Plane panel plummets 20,000ft mid-flight

PUBLISHED: 10:40 19 February 2008 | UPDATED: 21:23 31 May 2010

A PANEL on a plane bound for Stansted Airport broke off mid-flight and plummeted 20,000ft onto the roof of a home in Suffolk, a report has concluded. A completed investigation into the incident has found that human error caused the 2.5ft-by-1.5ft piece of

A PANEL on a plane bound for Stansted Airport broke off mid-flight and plummeted 20,000ft onto the roof of a home in Suffolk, a report has concluded.

A completed investigation into the incident has found that human error caused the 2.5ft-by-1.5ft piece of debris to break from the aircraft and land on Sheena Fisher's home in Stratford St Andrew, near Saxmundham, last June.

Alarmingly the report found that similar incidents have occurred on nine separate occasions.

A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch found that the each of the 25 "grommets" securing the panel to the body of the plane had failed.

This was said to have been caused by "abrasion" to the panel during repainting.

The report said: "All the retaining bolts were intact and found on the aircraft located in their respective damaged grommets.

"There was no evidence of the panel having failed in the region of the grommets.

"It is therefore concluded that the panel became detached because the grommet flanges had failed.

"The grommet flanges were of reduced thickness, and this is likely to be due to abrading prior to painting."

The plane, a Blue1 travelling from Helsinki to Stansted, was carrying four crew and 83 passengers. Those on board heard a loud bang when it happened but it went on to land at Stansted without a problem.

The captain of the flight was aware something may have dropped from the plane while he flew over Felixstowe and reported it as soon as he touched down.

The plane was inspected and the 25 bolts that secure the panel to the aircraft were all still on the aircraft and in their respective grommets.

The panel dropped from a height of around 20,000ft, causing damage to roof tiles and guttering.

The report stated that the manufacturer had responded by updating an Airworthiness Directive to include a more rigorous inspection process.

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