Deferred maintenance leads to crash

This June 2007 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.

Aircraft: Piper Pacer.
Location: Johnson, Neb.
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The pilot held a commercial certificate and had logged approximately 1,200 hours. A witness who was an acquaintance of the pilot said that the pilot was in the process of purchasing the Pacer. The witness said that the owner of the airplane at the time of the accident advised the pilot that the plane did not have a current annual, had not flown in about four years and that the engine had not been started in about six months. The prospective buyer flew the airplane for 30 minutes, then parked it in a hangar. On the day of the accident he was attempting to ferry the airplane to another airport for an annual inspection. He did not have a ferry permit for the flight. According to a witness, shortly after departure, part of the left wing broke off. The Piper crashed and burst into flames.

An on-scene examination of the wreckage revealed the left wing’s forward strut separated about 8 inches above its fork bolt. The inside of the strut was corroded. Airworthiness Directive (AD) 99-01-05, accomplished about four years before the accident, contained a section for repetitive 12 calendar month inspections of the wing’s lift struts. The AD was issued to “prevent in-flight separation of the wing from the airplane caused by corroded wing lift struts or cracked wing lift strut forks, which could result in loss of control of the airplane.”

Probable cause: The failure of the left wing’s lift strut, which resulted in the separation of the wing, and the subsequent airplane control not being possible.

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