Comments posted by Globe Aero pilot based in Iceland, and one of two pilots on board the Mustang.
“When I arrived at Cessna, I was told that the Cessna test pilots had flown the aircraft twice that day and the PIC had preflighted the aircraft. Even still, I did a walk-around. Looking under the wing and checking the gear etc, the vinyl foil was just so much like the paint, you really did not see it. The wing is very low to the ground and with the vent completely covered, you just sort of “forget” that it should be there. Imagine that you always look at the pitot tube for an obstruction. Imagine that the aircraft has NO pitot tube…you just tend to forget it. Lulled into the “factory has already flown it,” I just didnt see it. As there are so many aircraft with vented fuel caps, without seeing the vent, it becomes a non-entity. The engine did NOT stop. The problem with the design, is that there is no redundancy. On other aircraft, there is a valve or a vented cap or cross ventilation…SOMETHING! Our Challenger has 8 systems if I remember correctly. Cessna will correct this and I am happy of course that we didnt get killed. On a new design, this lack of backup slipped through the cracks and happily has been discovered with only bent metal, no major property damage or injuries. We all learn and my opinion is that both Cessna and the FAA handled the post incident situation in an exemplary manner. I phoned both of them right away, the aircraft was secured in a hangar and both agencies sent a field rep early the next morning. The FAA inspectors were professional and thorough and immediately coordinated with Cessna. With nearly 200 deliveries of new aircraft and almost 11,000 hours, I have seen a few quality issues on new aircraft. On the other hand, we have flown single-engined aircraft all over the world and of the thousands of aircraft delivered over the last 40 years, few have gone down due to mechanical failure. I hope that I have helped your understanding of this incident and maybe one of you will take a lesson from the discussion that will save your bacon one of these days. Fly safe gents!”
“The PIC had already been at Cessna for several days and had flown the aircraft, They changed the software display in some manner and then again test-flew the aircraft. So the flight was indeed made by the PIC. I arrived late in the day and was informed of these flights “by the factory” and the PIC, so I was lulled somewhat. We had no CAS message until after having heard the noises, which sounded like they were coming from the gear. They got progressively louder, but there was no handling change. So no, THIS IS NOT TRUE! The CAS message came about 2.30 hours into the flight and it was that the boost pump came on. As I said, of course checking the vent is a necessary matter. But lets say you arrive at a car dealer and your brother is waiting for you. He has waited hours. He says, I drove the car and it is great. We had one little problem, but they fixed it and the mechanic and I went for a ride and it is fine. So you look over the car, jump in and 45 miles down the road, the wheel falls off… Well, of course, you should have checked all the torques on the wheels (dont you, when you buy a new car?) but your brother, whose car it is, afterall…has assured you that all is in order… So it would not have been discovered on another test flight as there were no symptoms until the vacuum created by the missing fuel was great enough to lower the fuel pressure and trip the boost pump. So only seeing the foil blocking the vent would save the day. Again, although it may seem strange, you check the pitot tube for an obstruction…but if the pitot tube is completely removed and the screw holes are painted over, will you actually miss it? If I had been there alone, I would have taken the POH and followed each and every item on the preflight, but as the PIC was there ahead of me, I didnt. Needless to say, the factory pilots obviously need a review of the preflight procedures as well, as they flew this aircraft more than once.”