NBAA Convention News

MU-2 SFAR could serve as guide for safety gurus

 - October 14, 2009, 11:18 AM

Any safety expert who wants to improve accident statistics could learn a lot by observing the Mitsubishi MU-2 situation. Since the issuance of the final rule outlining special training regulations for MU-2 pilots, there has been only one accident, and that was nonfatal. This contrasts markedly with the MU-2’s accident history before the enactment of the special FAR (SFAR).

The SFAR mandates initial, recurrent and requalification training for all MU-2 pilots. What this new rule effectively does is prevent any pilot with a multi-engine rating from legally flying an MU-2 without specific training. In the U.S., any such pilot is allowed to fly any twin-engine non-turbojet airplane weighing up to 12,500 pounds. While it’s unlikely that an insurance company would underwrite an inexperienced private multi-engine pilot who had just bought an MU-2, the rules do allow a lot of latitude, and the MU-2 SFAR prohibits pilots who aren’t trained in the airplane from flying one.

The transition to the new rule was smooth, according to Pat Cannon, vice president of Turbine Aircraft Services, the independent MU-2 product support company. MU-2 owners and operators accepted the SFAR and complied with the training requirements. The SFAR was published as a final rule on Feb. 5, 2008, but the FAA gave the MU-2 community a year to comply, so MU-2 training organizations like SimCom got busy early this year as those who procrastinated signed up for classes.

“The SFAR has been a good thing for this airframe,” Cannon said. The MU-2 is experiencing a resurgence in popularity and prices are holding up stronger than those of comparable older airframes. Contributing to the new interest in the MU-2 is not only MHIA/Turbine Aircraft’s strong support of the high-performance turboprop but also a wide range of modifications and upgrades. Fleet average flight hours remain fairly low, too, so it’s not hard to find a decent airframe.” As of the end of 2008, there were 377 MU-2s still active out of the 703 total built.

About 50 percent of the MU-2 fleet already has added Garmin navigators, according to Cannon. Some have added glass cockpits, including about 10 with Chelton systems and another dozen or so switching to a Garmin G600 suite.
Turbine Aircraft is working with Sagem on an avionics upgrade as part of the MU-2 Limited Edition package.

As interest in MU-2 upgrades grows, Cannon expects that some owners will eventually want a more modern autopilot system to replace older Bendix M4Ds. “The Honeywell SPZ-500 [in later MU-2s] is a great autopilot; we haven’t thought of replacing that,” he said. A new autopilot “must be price-compatible with the value of the airplane.” Eventually, he added, “we’re going to have some support issues.” Turbine Aircraft is working with Honeywell and Bendix/King to make sure their autopilots remain airworthy, while also discussing opportunities with manufacturers interested in offering a modern autopilot for the MU-2.

At NBAA, Turbine Aircraft is exhibiting in Booth No. 2932, and on Thursday, October 22, Cannon is giving a presentation on icing issues at a Light Business Airplane session at 2:15 p.m. in Room S310AB.

MHIA and Turbine Aircraft are holding the next MU-2 Pilot’s Review of Proficiency (Prop) seminar on April 16 and 17 in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Prop seminar is free.