The FAA is proposing a $2.4 million penalty against Cessna Aircraft Co. after carbon composite parts of the wing of one of its aircraft came apart during flight.
On Dec. 6, 2010, an FAA test pilot performing a production audit test flight in a Cessna Corvalis experienced a failure of the skin on the left wing. About 7 feet of the left wing skin separated from the forward spar and damaged a fuel tank. The pilot made an emergency landing at the Independence, Kan., airport.
Subsequently, the FAA issued emergency airworthiness directives grounding 13 specific Corvalis aircraft that used wings and parts produced in Cessna’s Chihuahua, Mexico, plant between Dec. 17, 2009, and Dec. 16, 2010. FAA investigators determined that the wing skin separated from the spar due to excessive humidity in the factory that prevented the bonded materials from curing properly.
The FAA alleges that Cessna failed to follow its FAA-approved quality control system when it manufactured the wings on the damaged airplane, as well as 82 additional parts, in the Chihuahua factory. The manufacturer has since made improvements to the plant, FAA officials noted.
“Safety is our highest priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We want to ensure that manufacturers are vigilant when it comes to aviation safety. There can be no exceptions.”
“Quality control is a critical part of the aircraft manufacturing process and has to detect problems before planes leave the factory,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “Manufacturers have to ensure that all the details are followed all of the time.”
The Corvalis is a high-performance four-seat single-engine general aviation aircraft. It uses a significant number of composite parts and structures.
Cessna has 30 days from the receipt of the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond.