Has anybody had or known somebody who had a elevator/stabilator cable snap in flight?

Discussion in 'Maintenance Bay' started by orange, Jun 28, 2017.

  1. orange

    orange Line Up and Wait

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2014
    Messages:
    806
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Orange
    It seems like it would be un-survivable in any case where you are more than 20 feet AGL.

    That's probably my 2nd biggest fear in flying, after water landing/crash.

    I would hate to be at 6k feet and then snap and I'm in a full (nose-down) dive into whatever is below me knowing that I will be dead in less than 2 minutes.
     
  2. Kritchlow

    Kritchlow Final Approach

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2014
    Messages:
    6,570
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Kritchlow
    I done *similar* exercises in a jet simulator.
    I would think there would be some control using trim.
     
  3. txflyer

    txflyer En-Route

    Joined:
    May 3, 2013
    Messages:
    4,509
    Location:
    Wild Blue Yonder
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Fly it like you STOL it ♦
    Jesus Christ ... you are a real bag of happy today.... :eek:;)
     
  4. John221us

    John221us En-Route

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,268
    Location:
    Rocklin, CA
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    John
    Inflight fire is my biggest fear. You might have a chance of landing it if the cable broke, using power; as least surviving it. I guess it depends on the plane and the circumstances.
     
  5. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2008
    Messages:
    12,833
    Location:
    DXO124009
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Light and Sporty Guy
    Why would a broken cable cause that?
     
  6. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Messages:
    16,810
    Location:
    kojc, kixd, k34
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Matthew
    Yep - A friend of mine lost an elevator cable on her solo, or one of her early solos. I think it was a Citabria? Nosed it over on landing and had a good story to tell. It's been a long time since I've heard that story, so I don't know how much control she had using trim.

    Another time I was helping out at an IAC contest. A Pitts snapped a rudder cable when pulling out of a dive of some sort. That was an interesting adventure. The judge I was helping had been that pilot's aerobatics instructor and I handed him my handheld. They talked a while as the pilot was troubleshooting. The turnbuckle that attaches the rudder cable to the right rudder pedal snapped. He was able to wrap the broken end of the cable around his right hand, jamb his elbow next to the seat and pull up - basically adding right rudder trim. To land, he had to make power adjustments by holding the stick with his knees to free up his left hand. He rolled to a stop, the FD was there to meet him, he climbed out and motioned that he was fine, then his knees got wobbly. He had made a few practice "landings" at altitude to see if he could do it, the other option was to fly over a nearby lake and step out.

    It was a fascinating lesson for me. "Make a plan, work the plan". I also learned "Rule 1(a): No one ever collided with the sky." Climb, buy time, think, plan, do.
     
  7. gsengle

    gsengle Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    May 9, 2016
    Messages:
    2,092
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gsengle
    Totally survivable. In my airplane the autopilot flies the elevator trim. No actual elevator required.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  8. Cooter

    Cooter Ejection Handle Pulled

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2015
    Messages:
    2,412
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Cooter
    I had one break but was able to land it. There was very little pitch control, but enough to get it back around for a landing.
     
  9. Anymouse

    Anymouse En-Route

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2007
    Messages:
    3,164
    Location:
    Clinton, AR (Sometimes)
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Total Stud Bush Pilot
    You beat me to it!!

    Her story was posted on the Red Board around 2006/7??
     
  10. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2008
    Messages:
    6,897
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Dan Thomas
    A 1/8" cable is good for something like 2000 pounds, and the swaged ends are good for at least 80% of that, IIRC. If a cable breaks, it was gradually fraying and coming apart and some really poor inspections, over a long period of time, never caught it. The cable is a 7x19, meaning it has seven bundles of 19 wires each, for a total of 133 wires. It takes a lot of fraying to work through even half of those.

