ERAU Crash Investigation Focused On Wing Spar


The NTSB and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University officials are working together to determine what caused the PA-28R-201’s wing to fall off in mid-flight last week. The resulting accident killed two: Zach Capra, an ERAU student, and an FAA designated examiner, John S. Azma, conducting a checkride. Flight training resumed on Thursday for all aircraft at ERAU except the PA-28s. They remain grounded until inspections are completed.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that witnesses, including air traffic controllers, said the aircraft’s wing “departed the aircraft,” causing it to spin out of control and then slam into a cow field about a half mile from Daytona Beach International Airport.

NTSB Investigator Aaron McCarter said during a news conference Thursday they are focusing their initial efforts on that fact. They are looking at maintenance and engineering records. The maintenance records for the Piper Arrow have already been provided by the school. The investigation into the crash will include metallurgists examining the plane’s wreckage, but a wing detaching inflight is rare, the investigator said.

There are at least two Special Airworthiness Information Bulletins (SAIB), CE-11-13 and CE-11-12R1, saying the aircraft has the potential for corrosion on the wing front spar at the fuselage attach fitting. One warns of the potential for corrosion on the wing rear spar at the fuselage attach fitting. The SAIBs mention the increased risk associated with high moisture and salt water.

Capra was on a checkride for his commercial certificate and set to graduate on May 7. The ongoing investigation may take between 18 months to two years as is typical for the agency.

See the Daytona Beach News Journal article here.

See a YouTube video of Roy Williams of Airframe Components explaining a Piper main wing spar inspection here.

See the SAIBs here.