Event Details

Title:Damage in cruise from partially detached thrust reverser, Douglas DC-9-31, October 13, 1995
Micro summary:This McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31 was substantially damaged during cruise flight, due to a partially detached top reverser door.
Event Time:1995-10-13 at 2051 CDT
File Name:1995-10-13-US.pdf
Publishing Agency:National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
Publishing Country:USA
Report number:CHI96LA011
Diversion Airport:Des Moines International Airport, Des Moines, Iowa, USA
Site of event:Cedar Rapids, IA
Departure:Des Moines International Airport, Des Moines, Iowa, USA
Airplane Type(s):Douglas DC-9-14
Flight Phase:Cruise
Operator(s):Airborne Express
Type of flight:Revenue
Serious Injuries:0
Other Injuries:0
Diverted to:Des Moines International Airport, Des Moines, Iowa, USA
Executive Summary:

NTSB short summary:

inadequate installation of a thrust reverser, driver linkage arm pivot bolt and nut, which resulted in the nut and bolt becoming disconnected. A factor relating to the accident was: the manufacturer's unclear information regarding the type and number of washers to be installed on the pivot bolt assembly.

NTSB synopsis:

Shortly after an intermediate level-off at 13,000 feet, the crew heard a loud bang and felt the airplane shudder. They diverted to a nearby airport. During the landing roll, the engine's thrust reversers were deployed. The right engine thrust reverser deploy light illuminated. The left engine thrust reverser deploy light did not illuminate. Maintenance personnel found the left engine lower thrust reverser door had been struck repeatedly by the top reverser door. An investigation revealed broken and bent thrust reverser linkages. A pivot bolt, washers, castellated nut, and cotterpin associated with a driver linkage arm were missing. Two other company airplanes were found with a missing cotterpin from the pivot bolt. Examination of these assemblies revealed the bolt end did not protrude beyond the nut's outer edge. The result was that the cotterpin could not fit through the hole in the bolt. The manufacturer's parts manual and maintenance manual text indicated that one countersunk washer should have been below the bolt head and one flat washer under the nut. However, the corresponding illustration in the maintenance manual showed an additional washer (2 washers) under the nut.

NTSB factual narrative text:

On October 13, 1995, at 2051 central daylight time (cdt), a McDonnell-Douglas DC-9-31, N945AX, operated as Flight 135 by Airborne Express, Incorporated, of Wilmington, Ohio, and crewed by an airline transport rated flight crew, was substantially damaged during cruise flight. The left engine's top thrust reverser door became partially detached and struck the engine's thrust reverser door repeatedly. Visual meteorological conditions existed at the time of the accident. The 14 CFR Part 121 cargo flight was operating on an IFR flight plan. The captain and first officer reported no injuries. The flight departed Des Moines, Iowa, at 2043 cdt.

The flight crew reported hearing a loud bang and felt the airplane shuddering shortly after leveling off from a climb. The flight crew declared an emergency after observing no problems on the airplane. During the landing the thrust reversers were deployed. The 2 yellow thrust reverser unlock lights illuminated and then the right engine's thrust reverser's blue light illuminated. The airplane decelerated and was able to taxi to the parking area.

An on-scene investigation was conducted by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Principal Maintenance Inspector (PMI). The PMI reported the left engine's thrust reverser door had one of its driver linkages broken. Damage from the thrust reverser doors striking each other broke the left engine mount and pylon spar strap. The thrust reverser doors and exhaust nozzle were wrinkled. The exhaust nozzle end had about 25 percent of its end crushed upward. The outboard driver linkage arm (arm) was broken near its pivot point. The arm was bent upward 90 degrees about 24 inches forward of the break. The bolt and associated hardware were not found. One overcenter link was bent about 45 degrees at its midpoint.

Examination of the thrust reverser assembly revealed that a pivot bolt had worked its way out of the driver linkage arm assembly. Excerpts from the McDonnell-Douglas DC-9 maintenance manual are appended to this report. These excerpts illustrate the bolt's location and relationship to the thrust reverser assembly. Due to the missing bolt, washers, nut and the cotterpin the reason for the bolt separation could not be determined. Evidence of a broken bolt was not found.

The company examined other airplanes in its fleet. One airplane was found that had a missing cotterpin in a castellated nut on the same bolt as was missing on N945AX. A second airplane was found with a loose lower thrust reverser door. Examination of this airplane revealed the washers were overly thick. The overly thick washers would not allow the bolt threads to protrude beyond the end of the castellated nut. This situation would not allow the cotterpin to be installed because the hole in the bolt was not adequately exposed.

The manufacturer's illustrated parts catalog and maintenance manual show different combinations of washers being used on the pivot point bolt. The maintenance manual text calls for a countersunk washer to be installed under the bolt head and one plain washer under the nut. The manual's illustration of this area shows the washer under the bolt head and two washers under the nut. The illustrated parts catalog illustration of this area illustrates what the maintenance manual text called for.
Learning Keywords:Operations - Bang, pop, crack, sizzle!
Operations - Maintenance
Systems - Engine Reversers
Consequence - Damage - Airframe or fuselage


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