MILWAUKEE — The quality of planes at a Milwaukee flight school where a student died after crashing a plane has raised concerns about the reliability of its engines.
Less than a week after 18-year-old Daniel Perelman was killed after crashing a plane, the I-Team uncovered information on the Spring City Aviation (SCA) website showing that the plane he was flying may have been long overdue for critical maintenance.
According to the Spring City Aviation website, the plane Perelman was flying, a Cessna 152, last had its engine overhauled 7,954.1 hours before the crash. The manufacturer recommends an engine overhaul every 2,000 hours.
“If it turns out that the information we have about this particular aircraft is correct, it shocks me very much,” said 41-year-old veteran pilot Robert Katz.
Katz has also been a certified flight instructor for 33 years. He explains that a service is much more intensive than a typical maintenance check on your vehicle.
A person will completely disassemble the engine from the aircraft, inspect each individual part, and then rebuild the engine to ensure it is safe to use during flight. Then, in a logbook, aircraft owners are supposed to record the number of hours flown between overhauls; called time since overhaul (TSOH) or time between overhaul (TBO).
“An engine that runs beyond 2,000 hours is considered worn out,” Katz said. “It cannot be considered reliable as if it is in its review period. It is a definite benchmark and one that I would certainly approach with concern.
While the plane Perelman was flying has the largest TBO listed, every plane listed on the SCA website has its concerns about its latest engine overhaul.
All but one aircraft exceeded the manufacturer’s recommendation of 2,000 hours. Two were listed over 6,000 hours (6,975.7 hours and 6,096.2 hours), one is listed at 3,124.8 hours and another at 2,549.1 hours.
The only aircraft under 2,000 hours had an incorrect entry, showing its TBO at -4,089.5 hours.
The I-Team contacted SCA for clarification of the information on its website. Jim Furlong, the director of maintenance at the aviation school, says he cannot comment because there is an active investigation following Perelman’s accident.
“You have four planes well above the manufacturer’s recommendation,” asked Shaun Gallagher of the I-Team. “Are they flying?”
“We have no comment on this at this time,” Furlong said. “I’m sorry about that.”
“There are people here who are probably worried about whether these planes are in the air, over their homes,” Gallagher asked. “Are these numbers correct? »
“Of course I would have to review the numbers myself,” Furlong said. “But we have no comment at this time.”
Furlong pointed the I-Team to company president Brian Behrens and chief executive Josh Siehoff for comment. Neither responded in time.
Although Furlong has not commented on the accuracy of the TBO numbers listed on its site, it does say their planes are safe.
“They’re safe,” Furlong said. “Absolutely. We take great care in doing so.
“I wouldn’t hit that plane with a 10-foot pole,” Katz said of Perelman’s plane. “I would not subject myself, my family, my passengers, the people whose heads I fly over and their homes to undue risk.”
Katz described the meticulous notes that are taken regarding aircraft maintenance. He says that generally there are two or three logbooks kept; one for the airframe, another for the engine itself and a third for accessories such as the propeller, radio or avionics equipment. These logs, according to Katz, should contain the information necessary to clear up any confusion about what is presented on the SCA website. But even if the figures presented online are not accurate, Katz is still worried.
“The company needs to clarify exactly what is happening with this particular aircraft as well as others in its fleet,” Katz said. “When the lay public comes to a flight school to learn how to fly an airplane, they will not be fully familiar with those esoteric details regarding maintenance, upkeep and reliability. one of those concerns, if only to clarify what is correct and what is not.
Although engine maintenance can be expensive, Katz says it’s imperative to keep a plane safe.
“[Engine overhauls] are critical to safety,” Katz said. “When you think of a single-engine aircraft, your life depends on that propeller and the function of that engine. You don’t want to depreciate, defer, or outright neglect maintenance to save a few bucks, because it could end up costing your life. It’s not worth that risk.
The NTSB is still investigating the cause of Perelman’s crash. A preliminary report should be completed within a few months.
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