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5 Airplane Accidents Caused By Mistakes On The Ground

These mistakes on the ground can lead to serious consequences in the air...

1) Failing To Perform A Flight Controls Check

In rare cases, flight controls have been jammed or rigged incorrectly, rendering controlled flight nearly impossible. If you don't spot the problem on the ground, taking the aircraft airborne could result in major problems.


2) Leaving The Gust Lock Engaged

On May 31, 2014, a Gulfstream IV accelerated to rotation speed during takeoff in Bedford, Massachusetts. At 162 knots when the airplane failed to rotate, they tried to abort the takeoff with just 1,373 feet of runway remaining. Full braking and reverse thrust was not enough to prevent their airplane from overrunning the runway, and it crashed into a ravine, and killing all 7 aboard.

Prior to takeoff, the gust lock was not disengaged. The locked position should have prevented the throttles from being advanced to takeoff power, but for some reason, the system failed.

Here's what a gust lock looks like on a Cessna 172:


3) Filling The Tanks With The Wrong Type Of Fuel

Filling the tanks with avgas vs jet fuel, or vice versa, will lead to engine failure. Always sump your tanks, and remember that avgas has a blue tint and jet fuel is clear or "straw" colored.


4) Forgetting To Secure Fuel And Oil Caps

Especially if you didn't fill the airplane with fuel or oil yourself, check the caps before every flight. In pressurized oil systems, having a secure gas cap is critical. And if you leave the fuel cap off, you might end up with a fuel starvation issue.


5) Your Compartments And Doors Are Not Closed And Latched

On July 8th, 2016, a Piper Cherokee Lance took off from West Houston Airport (KIWS) and crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 4 aboard the aircraft. The Piper Lance began its takeoff roll from runway 15 at KIWS, which is a 3,953' x 75' runway. According to witnesses, the forward baggage door was open before the aircraft began rotation. The witnesses reported the baggage door was in the vertical position while the aircraft was still on the ground.

It appeared that the aircraft was having difficulty climbing, which was most likely due to a performance penalty from the open baggage door forward of the cockpit. As the aircraft entered a downwind heading, it entered an aerodynamic stall/spin to the left, and descended into terrain.


What other mistakes on the ground could cause problems in the air? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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