Slight Thump after Take-off

4 Jul 08 2 Comments

After landing on Jersey, my attention was immediately taken by a plane parked near the flying school, half a wing missing. A laminated sheet was attached. Ever the voyeur for accident reports, I couldn’t resist.

The pilot had noticed a slight thump shortly after taking off. He checked for anything visibly wrong inside the cockpit and noticed no issue. A passenger thought he’d seen something black on the left side of the plane. The pilot decided it was likely a bird strike, no damage appeared to have been done, so he continued his planned flight across the English Channel (from Ireland to Portugal). As they carried on, he noticed that the port-side fuel gauge showed as empty. The starboard fuel showed as full. I’m guessing he tapped on the gauge a few times and cursed before informing his passengers that it was likely just a display error, nevertheless they were going divert to Jersey in order to check the issue on the ground. It was an uneventful landing until he climbed out of the cockpit and saw the ripped remains of his wing.

He’d knocked off the entire wingtip tank and a large portion of his port wing and aileron. Pine needles were found within the fuselage.

The preliminary accident investigation found a 50 foot pine tree near the starting airfield with 6 foot severed off the top and fragments of wing in the branches. The fuel tank was found around 75 yards farther along the route.

I put my fingers to the jagged edges of the wing remains and stood there for a while. I’m constantly amazed at the resilience that small planes show, how they are able to keep flying in the direst of circumstances. I learned enough physics and aerodynamics to pass my aviation exams but deep down I still believe it’s magic that holds the things up in the air. If I’m honest, I suspect that (like Tinkerbell) if I stop believing in the plane’s ability to fly, it will crash with a thunk into the reality of gravity.

I continued to the terminal with a final backwards glance at the Cessna Centurion, grounded.

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