Cessna Will Install Safety Kit For Free... But Time Is Running
A well-known -- and
easily correctable -- flaw in many older Cessna high-wing aircraft
led to a fatal crash near Alaska's Mount Whittier last year,
according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
In its Probable Cause report issued this week, the NTSB
determined Anchorage city engineer Howard Holtan died when his
Cessna 180 stalled on takeoff, due to the failure of the seat
retention pins at a critical time.
The Board is fairly certain Holtan instinctively pulled back on
the yoke when his seat slid back, causing the aircraft to pitch up
violently and leading to a departure stall. Holtan was killed in
the September 22, 2007 crash; his wife, Roberta, survived with
"You know, to the lay person, it would seem it's kind of a
benign event, but unfortunately it can have disastrous results,"
NTSB investigator Clint Johnson told KTUU-2.
The report states a pilot friend of Holtan's watched the
accident aircraft take off, and noted "the airplane's nose appeared
abnormally high. He said that as the airplane began to climb, "the
wings began to wobble" then the airplane disappeared behind an area
of hilly, tree-covered terrain at the west end of the lake."
The friend feared the plane had crashed... but when he couldn't
locate any wreckage as he flew over the area in his own
plane, the friend continued onto their planned destination. "When
the accident airplane failed to arrive at Johnstone Bay, the pilot
of the second airplane contacted the Kenai Flight Service Station
(FSS) specialist on duty, and reported the that the first airplane
was presumed to have crashed," the Board notes.
When investigators arrived on scene, they noted "[t]he pilot's
seat was discovered in the full aft position. The aft seat rail
roller assembly was found against a rail-mounted SAF-T-Stop Seat
Stop. The SAF-T-Stop Seat Stop is an auxiliary seat stop mechanism
that stops rearward motion should the seat lock fail. According to
the two hikers that first arrived on scene after the accident,
neither recalled moving the pilot's seat during the rescue."
Seat failure due to worn retention-pin
holes in the seat rail (shown top, right) is a known problem on
older Cessna high-wing aircraft... and, has led to other fatal
accidents. Months before the Holtan crash, Cessna issued a service
bulletin offering to install a corrective safety kit, free of
charge. Holtan's borrowed plane did not have a kit; in fact,
an Anchorage Cessna dealer estimates less than 10 percent of
affected aircraft have had the kit installed.
"They say, 'I don't have time to get it done,' 'I can't get my
airplane in.' 'Just don't want to do it,'" said Tony Cestnik with
Owners of affected aircraft -- which range from Cessna 170
models through the C-210 line -- have until May 2009 to have those
safety kits installed for free... and the NTSB wants to get the