    I find more wear on the bolts that connect the cable ends to bellcranks. Some systems aren't too well designed that way, placing considerable load on a thin bellcrank lever, for instance, which puts a lot of contact pressure on the bolt. Add some dirt, and you get wear. Park the airplane outside in the wind and you can get lots of wear. Many airplane have nylon fairleads or phenolic run strips where the cable passes through bulkheads or over frames or ribs, and that plastic can get grit embedded in it and wear at the cable, too.

    Good maintenance catches all that. But--pilots tend to be cheap, and sometimes don't want to pay for the hours it takes to open things up and get a good look.
     
  11. Rob58

    Rob58 Pre-takeoff checklist

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2016
    Messages:
    288
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Rob
    The OP raised an important question, and it is something that I think about (worry about) from time to time. While the techniques for surviving this kind of event are relevant to discuss, the more important discussion should be understanding the root cause of failures (or near failures) and determine how to prevent this from happening. Your A&P inspects the control system during annuals, however they are only human and may not understand all the failure modes. A mechanical loss of control can result from many other failures beyond a cable snapping - turnbuckles (as mentioned above), brackets cracking, welds cracking, bolts shearing... there is actually quite a list, most of which are more likely than a cable snapping. This is one reason you either need to be involved with the inspections or have great trust in your A&P.
     
  12. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Messages:
    18,247
    Location:
    west Texas
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Dave Taylor
    Cool that he saved the airplane but I think I would've jumped.
     
  13. Salty

    Salty Final Approach

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Messages:
    7,270
    Location:
    FL
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Salty
    Help a stupid low hours pilot understand how losing a rudder cable caused that much consternation.
     
  14. Salty

    Salty Final Approach

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Messages:
    7,270
    Location:
    FL
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Salty
    You'd jump out of a plane because of a lost rudder? What the heck am I missing here?
     
  15. mondtster

    mondtster En-Route

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2011
    Messages:
    3,041
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    mondtster
    There is a guy local to me that had a stabilator cable separation on either a PA28 or PA32 (can't remember). He walked away from the accident but the plane ended up in a corn field short of the runway.

    If what I was told is accurate, his accident was part of what prompted the stabilator cable AD on these airplanes.
     
    flyingfrog likes this.
  16. Stingray Don

    Stingray Don En-Route

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2014
    Messages:
    2,913
    Location:
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Stingray Don
    Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts.

    :happydance:
     
    Zeldman and N659HB like this.
  17. gsengle

    gsengle Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    May 9, 2016
    Messages:
    2,092
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gsengle
    Or get a plane with pushrod controls ;)


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  18. Anymouse

    Anymouse En-Route

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2007
    Messages:
    3,164
    Location:
    Clinton, AR (Sometimes)
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Total Stud Bush Pilot
    A Pitts is a real touchy plane IIRC. Taildragger too. And not particularly forgiving. Not having proper rudder control could lead to a rather serious bending and breaking of things.
     
    yhuubert likes this.
  19. Salty

    Salty Final Approach

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Messages:
    7,270
    Location:
    FL
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Salty
    To the point where you'd jump out?
     
  20. SixPapaCharlie

    SixPapaCharlie May the force be with you

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2013
    Messages:
    14,538
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    6PC
    None of this applies to grummans though right?
     
    Zeldman and Stingray Don like this.
  21. Salty

    Salty Final Approach

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Messages:
    7,270
    Location:
    FL
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Salty
    Yes, but obviously not cirruses
     
  22. Anymouse

    Anymouse En-Route

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2007
    Messages:
    3,164
    Location:
    Clinton, AR (Sometimes)
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Total Stud Bush Pilot
    If I didn't think I could make a safe landing you're darn tootin'!

    Something like a Cessna 150? Not so much.
     
