Report Says Pilots Left Over Safety Issues
Improper repairs and undocumented maintenance procedures could
have led -- at least in part -- to the December 19, 2005 accident
that downed a Grumman G73 Mallard flying for Chalk's Ocean Air.
That's the word from NTSB investigators, who in recently
released documents also said several pilots at the small, popular
interisland operator quit their jobs over maintenance concerns,
according to a report in USA Today.
Some of those complaints even came from Michele Marks, the pilot
of the doomed plane.
"Michele was becoming scared and talked about maintenance
concerns all the time," her husband, Mark Marks told investigators.
"They were having close calls that were becoming more
She was not alone. Three of Chalk's six pilots quit in 2005, the
paper reported, after they experienced inflight engine failures --
and an emergency stemming from a broken elevator cable.
"We love this company, and we are trying to avoid the inevitable
disaster that will ensue if these issues are not addressed," pilot
Grady Washatka wrote in his January 13, 2005 resignation letter. "I
sincerely hope that Chalk's not only survives but also thrives well
into the future. I realize, however, that the company's financial
well-being is not worth my career, my integrity, and first and
foremost should never come before our passengers' safety."
While the probable cause of the accident has not been officially
determined, authorities with the safety board are said to be
focusing on a nearly-16-inch crack found on the plane's right wing
spar. In the NTSB's preliminary report released in
January, investigators cited evidence of metal fatigue
on the aircraft's wing spar.
On December 30 -- 11 days after the accident -- the FAA issued
Emergency Airworthiness Directive 2006-01-51 requiring detailed
inspections of the wings of all G-73 seaplanes.
As Aero-News reported
extensively, 20 people were lost when the
turboprop-equipped vintage amphibian crashed into Government Key
near Miami, FL shortly after takeoff. Video footage of the accident
showed the right wing separating from the body of the aircraft
inboard of the engine.