Monday, March 3, 2008

Another Use for Duct Tape - Destroy a Jet's Wing

At Cessna's Independence, KS manufacturing facility, a new Mustang's wing was significantly damaged. How? Someone inadvertently left tape covering the fuel vent on the Mustang wing. The fuel pump is strong enough to suck the aluminum skin right through the metal posts. Whoever started up the plane obviously did not do a sufficient pre-flight.

In searching the NTSB records, I found only one other occurrence (ref: FlightSafety, NTSB):

BA HS 125 Series 700A. Substantial damage. No injuries.

VMC prevailed and an IFR flight had been filed for the morning flight from an airport in the US. The captain said that the airplane was being flown at 4,000' when the flight crew heard a bang and believed that the airplane had struck a bird. They conducted a normal landing at the destination airport.

An inspection revealed that the left-wing fuel tank was compressed, the left wing distorted and the left-wing fuel vent was blocked with duct tape. The left-wing fuel-tank stringers and the left-wing ribs also were damaged. The captain said that the fuel tanks had been repaired and pressure-tested before the flight. After the pressure test, the maintenance technician removed duct tape from the right-wing fuel vent, but the maintenance technician and the flight crew did not observe the duct tape covering the left-wing fuel vent. Because the fuel vent was blocked by tape, air could not enter the fuel tank as the fuel pump began pumping fuel out. The resulting low pressure inside the fuel tank led to the collapse.

The final report said the the probable cause of the accident was "the pilot-in-command's inadequate preflight inspection, which resulted in a flight with a blocked fuel-tank vent." The report said that a contributing factor was the failure of the maintenance personnel to remove the duct tape.

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