  23. swingwing

    swingwing Pre-takeoff checklist

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2009
    Messages:
    290
    Location:
    Reading, Pennsylvania
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Swingwing
    In 100 series Cessnas, full up or down trim depending on which cable breaks. Very survivable and most likley can land without damage. I had an instructor that made me pratice it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2017
  24. RyanB

    RyanB Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2010
    Messages:
    12,630
    Location:
    Chattanooga, TN
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Ryan
    My own hypothesis tells me that something like this would be most apt to occur in gusty/turbulent conditions. It seems that trying to over control and force the control surface against the rough air could put extra tension on the cable and cause a snap.

    For me, I would be more concerned and freaked, over losing an aileron cable than an elevator cable, although both would be bad. I can't imagine surviving if you lost aileron control.
     
  25. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    Messages:
    8,320
    Location:
    Wichita, KS
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MauleSkinner
    There are usually two elevator cables...one for "up" and one for "down.

    If the "up" cable breaks, trimming nose up so you always have to hold nose-down pressure will normally allow you to fly with the elevator. If the "down" cable breaks, trim nose down so you have to hold nose-up pressure.
     
    George Mohr, Brad Z and Zeldman like this.
  26. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    Messages:
    8,320
    Location:
    Wichita, KS
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MauleSkinner
    Try flying the landing using rudder to keep wings level and/or turn. Works pretty well.
     
  27. RyanB

    RyanB Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2010
    Messages:
    12,630
    Location:
    Chattanooga, TN
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Ryan
    Yeah, I know that works and I've tried it at altitude, but it seems like it would be rather difficult during an approach to landing, especially if it was windy. I'm sure it can be done, it's just hard for me to picture without never having done it. I need to practice that.

    Something I hope to never experience in actuality.
     
  28. GlennAB1

    GlennAB1 Ejection Handle Pulled

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2015
    Messages:
    4,889
    Location:
    Home will always be Vandalia, OH
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    GlennAB1
    Cables are made up of wires and strands of wires, no bundles.

    Yes, dirt/grit are one of a cables biggest concerns but corrosion in a critical fatigue area, that being the working length of a cable, an area that passes over a pulley or sector, or through rub strips or fairleads is too.

    Whenever a cables servicibility is in question, it should be removed and thoroughly inspected.
     
  29. WannFly

    WannFly Final Approach

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2016
    Messages:
    5,977
    Location:
    KFAR
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Priyo
    Thanks. I will add thus to the list of what could go wrong when I fly... jeez.... someone needs a big drink

    Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk
     
  30. mtuomi

    mtuomi En-Route

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2013
    Messages:
    3,056
    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    dera
    Control cable failure is probably the last thing I worry about when flying. When the plane is in trim, a failed cable won't cause any abrupt nose up/down movements - aerodynamics takes care of that.
    Inflight fires and midairs - now don't even get me started. A school I sometimes rent from in California lost a mechanic a few years ago in the most awful accident I can think of...
    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Pilot-in-fatal-Livermore-plunge-ID-d-5572314.php
     
  31. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Messages:
    16,810
    Location:
    kojc, kixd, k34
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Matthew
    Yeah, the Pitts is not forgiving. Imagine a squirrelly high performance sports car that suddenly loses some component of the front end suspension at speed. He pulled, hard, out of the dive, then got on the radio immediately and said he had control problems. In the next couple of seconds he was able to gain altitude, but I think it might have even rolled on him. He was able to nurse it around for a while to regain control, grab the loose end of the cable under his seat, and work out a way to control it.

    Working in his favor (I'm not familiar with the different models), his model had the longer nose which allowed him to make a straight in vs a turning slip and that allowed a better view of the rwy and a more stable approach. He also had more fuel than usual so he had lots of time to work things out. He had plenty of knowledgeable people on the ground help talk him though things, and an on-field fire crew. He made 3 or 4 practice landings at a couple thousand feet AGL and was willing to give it a try for real. I talked to him afterward, he was absolutely prepared to bail, but felt he had enough ability to control it that he decided to put it down on the rwy.
     
