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12th of February 2020

2 years ago on this day in aviation history, a Cessna 560 Citation Encore had departed Dallas-Love Field (Texas, USA) on a ~320 miles (510 kilometres) flight to Midland International Air and Space Port (Texas, USA) Onboard, one passenger and the pilot (under FAA Part 91, Single Pilot operations are allowed.)

At approximately 15.27 local time, with the auto-pilot engaged and FMS 1 providing lateral navigation, while climbing through flight level (FL) 225 for FL 380, the occupants heard a loud noise which was followed by a sound similar to flight with the landing gear extended. The speed at the time was approximately 265 knots.

View of a portion of the separated cowlings wrapped around the right horizontal stabilizer and the substantial damage sustained to the vertical stabilizer and to the fuselage. (source

In absence of caution or warning indications and the engine indications, all normal the pilot disconnected the auto-pilot and informed ATC. He then reduced the speed and altitude as he was suspecting a landing gear issue, based on the sound he heard. Once descended to 11.000 feet MSL (3300 meters) and with the speed down to 170 knots (195 MPH / 315 kph) the sound of air was still present. The speed was reduced further and flaps and the landing gear were cycled without any observations, besides the sound still being present. Flight controls were checked one by one. Aileron and elevator inputs made no difference, rudder movements appeared to make the sound worse. based on those "tests" the pilot concluded that there was a problem with the tail area of the aircraft and all other systems were functional. A precautionary landing was the safe way to go and the nearest airport with a runway greater than 5000 feet (1500 meters) was located and a diversion was initiated in collaboration with ATC, and the aircraft headed for Mineral Wells Airport (Texas, USA). An uneventful landing was made 18 minutes after the loud noise was heard. After landing the aircraft taxied to a parking stand and a normal shutdown was completed. According to the pilot, there were no abnormalities during the diversion to and landing at Mineral Wells, apart from the noise.

View of the number 2 engine with a portion of the fractured top cowling still attached. (Source

A post-flight inspection revealed that the top and bottom cowling of the righthand engine was missing. A part of the cowling that had separated was found wrapped around the inboard leading edge of the right-hand stabiliser. Another part o the cowling had impacted the area at the base of the vertical stabiliser, causing substantial damage. The last maintenance work recorded on the right-hand engine had been performed 153.6 flight hours prior to the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating this accident.

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