Paint Job a Clue to Brentwood Glasair Crash?

The owner of the Glasair III had finished painting the aircraft just before the fatal flight that killed him and his passenger near Byron, according to his ex-wife.

[Behne] had just finished painting the plane at his private airstrip when he and a friend went on the ill-fated flight. "He wanted to get it up and running," said Shelley Rose, whose marriage to Behne ended in divorce in 2009."

When an aircraft is painted, the painter must mask holes in the aircraft's exterior, called static ports, as well as the aircraft's pitot tube.  The pitot tube and static ports sample air pressure exerted on different parts of the aircraft during flight.  That information from the pitot static system drives the aircraft's airspeed indicator, altimeter, and vertical airspeed indicator.

Forget to remove the masking tape, or allow tape residue to clog the tiny static ports, aPitot tubend none of the instruments will work properly.  Masking tape is what brought down a Boeing 757 in 1996, killing 70.   A problem with the pitot-static system (unrelated to masking tape) was also implicated in the crash of Air France flight 447.

Years ago,  I picked up my plane after it was repainted by a reputable shop in Northern California.  During my pre-flight inspection, I found tape residue clogging the pitot tube.  The tape residue would have prevented the airspeed indicator from working properly, and could have caused problems in controlling the aircraft, especially on takeoff.

An inoperative pitot-static system always presents challenges.  But the challenges are greatest at night or in bad weather, not during the nearly ideal flight conditions the Glasair pilot experienced.

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Paul Millner - November 10, 2012 4:54 PM

Every student pilot learns to fly the aircraft with each of the instruments covered in turn... and these days, with nearly omnipresent GPS giving a ground speed readout as a good reference point to airspeed, failure of airspeed and altimeter certainly shouldn't cause one to fall out of the sky. Remember to FLY the airplane, folks.

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