New wings installed, damaged Mustang returns to service

 - March 31, 2008, 10:16 AM

The first customer-owned very light jet to sustain major damage, Cessna Citation Mustang S/N 049, returned to service on February 29 some two months after suffering the collapse of its left fuel tank and two broken wing ribs while on a ferry flight. According to the FAA, the twinjet received “substantial damage” during the December 19 flight from Cessna’s Independence, Kan. factory–where owner Spectator Grupa of Croatia had taken delivery of the aircraft just hours earlier–to Allegheny County Airport (AGC) near Pittsburgh.

The crew heard a bang at 18,000 feet during the descent into AGC, which was followed by a left-engine low fuel pressure warning. They then noticed distortion on top of the left wing and heard a second bang. They landed safely at AGC.

FAA inspectors found that Cessna workers inadvertently blocked the left fuel tank vent with adhesive vinyl, which covered the Croatian registration numbers. This blockage prevented the inflow of air to replace fuel drawn from the tank by the engines, and the tank deformed.

The collapsed section was approximately three-quarters of the left wing from the root outward, the FAA said, and the depth of deformation was nearly three inches on both the upper and lower wing skins. Additionally, the lower wing skin was punctured from the inside of the fuel tank by the two broken ribs, which protruded “approximately two inches by one inch square.”

Technicians from the Toledo (Ohio) Cessna Citation Service Center were dispatched to AGC to disassemble the twinjet so it could be trucked back to the Independence plant. Cessna installed new wings on S/N 049 at its own expense.

In a factual report on the accident, the NTSB noted, “The airplane’s preflight checklist, exterior inspection, step 6, right wing, item ‘H’ and step 11, left wing, item ‘C,’ both state ‘Fuel Tank Vent: Clear.”