Maintenance Records To Provide Insight Into Fiery West Tulsa Plane Crash

Wednesday, September 29th 2010, 6:48 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OKLAHOMA -- Investigators combed through the wreckage of a fiery plane crash Wednesday.

The crash happened late Tuesday morning in west Tulsa. A flight instructor, Jade Schiewe, 28, and student pilot, Zachary Pfaff, 26,on board the plane survived the crash. Tulsa Fire said Schiewe suffered second- and third-degree burns to his lower right leg.

9/28/2010 Related Story: Instructor And Student Pilot Survive Fiery Emergency Landing Near Jones Riverside Airport

The airplane involved in the fire was a 1980 model. Of course, you don't see many cars that old still on the road. That's because cars are not maintained like airplanes. Everything that happens to an airplane is well documented.  Investigators will be looking into those records for clues about what happened.

What's left of the 1980 model Cessna 172RG remains right where it landed. Investigators visited the site but much of their work may be done with the paperwork on the airplane.

"We've got from when it rolled off the line at Cessna," Charles Westover, an aircraft mechanic, said.

Charles Westover, the head mechanic at Christiansen Aviation, said every airplane has an extensive maintenance record.

"We've got an airframe logbook, an engine logbook and then propeller logbooks and they tell what we've done," he said.

Even small planes are required to have regular maintenance and overhauls. Westover says that uncovers almost every routine problem.

"You just don't see flight fires," he said. "You'll see smoke every once in a while, but it's usually electrical smoke, very rarely will you get fire in the cockpit, because there's just not just there."

The flight that ended with an emergency landing started out at the Spartan School of Aeronautics. They're required, as with anyone who operates an airplane, to keep the planes airworthy with regular, documented maintenance.

On an airplane, everything from the wingtips to the engine is inspected before each flight, and thoroughly inspected, broken down by a mechanic, at least every 100 hours of flight. It doesn't matter how old the airplane is, someone can go back over the records and find everything that's ever been done to that airplane.

"Every time it goes out the door, we're on the hook," Westover said.

Mechanics put their license to work on the line every time they sign off on a repair. When there is an accident, those records and their work, gets a close look from investigators.

The particular model of airplane involved requires a mechanic's inspection every 50 hours of flight, and because it's used in a flight school, is checked over by a different set of pilots most likely several times a day.