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Are Aircraft Accidents Similar in Cause?

Are aircraft accidents similar in cause?

On June 27, 2005 an aircraft piloted by John T. Walton, son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, crashed in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. What most people don’t know, however, is that John Walton was an accomplished pilot with over 9,400 hours of flying time, and that he flew his own Cessna Citation CJ single pilot jet aircraft.

However, he did not die in the Citation Jet. Rather, his interest in aviation was quite broad, and that the aircraft he was flying was an experimental category light sport aircraft (LSA) which he assisted in building. The aircraft was a CGS Hawk Two Place Arrow ultra light aircraft constructed of aluminum tubing and covered with Dacron. The windshield was Lexan and sewn into the Dacron fabric.

Mr. Walton had a number of small incidents with this aircraft after he purchased it. For example, when he took delivery of the aircraft in West Virginia he performed several flights in the aircraft. On one of these flights he left a cordless drill on top of the engine which fell off during flight and damaged the aircraft’s propeller.

A second incident occurred when the pilot was transporting the aircraft to Wyoming and landed in Burwell, Nebraska to refuel. During his takeoff a piece of luggage fell from the rear of the airplane and returned to the airport to retrieve the luggage. Apparently the landing gear of the aircraft was damaged upon landing back at the airport. He then completed his flight to Jackson, Wyoming.

Although he had been offered on-site assistance from the aircraft manufacturer, Mr. Walton decided to repair the aircraft himself. The accident flight was the third one since the hard landing in Nebraska and since the subsequent repairs. It appears that the pilot experienced control movement problems which led to the fatal accident.

An examination of the wreckage at the accident site uncovered an inspection mirror which had been severely damaged, having been bent in half like a taco, as if it had jammed somewhere in the aircraft. While it was not possible to determine if the mirror had jammed in the controls, it seems a possible explanation given the previous incidents which occurred with this pilot.

This leads me to the tie-in with the Comair 5191 accident. Again, most accidents occur before the pilot ever gets into the aircraft. Having a personal wealth of over $ 18 Billion and plenty of piloting time (9,400 hours) does not insure that you will not get bitten in the ass by a silly mistake.

Keep your wings level and your eyes moving!

Crusty Captain.


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