CAUTION: Your 303 May be Unairworthy!

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      I learned just after I purchased my 303, that it had been unairworthy for the past 9 years – all because of Note #5 on the Type Certificate which says, “Mandatory inspection times for all wing and wing carry through structural components are contained in the applicable Model T303 Series Maintenance Manual”. Referring to the Maintenance Manual reveals that an lower rear spar eddy current inspection is due: “at 20,000 hours or 20 years and every 2,500 hours or 5 years, whichever comes first thereafter.”

      The 303 was built from 1982 through 1984. Therefore these inspections became first due from 2002 to 2004 and were due every five years (for most airplanes) thereafter. Most 303 owners and shops I’ve talked to know nothing about this inspection, probably because no other Twin Cessna has this type of requirement.

      I learned of it when I took my newly purchase airplane to 303 guru Robert Wyatt’s shop in TN for some other minor work. Fortunately, he had access to the equipment and it turned out to be a fairly simple and inexpensive procedure. No cracks on the wing structure of any 303 have been found, I was told, although a lot of airplanes apparently have yet to be tested.

      Unlike other Twin Cessnas, the 303 was certified under FAR Part 23 and under a brand new type certificate. Reportedly, Cessna put strain gauges on the airplane and flew it to identify the areas of greatest strain which turned out to be the lower rear spar.

      The tester has to have a special testing piece from Cessna that is essentially a cracked spar piece. This is used to calibrate the eddy current tester. There are not many of these around so an owner or shop will have to locate one in his part of the country.

      If you own a 303, check your logbook for this important inspection. Even though there doesn’t appear to be any immediate safety concerns for airplanes with average flight times, I wouldn’t want to go to my insurance company with a major claim, only for them to tell me I had been flying an unairworthty airplane!

      IMPORTANT UPDATE: A member forwarded me a temporary update to the 303 Maintenance Manual that indicates the calendar time requirement for the spar inspection has been removed. The update was issued in January 2011. It is not in my Maintenance Manual which I ordered from Cessna in Nov. ’11. Nor did 303 expert Robert Wyatt know of it. He and Tony are working on confirming the update now, so stay tuned. It does make sense and I suspect the update is correct.

      CONFIRMED: I finally received the Jan. 2011 update from Cessna (attached) and it does in fact remove the calendar time based inspection for the spar. Now it has to be inspected at 20,000 hours and every 5,000 hours after that. This change occurred when Cessna developed the SIDs for the 303. Cessna had no explanation why this revision was not included with my Maintenance Manual. Anyone else ordering one from Cessna (the printed version) should be sure to confirm it includes al the revisions plus the SIDs. Thanks to member John Hodgson for calling this to my attention.


        Attached is the T303 Type Certificate. See Note 5 for the inspection requirement.

        Also attached is the description of the inspection from the T303 Maintenance Manual.

        Again, this is not a particularly difficult or expensive inspection. The challenge is tracking down someone who has the specialize equipment to do it. Here’s the contact info for the guy who did my inspection:

        Ray Stanley
        S&S Testing
        Madison, TN USA

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