Structural Failure Possible in Flight Exam Crash

Prior to yesterday’s accident there had been no injuries in more than 1 million hours of flight at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach flight department. Gary Rosier

A student and examiner were killed in an accident that occurred during a flight exam at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, yesterday morning. Structural failure might have played a part in the accident as one wing of the Piper PA-28 Cherokee departed the airplane before it impacted the ground.

“The wing fell off some 150 to 200 yards away from where the plane finally rests in this field behind us,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said while standing in front of the accident site, according to a report from the local Channel 6 news station. Chitwood also said there were no distress calls to air traffic control.

The accident occurred at 9:54 am, and by 12:40 Embry-Riddle’s president P. Barry Butler had issued a statement. “It is with profound sadness that I must inform you of an aircraft accident today that resulted in the loss of one of our student pilots as well as a passenger who was a designated pilot examiner with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration,” Butler said.

Butler said the accident happened near Tomoka Farms Road in Daytona Beach. It’s much too early to tell whether the wing fell off due to overstress of the airplane, a mechanical defect or for some other reason. The school is working with the authorities to help determine the cause of the accident.

Embry-Riddle has an exceptional safety record, which was recognized last year as the school, which has been in operation since 1925, achieved Stage II International Standard Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) registration by the International Business Council in Montreal, Canada. This safety audit goes way beyond the rigorous requirements of the FAA and ERAU claims it is the first aviation university to have achieved this level of safety standards.

According to ERAU, the Daytona Beach flight operation has seen more than 1 million flight hours and nearly 1.8 million aircraft takeoffs and landings in the past 15 years. More than 22,000 pilot certificates and ratings were issued during that period and, prior to yesterday’s accident, the accident rate was 0.0008 percent with no injuries, according to a report by the school that was released in December. The school has nearly 70 airplanes in its fleet.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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