Flying with a known oil leak: Now what were they thinking?

General Aviation News will regularly post a synopsis of accident reports from the National Transportation Safety Board and a recent synopsis caught my attention. I am not sure of the exact date of the actual incident (the accident report is dated November 2007) but it involved a Piper Super Cub in Durban West Virginia. According to the report:

The day before the accident the pilot noticed an oil leak and oil covering part of the windshield and firewall. He informed his company, and was told if the leak was not too serious, he should fly the airplane to a nearby airport where a company mechanic could examine the engine.

A big “what was the company thinking” type of question is comes to mind after reading that and could they bring the mechanic to the plane rather than the plane to the mechanic?!!!

Now, we should note that the report synopsis then continues by mentioning that just prior to departure, a local mechanic had taken a look at the engine and did not observe a “significant oil leak.” The pilot decided to depart anyway and what happened next was fairly predictable:

While en route to the destination airport, at an altitude of 5,000 feet, the pilot began to smell oil and observed smoke emanating from the engine. Shortly after, he heard an “explosion” and observed a “chunk of oil” blow out of the engine and cover the windshield. The oil pressure gauge continually decreased. The pilot made an emergency landing on a dirt road. During the rollout the right wing hit a tree and was substantially damaged.

Examination of the engine revealed the crankshaft oil seal was partially dislodged, and protruding from the front of the engine case. The most recent condition inspection was completed two months prior to the accident, with no anomalies noted. The airplane flew 43 hours since the inspection.

Luckily there were no injuries but certainly there is a lesson here involving common sense!

One Response to Flying with a known oil leak: Now what were they thinking?

  1. Sylvia November 26, 2009 at 23:28 #

    I can't believe he took off ! That's just crazy.

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