Aviation Safety Letter 2/2003

It Can Happen to You!

Upside down plane

No one is immune to the danger that foreign object damage (FOD) represents. An experienced aerobatic pilot had performed a thorough pre-flight inspection of a Cessna 152 before setting out on a flight. While performing a roll manoeuvre at an altitude of approximately 4 500 ft, the ailerons jammed in the full-deflection position. The pilot tried repeatedly to return the ailerons to the neutral position, but to no avail. Fortunately through the use of considerable force, at an altitude of approximately 3 500 ft, he managed to turn the control wheel to neutral and with the skilful use of the rudder, he was able to land safely.

Following examination of the controls by an aircraft maintenance engineer (AME), an upholstery screw was found lodged in the aileron control chain on the control column. Further inspection revealed that several upholstery screws were missing from upholstery trims and interior panels. The screws had probably fallen out because of the plane's vibration and because the screw holes were enlarged from repeatedly removing and installing the upholstery trims and panels. FOD is dangerous and can bring about complications that will render an aircraft or system unserviceable. Always make sure that your aircraft is free of foreign objects. After a long period of non-aerobatic use, dust, dirt and even pieces of aircraft material will often accumulate in the cockpit, so you must take care to clean, vacuum and inspect it carefully for any loose or missing screws and upholstery trim. A tragedy was averted here through the will to survive, along with a little luck.

Source: TSB file A02C0226.

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