Instructor Warns of Column Failure

Broken control column from old Cherokee that failed in flight.
Broken control column from old Cherokee that failed in flight.

A long-time Manitoba flight instructor says owners of older Piper Cherokee models should thoroughly check the control columns in their aircraft after the yoke on his aircraft broke on landing in February.

Tom Larkin, of Pegasus Flight Services said the yoke literally broke free in his hands on short final for St. Andrews Airport north of Winnipeg.

“On our return to land on runway 13, somewhere below 50 feet, as I eased back on the control column to assist the student with his landing, we heard a loud, “snap” and the control column went limp,” Larkin said.  “As I always have the student trim for hands- free flight there was no change in aircraft pitch and the aircraft continued to land normally.”

“Immediate inspection behind the control panel by the AMO revealed a catastrophic failure of the “T-Bar” control assembly.”

Larkin said Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board are investigating but he’s worried there will be another failure before they get around to warning pilots.

He said they checked a yoke on an unflyable Cherokee and magnetic partical imaging revealed cracks in the same area of the  aircraft he was flying.

Larkin said he believes all older Cherokees should be similarly examined before further flight, noting a visual inspection might not reveal any cracks because the control columns are painted black.

Considering the ubiquitous nature of these aircraft in flight training world wide, the question becomes, ‘How safe are these aging Cherokees?'” he said. “It is not a case of will this happen again but “when” will this happen again. The next pilot, and student or passengers might not be so lucky.”