Federal investigators probing a plane crash that killed an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student and his flight instructor in Daytona Beach last week said they are focusing on the aircraft’s wing after multiple witnesses said they saw the wing fall off the plane during flight.
Air traffic controllers and other witnesses said the Piper PA-28R-201 airplane spun out of control after its wing detached. The incident occurred while the plane was in “cruise climb” following takeoff from Daytona Beach International Airport.
The plane crashed into a cow pasture about a half mile from the airport, killing 25-year-old Zach Capra and flight pilot examiner John S. Azma. According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, the flight was Mr. Capra’s final flight before he received his pilot’s license. He was planning to go to either Georgia or Alaska to start his career as a commercial pilot.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent investigators to Daytona Beach to investigate the plane crash.
“With the wing departure, we are focusing our efforts initially on that part right now,” NTSB air safety investigator Aaron McCarter said at a recent news conference, according to the News-Journal. Mr. McCarter said that NTSB investigators are “looking at the engineering” and going over “any kind of maintenance records” relevant to the plane crash.
The Piper airplane, commonly called the Piper Arrow, is commonly used in flight training. The News-Journal reported that a search of Piper Arrow crash records yielded no other records of wing detachment.
However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a 2015 safety bulletin for the aircraft, warning that the Piper Arrow has the “potential for corrosion on the wing rear spar at the fuselage attach fitting.”
Two other FAA safety bulletins from 2011 warn about the potential for corrosion “on the wing front spar at the fuselage attach fitting” and on the “aileron hinge fitting,” the News-Journal reported.
All of the bulletins say that age, incompatible materials, and “high moisture or salt water” and other environmental conditions increase the potential for corrosion affecting the wings.