AD places limit on rare Hansa jet

 - September 21, 2006, 11:26 AM

There is reportedly one HFB 320 Hansa still flying or flyable, based in Turkey. And the last crash of a Hansa–perhaps the last flying Hansa in the U.S.– happened on Nov. 30, 2004. Only 47 of the marque, popularly called the “Hansa Jet,” were built in the late 1960s by Hamburger Flugzeugbau in Finkenwerder, on the Elbe River near Hamburg, Germany.

And yet last September 14 the FAA published a proposed airworthiness directive that would ground any U.S.-registered Hansa that has logged more than 15,000 hours or cycles. The FAA published the AD as a final rule on February 8 and it became effective March 15. Not surprisingly, no one commented either positively or negatively about the proposed AD, which simply calls for adding a sentence in the limitations section of the flight manual warning operators not to fly their Hansas upon reaching the 15,000-cycle/hour limit.

The FAA registration database still shows 19 Hansas. Some are owned by Grand Aire Express, a freight company whose owner died at the controls of the Hansa that crashed in 2004. Grand Aire isn’t currently operating the jets.

The Hansa was certified to carry up to 12 passengers. At its 20,280-pound mtow, it was relatively heavy compared with lighter jets such as the early CJ610-powered Learjet. The Hansa’s two General Electric CJ610s delivered a maximum speed of 486 knots and maximum range of more than 1,200 nm.

Forward-swept Wing

What made the jet unique was its forward-swept wing, which permitted designers, led by engineer Hans Wolcke, to maximize cabin volume by mounting the wing center section behind the cabin, thus keeping the fuselage wetted area and drag to a minimum.

The German factory built the fuselage, center section, engine pods and control system. A harbinger of how most airplanes are manufactured today, CASA, Fokker and Lockheed partnered on the rest of the airframe. One advertising campaign for the Hansa touted its strength, claiming that it could fly through a brick wall.

“The strong competition of international aircraft manufacturers and the decline of the U.S. dollar put a stop to the further development of the Hansa Jet at the end of the 1960s,” summarized an EADS historical document on the Hansa program.

The FAA issued the recent AD because of a 2002 AD (2002-158) issued by the German regulatory body, the LBA, according to an FAA spokesman. The FAA isn’t aware of any Hansas currently airworthy or operating in the U.S., he wrote in response to AIN’s questions, but “the FAA has a responsibility to promulgate airworthiness directives for known unsafe conditions on type-certified aircraft. Should any airplanes be placed back into operational condition in the future, the corrective actions would apply.”

Hansa aficionados can learn more about this early business jet at www.hansajet.com, which was created by Calvin Fraites, and the German-language www. hansajet.de, run by Eckhard Giese. They are trying to mount a project to preserve the last Hansa, the one based in Turkey, for flying displays at airshows. “I used to fly/work on them for years,” Fraites e-mailed, “and it kills me to see the jet disappear.”

“Perhaps you’ll hear those fuel- to-noise converters some time again in the sky,” wrote Giese.