Plane & Pilot
Thursday, January 1, 2004

Take A Good Look

Step back during the preflight and make sure the controls are in line

During the next 10 seconds, the airplane banked right to an east-northeasterly heading, then climbed, reaching 1,087 feet MSL (the maximum altitude obtained for the accident flight) at about 7:50:18, before it began to descend again. From 7:50:29 to about 7:50:35, as the airplane’s right bank decreased, the GPWS audible alert sounded again. Between 7:50:33 and 7:50:34, the airplane transitioned from a right bank into a left bank.

About 7:50:37, the first officer stated, “What I’m trying to do is make the airplane’s pitch match the elevator. That’s why I’m putting it in a bank.”

About 7:50:45, the captain replied, “All right, left turn” and, about 7:50:46, the first officer added, “So we’re gonna have to land it in a turn.”

About 7:50:54, the first officer asked, “You got the airport?” At 7:51:00, the first officer requested more power. Two seconds later, the CVR recorded the GPWS audible alert again briefly. According to FDR data, at about 7:51:03, the accident airplane was at an altitude of 430 feet MSL in a 24-degree left bank, passing through a heading of about 325. Two seconds later, the airplane was at 423 feet MSL in a 28-degree left bank, passing through a heading of 312. At 7:51:07, the CVR recorded the first officer stating, “Power, aww [expletive].” One second later, at 7:51:08, the CVR recorded a sound similar to impact.

The Safety Board’s examination of the airplane wreckage revealed that the bolt that usually attaches the right elevator control tab crank fitting to its pushrod was missing. This bolt and its attaching hardware weren’t recovered.

The NTSB determined the probable cause of the accident was a loss of pitch control resulting from the disconnection of the right elevator control tab. The disconnection was caused by the maintenance failure to properly secure and inspect the attachment bolt.


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