" allowed to resume flight operations?

If it is solely on the basis of reading AD 2006-01-51 and assuming that their "piston" Mallard is not a "Frakes" Mallard (and assuming that by "Frakes" the FAA meant only "turbine" Mallards) I think that they are missing the point. It is "clear" to me that in this AD the FAA considers ALL model G-73 Mallard aircraft to now be "Frakes" aircraft because Frakes Aviation now owns the TC (A-783) for the model G-73. I think that is unfortunate but it makes more sense in regard to interpretting this AD than does assuming that they meant only "turbine" Mallards.

AD 2006-01-51 does not mention any exceptions or exemptions, any distinctions between commercial versus private/non-commercial operations, or any specific AMOCs (Alternate Method of Compliance) so without some other valid and official technical reference from the FAA specifically pertinent to this same issue, on the face of it the AD applies to ALL G-73 Mallard aircraft. I sure as heck would not sign off this AD in the logbooks of "my" Mallard (if I had one) as being "not applicable" solely on the basis of the word of a friend with his own Mallard simply because he said so.

When I first came across this AD, I was surprised that as a supposedly "temporary" Emergency AD, it has never been updated, revised, or superseded. It also came out prior to the conclusion of the investigation of the Chalk's accident (actually, as of December 30, 2005, just 11 days after the crash itself and in the middle of the Christmas holidays, I doubt that the official investigation had really even gotten started!) Even after the final NTSB accident report (AAR-07/04*) was released on May 30, 2007, nothing was done to alter or revise AD 2006-01-51 to reflect the findings in the NTSB report. As such, it is still fully applicable and in effect as it stands - as I said before, with no exceptions or exemptions.

*The NTSB full report is here: http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2007/AAR0704.pdf
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Re: Are any Mallards still flying in the US?

Postby MrWidgeon » Mon May 21, 2012 4:54 pm

I'm working on it.

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Re: Are any Mallards still flying in the US?

Postby Rajay » Mon May 21, 2012 7:47 pm

From what I've heard back from the FAA, there is an official (i.e. approved) AMOC in place - it's just not readily available as a reference to anyone who wasn't a Mallard owner at the time it was created.

So while this thread now seems to be a bit of a "tempest in a teapot" or "much ado about nothing" the assertions that the AD in question did not apply to piston or non-commercial Mallards is in fact not correct and misrepresented the actual situation. The inspection, repair, and reporting requirements of AD 2006-01-51 do still on the face of it apply to each and every Mallard without exception, but apparently a Mallard Owners' Group got together and petitioned the FAA to allow certain non-commercially operated Mallards with no (or no recent) history of salt water operations to defer those inspections pending continued satisfactory results from lesser, less invasive, interim inspections. The rumor is that the FAA issued a letter authorizing these deferred inspections under these specific conditions and as such it constitutes an AMOC, but apparently it was never officially published anywhere - at least I have not been able to find a copy published anywhere so far.
Last edited by Rajay on Wed May 23, 2012 1:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Are any Mallards still flying in the US?

Postby N63350JR » Wed May 23, 2012 5:24 am

I hope that these airplanes aren't being scapegoated simply due to their age.
If that's the case, it would set a horrible precedent. Of the Grumman seaplanes, the Mallards are among the youngest!

From a public safety point of view, I can understand requiring that commercially operated airframes undergo massive inspections and repair/rebuild in order to ensure they remain fit for commercial service. I'm reminded of the titanium spar conversion in the Albatross years ago.

Maybe we'll see the Mallard pulled completely from commercial service and the few remaining will return to service as toys of the wealthy and the occasional executive transport, like Grumman initially intended.

I'd hate to see them all grounded, 'cause I still want one!

~E
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