A Bonanza owner and another pilot were flying his newly refurbished aircraft home — a new engine, new propeller, new paint, new interior, new radios, and a new autopilot — basically a reincarnation. He was extremely proud of it.
About 1/2-mile from landing, white smoke started coming out from the instrument panel. About a 1/4-mile from landing, the smoke turned black and filled the cockpit. Flames started coming out from under the instrument panel and were burning the pilot’s legs. The pilot managed to climb over the seat into the back seat while the aircraft was on short final. The other pilot held open the door with one hand so he could get air and see, while he struggled to maintain control of the aircraft amidst the smoke and flames.
As the aircraft landed, smoke and flames were whirling around the cockpit. Immediately upon landing, the pilot veered off the runway onto the grass and evacuated the aircraft. They survived. If the fire would have occurred just minutes earlier, they wouldn’t have.
The avionics power bus lead had rubbed against the oil pressure line. On older Bonanzas, they have a tube that comes into the cockpit from the engine with oil to a bourdon tube pressure gauge. Newer Bonanzas have a transducer on the engine with wires running to the pressure gauge. The mechanic wasn’t familiar with the old method — he had only worked on the more recent models. He had secured the lead to that copper tube. The tube eventually rubbed through the insulation on the wire, causing an arc. The arcing burned a hole in the copper tube causing a 70-psi spray of oil to hit the arc and ignite.
The glider owner/pilot was well liked by everyone, especially by his mechanic. When his mechanic found a crack in the wing of the glider, he wanted to protect his friend from any possible harm. He had plenty of experience with fiberglass, so he reinforced the area that was cracking to prevent further crack migration.
The wing was designed to be flexible. The repaired area created a stress riser at the edge of the repair. This caused the wing to fail in flight, killing the pilot. The structure was made of carbon fiber, aramid fiber, Kevlar® and resin built in an autoclave. The maintenance manual stated "no structural repairs permitted." The mechanic hadn’t read that part of the manual.
Fuel line replacement
During an Annual inspection on a Bonanza, the IA found a dried-out, cracking fuel line. He started the installation on a Friday, stopped for the weekend, then finished the installation on Monday and approved the aircraft for return to service.
It was the pilot’s daughter’s birthday. As a birthday treat, he took her and her two best friends for an aircraft ride. After takeoff, the engine quit and the aircraft crashed into the rocky terrain below, killing all four.
In their investigation, the NTSB found a bee in the recently replaced fuel line. The mechanic had left it uncapped over the weekend.
The pilot was pulling the Queen Air out of chocks while his son was walking alongside the left-hand wing to ensure clearance. As the pilot applied differential power to make a left turn, the nose wheel assembly separated and shot out towards the wingtip, severing the son’s right leg from just above the knee.
A mechanic had recently worked on the nose wheel assembly. When replacing the nuts on the wheel halves, he didn’t have the ones called out in the manufacturer’s maintenance manual, so he replaced them with what he thought was a good substitute. Being a mechanic and not an engineer, he didn’t realize the nuts he substituted were designed for shear load applications, not tension loads like the wheel assembly required. The eventual failure was inevitable.
It’s all in the training
Incidents like the ones above can be avoided with proper training. The training can even be self-taught. Before starting a task, sit down and read the manual including applicable service letters, service instructions, and service bulletins. The FAA’s Mechanic’s Personal Minimums Checklist is a good tool to use to ensure the task is performed properly. Any extra training we receive can help stop the erosion by ignorance, and ensure we are never involved in an aircraft incident.
Judge faults inspectors for not communicating with the aircraft owner or the mechanic before initiating the revocation order.
More than manipulating a spray gun
FAA alleges that during an annual inspection, an NJ mechanic falsified records concerning an ELT battery, and that he returned the aircraft to service with airframe corrosion.