Unsecured cowling leads to crash

This July 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 Navajo.
Location: Orlando, Fla.
Injuries: None.
Aircraft damage: Destroyed.

What reportedly happened: The airplane had undergone routine maintenance and was returned to service. The mechanics who performed the maintenance did not secure the right engine cowling using the procedure outlined in the airplane’s maintenance manual. The mechanic who had been working on the outboard side of the right engine could not remember if he had fastened the three primary outboard cowl fasteners before returning the airplane to service.

During the first flight following maintenance, the right engine’s top cowling departed the airplane. The pilot turned back toward the airport and shut down the right engine. The airplane did not have sufficient power to maintain level flight and landed in a field of scrub brush. The grass under the left engine ignited and the fire consumed the airplane.

Examination of the right engine cowling revealed that the outboard latching fasteners were set to the “open” position. When asked about the security of the cowling during the preflight inspection, the pilot stated that he “just missed it.”

Probable cause: The mechanic’s failure to secure the right engine cowling fasteners. Contributing to the incident was the pilot’s inadequate preflight inspection.

For more information: NTSB.gov

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