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A Good Aircraft Mechanic Is Worth More Than Gold

by John M. White |

In October of 2007 a new Private Pilot took a short cross-country flight building up flight time on a solo flight from which he never returned alive. The Citabria had just had an annual inspection some 10 days prior to the accident and had been flown about 4 hours. Citabria While the pilot was at cruise altitude the right wing separated from the aircraft which caused the aircraft to descend out of control striking the ground in a nearly vertical position. Upon inspection of the aircraft after the crash it was determined that the wood wing spar had failed due to compressive damage. Given the extent of the damage to the spar investigators tried to determine why the aircraft inspector had not noticed the spar damage. The probable cause of the accident was determined to have been caused by the mechanic's inadequate annual inspection and his failure to comply with an airworthiness directive. This determination is of little solace to the pilot or his survivors I would be willing to bet. However, there is an important message in this finding. How many pilots do you know who own an aircraft and want to save money by doing their own maintenance and getting a friendly A&P to sign it off for them? How many IAs are around who will do a cursory check of the aircraft after you have unbuttoned the inspection plates and prepared the aircraft for his quick OK? Don't get me wrong - almost all mechanics and IAs are very conscientious when it comes to signing off an aircraft. One of my sons is a mechanic on DC-8 and 767 aircraft, and he is as meticulous as they come. The real point is make sure the mechanic you choose is picky and insists on doing things right - after all, he won't be with you when the wing comes off! Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7

When you get it right mighty beasts float up into the sky. When you get it wrong people die.

— Roger Bacon, c. 1384.

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