Rhymes and reasons is case that focuses on the death of a celebrity singer, song writer, aviation aficionado and environmentalist, John Denver Jr., on a plane crash off the coast of Monterey. This case tends to demonstrate how unchecked technological developments can turn out to be disastrous if they are not properly inspected by the concerned authorities.
This case is of importance to CIS 460 as it highlights the various processes and details that have always been neglected in the construction and use of technology as seen during the production of N555JD. It also brings out several malpractices within the aviation industry. The laxity of the inspectorate authority, the ignorance of the home plane builders and the plane buyers who do not go through the every single detail of the planes before purchasing and goes ahead to ignore the little short coming of such inventions (Garison, P. 1999). This study also allows the one to fully understand the details and parts of experimental airplanes and to understand the dangers associated with them and policies and regulations surrounding their manufacture.
During the production of the plane, it was noted that the builder (Adrian Davis Jr.) did not follow the procedures and design plans that had been laid down the designer (Rutan). The builder changed the design of the fuel tank selector valve. The designer had envisioned a plane with the valves located between the legs of the pilot for easy access. The builder changed the position and location of the valves to above the left shoulder thereby getting them out of the pilot's quick and easy reach (NTSB, 1999). The simple control/response relationship of the gas tank selector was completely changed from the normal left direction for the left tank and right direction for the right tank to the right direction for the left tank and down for the right tank.
The Federal Aviation Authority Airworthiness Inspector ignored the short comings of the plane by not making a follow up trip to ensure that his recommendations had been complied with as this was an experimental plane. He certified the plane as airworthy though the instrumentation markings and the placards required for test planes were not there.
Denver on his part ignored his safety on several occasion. He ignored the maintenance technician's plea to add gas to the plane before take off (Sun Tsu'Newswire, 1997). He declined the offer by the technician to mount a mirror in the plane that would enable him see the fuel gauge.
The design and plan of aircraft is in such a way that optimal proportion of weight and payload is found. The plane should be durable and strong enough to warranty safety of its crew by withstanding the extreme conditions in which it has to operate. The parts of the plane that determines its external shape includes the wings, tail and fuselage. Fuselage forms the main body to which other parts are connected. The wings forms the part of the plane that gives it lift during take offs and consists of internal wing structures and external wings (Garison, P. 1999). The internal structures made up of spars, ribs and stringers, while the external part is just a skin. The tail in most planes is the rear end of the machine whose main function is to provide stability.
The other parts of the plane includes the under carriage that supports it while on ground and also act as a shock absorber during the process of taxiing and landing. Rudder which is a mobile part of the plane found at the rear end and aids it in moving towards the desired direction. Aileron whose function is to move the wings from one side to another.
Home built experimental aircrafts were alternative airplanes and the most common in the aviation industry. They were manufactured as per the desires of the builder to suit his/her needs. This ensured that their features did not conform to the guidelines and restriction placed on the production of the common aviation aircrafts. It was assumed that it was the builders' lives that were at risk as they were the ones who flew the aircrafts. The Federal Aviation Authority did set special rules for the builders that did allow flexibility in the design and plans for the home built aircrafts. It was upon the builder to improve the original design so as to enhance safety, improve performance and make the machine look attractive. Unlike the home built airplanes, the mass produced aircrafts were designed by experts and were expected to be the same in all aspects (Denver Post, 1999). They Federal Aviation Authority had regulations that took into account the safety of the users/passengers as they were mainly meant for commercial purposes.
John Denver bought a plane (N555JD) from a pastoral resident of Santa Ynez and was delivered to him a few weeks before September 27th 1997.The plane was home made and was built in Houston Texas by one Davis Adrian Jr. After its construction, The Federal Aviation Authority agent noticed a few mistakes in the plane and made recommendations that instrumentation markings, listings and placards be placed in the plane so as to guide operators of the aircraft. The agent did not make a follow up trip to ensure that his recommendations had been complied with and Adrian on his part did not take this serious and chose to ignore them.
N555JD experimental was a high speed aircraft fitted with a 150hp Lycoming engine enabling to move at a top speed of 235 mph. It had long wings with winglets at the end and fuel tanks at the root. The pusher propeller was designed in a manner that allowed the plane to effectively move through air. The shape of the plane ensured total reduction of aerodynamic drag. Its landing gear consisted of two wheels under the wings and a third wheel on the nose below the canard.
While at Santa Maria Airport, John and his checkout pilot friend Rogers for further repairs on the plane. They noticed problems with the fuselage, the gas selector valves and their location the fuel gauge and the lining of the valves. John also noticed that operating the fuel valve was going to be hard considering the fact that it was located above the left shoulder unlike other models that had the control positioned at the centre and forward making them easy to operate.
After playing golf with his friends in Monterey, Denver opted to travel in the afternoon. At the hangar where he had left his plane he met a maintenance technician who offered him his help on the preflight activities. The technician noticed that the fuel in both tanks was less and asked Denver if he needed to refill but he was reluctant to do so (Washington Post, 1999). He suggested that they mount a mirror in the plane to aid the pilot to easily read the gas gauge without having to turn back during flights. A thought that was dismissed by Denver. He was later involved in a crash due to lack of enough fuel in the tanks.
An in-depth analysis
The problem in the case study are the malpractices that affected the aviation industry in the late 1970s to 1997.The actors intention is to bring forth to the public lime light these practices both by the inspecting agencies, the aircraft builders and the operators. There was no teamwork involved in the designing, building and inspection of the plane. Though he had the best original design for the aircraft, Rutan did design the plane on his own. Davis who was the home builder also built the plane alone without consulting the experts in that field. The Federal Aviation Authority agent did the inspection alone and did not notice problems such as the positioning of the fuel gauge and the fuel tank selector valve (Kreidel, R. 2000). He went a head hand certified the plane as airworthy knowing very well that some of the requirements had not been met. The aftermath of these was a disaster that claimed the life of John Denver. The plane had no post incidence/accident mechanism that could save lives if the plane malfunctioned.
Time constraint, tension build up and physical constraints greatly contributed to the accident in different ways. First John had no time to refuel has he was running out of time in order to meet his busy schedule. Due to tension John could not properly control the fuel tank selection valves in order to switch to the right tank when the left one ran out of fuel. This cause him to panic hence could not control the airplane. The seat strap could not allow Denver to easily reach for the control valve in time.
The problem with Denver's aircraft was informational as he did not have a better understanding of the airplane (Cable News Network, 1997). The builder also ignored FAA agent's requests to install listings, placards and instrumentation markings to help the operators to easily…