  32. nrpetersen

    nrpetersen Line Up and Wait

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2013
    Messages:
    540
    Location:
    Minnetonka MN
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    nrpetersen
    I was taking dual for a tailwheel rating in a recently rebuilt PA-12 approaching my first wheel landing when the stick suddenly pulled out of the floor (and linkage) of the airplane at about 100 ft altitude. Fortunately the instructor (20,000+ hrs) in the back seat figured out what had happened ( I was wildly waving the stick around and cussing) and took over and landed (hard but landed successfully). Turns out the stick had been only clamped in the below-the-floor fitting instead of having a # 10 screw locking it in place.

    Solo it would have been a not so nice story.
     
  33. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2014
    Messages:
    13,324
    Location:
    high desert NM
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Billy
    When I was a flight instructor, I would occasionally help out maintenance. Doing an annual on one older C-172, we pulled the rear cover to inspect the cables and pulleys. The elevator cable, the down one, had a spot of rust on it, about a half inch long. Every thread on the cable was broken except one. One thin rusty thread was all that was left controlling the elevator.

    When the owner came to look at it, his face went white.

    He had recently bought the plane from a person that had taken the plane in for pencil whipped annuals for years.
     
    denverpilot likes this.
  34. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2015
    Messages:
    8,632
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Aztec Flyer
    :yeahthat:

    If I was to spend any time fretting, in flight fire would be my nightmare problem. In any airplane, not just GA; Air Canada 797, Swissair 111, any airplane...

    To the OP, if you have to fret, perhaps concentrate on the high consequent problems. Elevator/stabilator control cable failure is not one of those.
     
  35. mondtster

    mondtster En-Route

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2011
    Messages:
    3,041
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    mondtster
    Glad I could help. :)

    I just remembered another control cable separation problem too. A friend has a J3 Cub that was rebuilt and had a cable failure on its initial flight after the refurbishment. One of the swages on a rudder cable came apart causing a loss of control and the destruction of the airplane. I suspect that whomever made the cables did not have the correct tooling to do the job and improvised, ultimately causing the accident.
     
  36. GlennAB1

    GlennAB1 Ejection Handle Pulled

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2015
    Messages:
    4,889
    Location:
    Home will always be Vandalia, OH
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    GlennAB1
    I think there was somebody on here that said they would build up cables for owners to use as "owner produced" with no serviceable tag nor guarantee.
     
  37. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2014
    Messages:
    6,731
    Location:
    Wasilla, AK
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    stewartb
    If you're concerned about a cable failing you need to find a different mechanic. Anyone who inspects a plane looks for frays in control cables and replaces the cable if he finds any. And that cable would still be about 50x as strong as it might conceivably need to be.
     
  38. pigpenracing

    pigpenracing En-Route

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2012
    Messages:
    2,615
    Location:
    Brenham Tx
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    pigpen
    Well I come in on final at 110 mph in my Pitts. It is not like landing a 172. They are really touchy airplanes and without a rudder you will 100% for sure ground loop the plane. It depends on the airport. If you have ditches on both sides it is a really good chance you could kill yourself trying to land the thing. Most Pitts pilots have a chute on so you make the decision to bail out or whatever will happen on the ground. Not sure what I would do? If there were people at the airport I would call for a ambulance and fire truck before I made the attempt. If nobody was around I would think about jumping. Go get a hour in a Pitts....
     
    denverpilot likes this.
  39. iflyforfun

    iflyforfun Pre-takeoff checklist

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2010
    Messages:
    313
    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    iflyforfun
    When I was signed off by the factory for my Velocity, they wouldn't sign off until I could fly the entire pattern with only my feet and elevator ... no aileron control for the entire flight. When they told me that, I thought they were crazy. It was actually pretty easy to do, but the Velocity isn't your standard airplane.
     
  40. BrianNC

    BrianNC En-Route

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2009
    Messages:
    2,719
    Location:
    Atlanta
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    BrianATL
    Geez. This has never even crossed my mind. I shouldn't have read this thread. :eek:
     
    GlennAB1 likes this.