Faulty Wiring Caused Fatal July Plane Crash
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento airplane accident attorney. I want to inform you of new safety warnings regarding common small planes. On 9 January, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued an urgent safety recommendation about the Piper PA-31T aircraft to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The NTSB issued the recommendation after discovering faulty wiring, in a Piper PA-31T, may have caused a fatal crash in northern California.
Details of the Crash
On 29 July 2016, a pilot, flight nurse, and transport medic were transporting a patient from Crescent City to Oakland. In transit, the pilot reported smoke in the cockpit and declared an emergency to the air traffic controllers. The plane then disappeared.
First responders then discovered the wreckage of the plane in Humboldt County, approximately 280 miles north of San Francisco. All four persons onboard the Piper PA-31T medical transport flight were killed.
Cause of the Crash
Investigators believe the plane crashed after an in-flight fire caused the aircraft to break apart while still in the air. The newly released accident report indicates that the fire was caused by friction between electrical lines and hydraulic lines in the underside of the aircraft.
NTSB investigators reached these conclusions after discovering hydraulic lines and electrical lines touching in six other Piper PA-31T aircraft. When these two types of lines touch, they can chafe, creating a spark which then ignites the many flammable fluids necessary to an aircraft’s operation.
Details of the Safety Recommendations
The NTSB safety recommendation issued to the FAA calls for aircraft operators and maintenance crews to inspect the floor area of an aircraft where the hydraulic lines and electrical wires were found to be touching.
Typical maintenance inspection procedures do not include enough guidance on inspecting the floor area of an aircraft where the problem is found to exist. Consequently, maintenance inspections may not discover the problem before declaring a plane to be airworthy. The urgent recommendation provides both guidance on how to inspect the area and a timeline by which to complete the inspections.
The recommendation extends to Piper PA-31T, PA-31T1, PA-31T2, PA-31T3, and PA-31P-350 aircraft.
How significant is the recommendation?
This safety recommendation and warning is fairly significant as the NTSB only issues such directives “when the Board believes an imminent threat to life and safety exists.” As such, if the issues with the Piper aircrafts listed above persist, more crashes may occur.
How does this affect you?
The Piper PA-31 series of aircraft are twin-engined aircraft that typically carry small amounts of cargo or a few passengers traveling a short distance. As such, they are also often used for medical transport flights.
Most people will not be passengers aboard these types of planes because of their standard uses. Those most at risk from the safety problem, therefore, are those who spend time at small airports or fly with private pilots. The Piper PA-31 series of aircraft are routinely seen in California, though, so all person using a small aircraft should ensure they are not traveling on a Piper PA-31 series that has not been inspected.
Dangers of Air Ambulances
This safety recommendation also serves to underscore the ongoing safety problems with planes known as air ambulances as the Piper PA-31 series aircraft are also commonly used as medical transport planes. The FAA recognizes ongoing safety issues with these kinds of aircraft, where poor safety procedures may further risk the lives of already endangered people.
Related Article by Ed Smith:
Northern California Airplane Accident Attorney
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento airplane accident lawyer. If you or a member of your family has been injured or killed in a plane crash, please call me today at (916) 921-6400 for free, friendly advice. You can also call me toll-free at (800) 404-5400.
I’ve helped countless families recover compensation for their personal injuries and wrongful death claims for more than 34 years.
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