The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday it wants to fine the Cessna Aircraft Co. $2.4 million because the company's failure to follow quality-control procedures caused a 7-foot section of the wing of high-performance plane to detach during a test flight, among other problems.
One of the agency's pilots was conducting a test flight of the four-seat, single-engine Corvalis TT last December when a portion of the wing skin made from composite materials unbonded from the forward spar and damaged a fuel tank, the FAA said in a statement. A spar is a beam-like structure inside the wing and is a principal load-bearing component.
The pilot made an emergency landing at an airport in Independence, Kan.
An investigation found that excessive humidity at a Cessna manufacturing plant in Chihuahua, Mexico, prevented the bonded materials used to make the wing from curing properly, FAA said. Thirteen of the planes were ordered grounded.
Cessna failed to follow its quality-control system when it manufactured the wings on the damaged airplane, as well as 82 additional parts, in the Chihuahua factory, the agency said. The manufacturer has since made improvements to the plant, FAA said.
"Quality control is a critical part of the aircraft manufacturing process and has to detect problems before planes leave the factory," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement. "Manufacturers have to ensure that all the details are followed all of the time."
Cessna spokesman Doug Oliver said the Wichita, Kan., company is "committed to working closely with the FAA on this matter, which has been isolated to 13 aircraft."
Cessna has since discontinued the Corvalis TT, and introduced a new version, the Corvalis TTX, Oliver said.
The company has 30 days to respond to the proposed fine.