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NTSB Releases Some Info on 2005 Mallard Crash

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NTSB Releases Some Info on 2005 Mallard Crash

Old 22nd Jun 2006, 22:58
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NTSB Releases Some Info on 2005 Mallard Crash

NTSB released some info on 2005 Grumman G-73T Turbo Mallard crash off Miami

Crashed Chalk's seaplane had wing repairs, maintenance questions

Associated Press
Posted June 22 2006, 4:57 PM EDT

MIAMI -- The vintage Chalk's Ocean Airways seaplane that crashed last year had several major repairs to the wing that separated just after takeoff on the fatal flight and many pilots grew increasingly concerned about poor maintenance overall, federal investigators said Thursday.

Some Chalk's pilots became so worried about maintenance in 2004 that three captains quit, according to documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board about the Dec. 19 crash off Miami Beach that killed all 20 people on board.

``There was a widespread perception that pilot complaints were not properly addressed by maintenance and that it was often necessary to write up the same problem repeatedly until it was fixed,'' investigators quoted a Chalk's pilot, Robert Lutz, as saying.

``The pilots wanted the airplanes fixed and were willing to see the company close if the issues were not addressed,'' Lutz told NTSB officials.

One of the pilots who quit, Grady Washatka, said in his resignation letter released by the NTSB that there was ``blatant neglect'' in many maintenance areas, including engine problems, corrosion and cracks and issues with the airplanes' weight.

``We love this company and we are trying to avoid the inevitable disaster that will ensue if these issues are not addressed,'' Washatka wrote on Jan. 13, 2005 _ less than a year before the crash.

The documents do not say what caused the 58-year-old Grumman G-73T Turbo Mallard to crash en route to Bimini, Bahamas. Investigators at the scene in December quickly found fatigue cracks in supports of the right wing that came off just after the seaplane took off and similar cracks in left wing structures.

Chalk's, which has flown between Florida and the Bahamas since 1919, has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years, according to figures from the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Owner Jim Confalone bought the airline after it was forced into involuntary bankruptcy in 1999 under previous management when creditors sued the carrier.

In 2002, Chalk's had net losses of $244,000 on operating revenues of $5.4 million.

Mark Marks, husband of the flight's captain, Michele Marks, told investigators that his wife frequently complained about maintenance of the seaplanes and that the company wasn't spending enough money on the aircraft.

``Michele was becoming scared and talked about maintenance concerns all the time,'' the NTSB quoted Mark Marks as saying. ``They were having close calls that were becoming more frequent.''

Other Chalk's pilots, however, said maintenance had improved since 2004 and that the plane that crashed appeared to be in good shape a few days earlier. The chief pilot, Erik Larsen, told NTSB investigators that ``things are getting better'' in maintenance.

``The previously recurring problems do not recur as much. It does not take as long to get things fixed anymore,'' Larsen was quoted as saying.

Much of the reports released Thursday focus on maintenance and repair work done to the right wing.

The roots of both wings on the airplane suffered several fuel leaks in 2005 and pilots frequently described an ``elevator flutter'' or vibration in the months before the crash. In November _ only a few weeks before it went down _ these vibrations were noted in writing nine times, the NTSB found.

There were major repairs to the right wing in July 2000 and in December 1991, when inspectors found corrosion and popped rivets under the skin. There was also major work done on the left wing in May 1992, again because of damage from corrosion.

But NTSB officials were unable to locate records for some of these repairs. And in some cases, maintenance procedures were not followed. For example:

# An inspection of the July 2000 wing repair was not performed. The rivets used were undersized, and a larger rivet was later driven into the wing area through the airplane's skin, causing a crack.

# There were no maintenance records available from Chalk's for a major repair to a skin crack just outside the lower right wing. The NTSB could not figure out when the work was done, who did it and what data was used.

The seaplane had flown a total of 31,011 hours before it crashed, with its last major structural overhaul coming on Oct. 7, 2005, the NTSB found. It was found to be in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration airworthiness directives.

Officials at Chalk's headquarters in Fort Lauderdale did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

I tried but couldn't find the original thread.
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Old 23rd Jun 2006, 01:04
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Thank you for the update Seacue.

Here's the original thread:
Seaplane down off Miami Beach
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