The Mystery of Why?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
By George Hatcher

Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. I’ve said this too many times to count.

Here’s a question: The event below was a maintenance ferry flight. Every time I hear about a post maintenance ferry flight that crashed, I wonder how that maintenance was performed, and what they forgot to do. Maybe they performed maintenance perfectly—I don’t know. It’s just what strikes my mind when that ferry flight goes down. What did that maintenance crew miss? It’s too much like having a brake failure accident while bringing the family car home from the brake shop. But this accident was PRE-inspection. So maybe it is like having the brakes fail on the way to the brake shop…

On January 19, 2014, at 12:20 , a PT. Intan Angkasa Piper PA-31-350 Navajo Chieftain, PK-IWT, flying from from Sentani to Tual crashed on approach to Dumatubun Airport, Maluku, Indonesia. The pilot and three passengers were fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed.

Some reports say it was hit by lightning, but most planes are designed not to catch fire when struck by lightning; careful lightning protection has been engineered into the aircraft. The current tends to travel through the conductive aluminum exterior skin and off an extremity like a wing tip. Additional shielding protects components from haywire side effects called “lightning indirect effects” and bursting into flames is not one of those effects, except in the fuel system, where even a spark is lethal.

So, again, I question maintenance, and the integrity of the fuel system. Was the aluminum skin around the fuel system thick enough to withstand a lighting strike?

Or perhaps it was something else entirely. The flight was described as being pounded by rain and fierce winds (they had just refueled in a thunderstorm)…and the wing fell off before the plane crashed. So was it the gale force winds that caused the wing to come off? Inquiring minds want to know. As always, the investigation is key to finding out why the wing came off and the plane crashed.

Those aboard were a pilot, a technician and two airline employees.

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