This September 2008 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 J5A. Injuries: None. Location: Atlanta, Ga. Aircraft damage: Substantial.
What reportedly happened: During a banner-pick up maneuver, the pilot heard and felt a pop from the elevator cable. The plane leveled off with the flight control stick in the full-aft position, although the elevator was in the neutral position. The airplane entered a descent. The pilot could not control the pitch of the airplane, which came down in a rough field.
Wreckage examination revealed the cable for the elevator’s pitch-up control, located at the lower end of the control stick through the attaching thimble, had slipped through the cable oval sleeve swage. Examination by the NTSB Material Laboratory revealed the incorrect grooves on the hand tool was used to crimp the swage. The operator was not utilizing a “go-no go” gauge to ensure proper crimping of the oval sleeve swage. Several airplanes in the operator’s 27 airplane fleet had flight control cables fabricated and replaced by their maintenance personnel. The operator grounded its fleet and conducted an inspection of flight control cable assemblies. A total of 36 flight control cable swages and 41 flight control cables were required to be replaced.
Probable cause: The loss of pitch control due to slippage of the elevator control cable resulting from the maintenance personnel’s improper installation and inspection of the cable.
For more information: NTSB.gov