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How Good is Your Walk Around?

(Photo and story excerpts courtesy of GASIL 2/98, The CAA Accident Prevention Leaflet).

After a very thorough pre-flight, the right seat pilot removed his jacket as he stood on the wing, secured some equipment in the aircraft and sat in his seat…OOPS. The happy crew taxied for departure and, after the power checks were done, took off. At a height of about 20 ft., the aircraft suddenly developed a severe nose-down attitude accompanied by significant buffeting that could be felt through the control column. Air traffic control (ATC) was advised and an immediate return was made. Flaps were selected gradually, and they improved the handling of the aircraft. After touchdown, ATC advised they could see a coat or a sack wrapped around the right-hand elevator. It was, of course, the co-pilot’s jacket that was draped across the tail. The pilot said the weight on the control column was immense, and control was difficult even in gentle turns. The UK Civil Aviation Authority commented that an HS 748 crashed after a door became detached and lodged on the tailplane, and said that an aircraft tailplane is very sensitive to disturbed airflow of any sort, including that produced by the accumulation of ice or even frost.

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