FAA mandates seaplane inspections after Puget Sound crash

FAA mandates seaplane inspections after Puget Sound crash thumbnail

Federal regulators ordered Wednesday that seaplanes such as the one that crashed in Washington’s Puget Sound in Sept be inspected for any flaws that could have led to the fatal crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration airworthiness directive requires that operators of all the DHC-3 Otter seaplanes in the United States — 63 of about 160 operating worldwide — examine the stabilizer to confirm the condition of an actuator piece, The Seattle Times reported. The newspaper reported that the piece was missing from Friday Harbor Seaplanes’s Sept. 4 crash into the waters near Whidbey Island, killing 10.

Operators need to confirm that the stabilizer actuator locking ring has been properly installed and report to the FAA by December 19,, according to the directive. The order does NOT ground the aircraft.

Kenmore Air is the largest Otter operator in Puget Sound. It has stated that its aircraft have passed inspection.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash and urged operators to ground any particular planes until it is inspected. The FAA would then issue a grounding order. The NTSB called on the FAA to inspect the planes last week.

” We are concerned that another plane could collide as a result if something similar,” Jennifer Homendy, Chair of the NTSB, stated at the time. In an update to its investigation, the NTSB discovered that a lock was missing from the actuator for the horizontal tail. This stabilizer controls the plane’s pitch.

After crews recovered 85% wreckage in September’s accident scene, investigators discovered that the actuator’s upper part was attached to the horizontal stabilizer and the lower portion was “attached in the fuselage but disconnected”.

While the NTSB does not claim that the actuator separated caused the crash, Homendy suggested that the actuator failure could have caused the plane’s plummet. If the lock pin is not properly installed or missing, additional crashes could occur.

A spokesperson for the FAA told The Seattle Times that the directive was issued following a service bulletin issued by Viking Air Limited.

A problem with pitch control would correspond with the “nose dive”, as reported by witnesses to the plane hitting Puget Sound.

Witnesses assisted officials in locating the crash site, searching for survivors, and locating the remains of one passenger. It took the NTSB crews and the U.S Navy crews more then a week and many types of sonar to locate what remains of the plane. This was due to the current and depth of the channel where it crashed. Seven of the 10 passengers have been found.

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