This year’s FAA Safety Stand Down (2012 SSD), with a focus on Loss of Control is currently taking place around the country at a location near you. I participated in my local area’s SSD on a recent Saturday morning which was hosted by the local FAASTeam and held at Exclusive Aviation in St. Paul, MN. Close to 100 people were in attendance. The SSD was a news reporter and interview style format projected on a large screen in the Exclusive Aviation hangar. Dr. Katrina Avers, an FAA employee at the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI) located in Oklahoma City, interview several people remotely along with having a panel of three safety experts with her.
From the FAA…Loss of Control-Inflight was the dominant cause of fatal general aviation accidents over the last decade. Loss of control refers to aircraft accidents resulting from situations in which the pilot should have either maintained or regained control of the aircraft, but did not.
Four case studies were presented with discussion time after each presentation. The focus was directed toward pilots, however in two of the cases maintenance either was or could have been a contributing factor. The discussion that I participated in was a night flight in a general aviation airplane that unfortunately resulted in disaster when the pilot lost control of the airplane on final approach when attempting to return to the departure airport. The reason for the return was the airplane experienced a complete loss of electrical power soon after departure. The investigation did reveal the aircraft’s alternator had a disconnected wire that lead to a low battery condition, causing the loss of electrical power.
Now for the maintenance connection... the airplane had just undergone an annual inspection which prompts several questions. Was this electrical harness moved, disturbed, disconnected and properly reconnected during the maintenance performed? Did moving the harness wires in some way weaken the wire that was found disconnected? Were there any work interruptions that may have distracted the technician accomplishing the work or inspection? Or was this disconnected wire just a coincidence and bad timing having failed during a night flight?
Although the investigation could not specifically find that the disconnected wire was the result of maintenance performed (or not performed) what I took away from the discussion was once again the importance of attention to detail when performing maintenance. Granted the Safety Stand Down and many other FAASTeam activities are focused on pilots and flying aircraft, I believe maintenance technicians can also learn when attending and participating in these types of industry activities. For more information visit www.faasafety.gov.