Sometimes it's the simple things that get overlooked. A crash on November 13, 2001 involving a Cessna 340 illustrates this point and the need for a thorough preflight. The airplane was destroyed, and both the pilot and his passenger were killed.
During a night takeoff from Santa Monica Municipal airport, witnesses observed the Cessna begin a normal takeoff roll and heard normal engine sounds. According to the Cessna 340 POH, the airplane should have used approximately 1,620 feet of runway for takeoff. Two witnesses observed the Cessna pass by them on the ground, one at 2,500 feet down the runway and the other at 3,500. Both said the airplane was traveling about 120 knots at the time. Shortly thereafter, they heard the engines rapidly cutoff. It was evident, by skid marks over 1,000 feet long on the runway, that the pilot was desperately trying to bring the aircraft to a stop.
The airplane traveled off the end of the runway, vaulted an embankment, and came to rest on an airport service road. It was then consumed by fire.
During the accident investigation the flight control lock was found with the pin engaged through the mating hole of the pilot's control column. The distinctive flag on the control lock was missing and never found, leading investigators to believe that it was missing prior to the flight.
The NTSB determined the cause of this accident to be the pilot's failure to remove the control gust lock prior to takeoff and his failure to abort the takeoff with sufficient runway remaining to safely stop. FAA records indicate that the pilot was an ATP with over 6,200 hours of experience.
Although the pilot missed the control lock during his preflight, it must be noted that with the flag missing, the lock could be easily overlooked. Using an intact, factory authorized control lock could have prevented this and other accidents. If your control lock becomes lost or damaged, replace it. Don't use a substitute. If you are flying in an unfamiliar aircraft, double-check for the control lock during preflight. It might save your life.
This accident report as well as others can be found in ASF's Online Database.
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