I am so thankful that no one was injured or killed in this mishap. The investigative side of me would love to know how this elevator became separated from the Piaggio P-180, but one must be amazed by the design of this aircraft that would allow it to be flown from Camarillo to San Diego, then again to Henderson, NV, without anything more than a slight change of pressure on the pilot's control inputs. What an amazing plane!
I was the pilot of a Cessna 172 being operated out of Camarillo Airport that first noticed and reported seeing the elevator on July 31, 2012. It was a training flight, so I was occupying the right seat as CFI. As my client rotated and began his climb out, I happened to look down along the right side of the aircraft when something caught my eye. I shifted quickly in my seat and shouted, "Is that what I think it is?" My client, sitting in the left seat, became concerned that something was wrong. I quickly advised him nothing was wrong with our plane, but stated, "I could have sworn I just saw an elevator laying in the grass."
I quickly asserted, "I have the radios." While still climbing out on runway 26, I questioned the tower controller to see if he had been notified of the existence of an aircraft elevator laying in the grass about 75 feet north of the runway's edge near the 3,000 ft marker. Amazingly, they had not. After making a 270 degree turn back to the runway, we crossed midfield to make a second pass to confirm the identity of the object seen during our takeoff. Once again, with the control surface passing below the right side of the aircraft, positive identification was made. After approximately 8-10 minutes of searching by ground personnel, the elevator was discovered and notifications were made to the Van Nuys FSDO for further investigation.
It's days like this that remind me of the importance to stay vigilant while flying and be aware of our surroundings. Today, I got lucky. After learning of this incident, it surprised me to learn that the elevator sat undisturbed for three days without anyone noticing. Meanwhile, an ongoing case was missing the key piece of evidence to their investigation. Fortunately, I happened to be looking at the right place at the right time.
@veeder4 - depending on the plane you fly and especially in hot conditions, you should always do at least a mag check before taking off - even if you only shut down for a moment.
Our 182 has a nasty habit of fouling plugs after fairly short taxiing even with good leaning efforts. Worse after a hot start. At the very least do a quick mag check while taxiing as long as it's safe to do so.
Real men don't need a walk-around... or an elevator...
Wow, good eye, Curtis! Thanks for sharing your story!
Thanks so much for sharing your story! It truly is amazing and a blessing that nobody was hurt. And it must have been distressing to see that control surface on the ground.
Can anyone say "pre-flight walk-around"?? How do you not notice a substantial part of your aircraft missing before flight? The only answer is that the pilots did not do a pre-flight inspection.
I guess everyone takes some liberties when you just flew and everything seemed normal. Like I haven't always done a run-up if I've been shut down for only 5 minutes. But maybe we should...
@veeder4 You mean something like this advice: