Congressman introduces bill to ground MU-2 fleet

 - November 6, 2006, 8:18 AM

Despite the issuance by the FAA of a Special FAR (SFAR) mandating initial and recurrent training for MU-2 pilots, lawmakers still want the airplane grounded because of its poor safety record.

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) has introduced a bill (H.R. 6058) in the House of Representatives that would force the FAA to ground the MU-2 “until the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration certifies that the aircraft is safe and the certification is approved by law.”

The MU-2’s first FAA type certificate was granted on Nov. 4, 1965. Since then, the FAA has conducted two special certification reviews of the airplane (1983-84 and 1996-97) and a safety evaluation (December 2005).

The recent SFAR requirement is a result of last year’s safety evaluation and actually exceeds Tancredo’s request that the FAA impose a type-rating requirement on the MU-2. While a type rating would require a higher level of initial training for MU-2 pilots, it would not include recurrent training. The SFAR calls for mandatory initial, recurrent, requalification and differences training.

Tancredo’s bill, cosponsored by Rep. Michael Furguson (R-N.J.), has been referred to the subcommittee on aviation, the first step in the legislative process.

The FAA’s SFAR might be a result of pressure from U.S. Congressional representatives who have been urging the FAA to do something about what they say is the MU-2’s high accident rate. For many years, Mitsubishi has formally asked the FAA for an MU-2 type rating, with no success.

In the SFAR, the FAA notes that a type rating does not include a requirement for recurrent training. The SFAR’s requirements are therefore more stringent than a type rating and include initial, requalification, differences and recurrent training for specific minimum hours instead of training to proficiency, which is a type-rating feature.

The SFAR would take effect on March 27 next year and apply to any pilot flying as an MU-2 instructor, pilot-in-command or sole manipulator of the controls. Unless they have received initial/transition, requalification, recurrent and/or differences training in accordance with Mitsubishi’s formal training program part number YET 05301 (issued in July 2005), pilots will not be allowed to fly an MU-2 in the U.S. The recurrent training requirement is specific: pilots must train annually on the special emphasis items and training course final phase check items.

The rule is fairly strict for MU-2 instructors, who must have logged 2,000 hours total time, 800 as PIC in multi-engine airplanes and 300 PIC in the MU-2, with 50 hours in MU-2s in the past 12 months. Designated pilot examiners and check airmen must have 100 hours in type and meet the SFAR training and currency requirements.

To maintain landing currency, MU-2 pilots have to do their landings every 90 days in an MU-2, not just any multi-engine airplane. The same goes for biennial flight reviews, which must be done in the MU-2. Instrument currency, however, is not MU-2-specific.

The SFAR also includes new operating requirements, such as no single-pilot IFR or night VFR without an operating autopilot. Pilots must also make sure the current flight manual and FAA-approved Mitsubishi checklist is available and accessible during flight.