Portable Speaker May Have Sunk Amphib


There’s a multitude of good reasons pilots should do a thorough walkaround before every flight and the occupants of an Icon A5 found yet another one earlier this month. The pilot and his passenger had just finished washing the sporty little amphib on the afternoon of June 3 and were taking it out for a hop from the seaplane base at Sky Harbor Airport in Duluth, Minnesota. After turning into the wind, the pilot hit the gas and about five seconds later there was a really loud bang coming from behind their heads, according to the NTSB factual report.

“[The pilot] shut down the engine, climbed out, looked back, and saw that all three propeller blades were missing,” the report said. “At this point, the airplane started to sink. He and his passenger donned life jackets and evacuated the airplane.” The prop blades pierced the fuselage and it went under. The pilot reportedly had one of those unwelcome flashes of recall and told investigators a few days later that while he and his friend were washing the plane, they’d put a portable speaker on the wing to entertain them in their labors. He theorized “that the speaker must have rolled over the engine compartment and into the propellers.” He also said he didn’t remember putting the speaker away and hasn’t seen it since.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. I can just hear that speaker playing “Full speed ahead Mr Parker, full speed ahead. We all live in a yellow submarine. a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine”. I’ve never understood why people need the distraction of music while working on their airplane, the expensive enough distraction that airplanes are.

    • Amen to that.

      Are people so conditioned to constant noise they can’t function without it?

      I see the same thing with people walking on multi use paths and trails. I have to call out to them loudly when overtaking on my bicycle because they can’t hear me and are not paying attention to their surroundings.

      Too much noise is distracting and dangerous and in this case, expensive. It’s also press Icon does not need.

  2. And another insurance claim you get to subsidize. Perhaps the insurer will will contest this claim.

  3. It is easy to poke fun at this one, but hands up for pilots that never left a chock in and then tried to taxi. Hmmmm I don’t see too many Hands Up and fundamentally what is the difference …..

    My last company flew transport category aircraft on aerial forest fire suppression missions. After a similar incident that almost ended very badly they instituted a policy that no matter what, a pilot did a “360” check, that is walked around the whole airplane before getting in it before every flight every time.

    I now do that every time on every airplane I fly including my little Grumman AA1.

    You can laugh at this incident or learn from it….

    • Agree 100%. You can laugh at the mistakes of others, or you can learn from them. There before the grace of God go I. I’m capable of making a similar mistake, so every time I read a story like this, it reinforces the need for that final walk-around.

      • Davids both, thanks for your well intentioned sanctimony about laughing or learning, but I’ll not accept this one from either you today. It’s not one or the other and you’re preaching to the choir. Having spent 10 of my 51 years in aviation as a safety officer encouraging my peers to learn from others’ mistakes, I also know when to and when not to point fingers. In this case I did and do point a finger with satire because of the very nature of the airplane these guys were washing and the mindset of mindless fun that this design has already proven to exude by its very singular purpose – fun. If there was ever a GA airplane around which to be mindful it is this one. Leaving a speaker in the wrong place because of having indulged in an unnecessarily created distraction while working on an airplane is not morally equivalent to inadvertently leaving a chock in place before starting an engine. The latter is excusable even in a mindful operation if taken seriously, the former not.

    • Well said. There is the comforting but risky tendency to think that silly things can only happen to other people. Flying I treat like one step down from performing brain surgery (I hope), but I’ve made minor errors more than once. Humility ensued. And I will never forget the unique sound my nice tablet computer made as the truck ran over it. Crunch crunch. Now I scan my car every time I walk up to it. Being excited and distracted seem to be the common ones for me.

  4. It happens…to all of us…I won’t mention mine. However, I picked up an Aeronca Chief to bring home. First time I removed the top cowling to look it over after I got it home, found a super sized industrial strength pair of pliers sitting on top of the cylinders. And, Reba McEntire’s Hawker was coming in one night at the last airport at which I worked (ATC). Pilot couldn’t get the nose gear to extend. Landed with a beautiful shower of sparks. When finally ground to a halt, the airport brought a lift truck out to see if the nose could be raised and the gear extended by hand. It could. And as it was being done, a super sized industrial strength flashlight dropped out of the gear mechanism. Among us, “there are those who have and those who will”.

  5. Taxiing out to fly and had a nagging feeling that I had forgotten something about the aircraft. I realized that I wasn’t sure that I had closed the fuel cap one on of the the tanks after refueling. I stopped and yup, I hadn’t do so.

  6. All I can say is that that must have been one hell of a speaker to have taken off ALL THREE blades!!

    • If you took out one, would the resulting imbalance/vibration be sufficient to loosen the other two? Or perhaps tear off the hub entirely? Just thinking.

  7. “He and his passenger donned life jackets…” They should have been “donned” before they ever got into the plane. I always put on a PFD whether I intend on landing in the water or not in my Searey. It should be mandatory in any seaplane or amphib. I’ve noticed that in all the videos I’ve seen of the Icon that no one is wearing a PFD. A rather cavalier, and potentially deadly attitude in my opinion. Always expect the unexpected.

  8. Remembering my SES check ride with a FED, (in ’66) we didn’t even think of a PFD & did not have any on board.
    Seems nobody ever thought that back then.