Embry-Riddle Reacts To Hail Damage; Cessna Pitches In
By Aero-News Senior Correspondent Kevin "Hognose" O'Brien
Primary and Instrument flight students at Embry-Riddle
Aeronautical University fly a fleet of well-maintained,
well-equipped, late-model Cessna 172s. Riddle flight line managers
pride themselves for having as many planes on the flight line, and
as few down for maintenance at any given time, as is humanly
But they're probably wishing that they had more planes down for
maintenance and safely locked in the hangar last week. A sudden
hailstorm caught almost the entire fleet on the ground and savaged
it with larger-than-golfball hailstones. The 48 planes on the field
suffered broken skylights and water penetration; there were also a
lot of damaged control surfaces (the skins on Cessna control
surfaces are not as thick -- read "hail-resistant" -- as the main
The only undamaged machines were one
in the maintenance hangar, and one away from the field, in the air,
when the storm passed through.
The Cessnas weren't the only planes savaged by the hail. "All
the other aircraft that were exposed (PA-44, PA-28) are down for
dings on the control surfaces," a Riddle insider, who preferred not
to be quoted by name, told Aero-News. PA-44 Seminoles are used in
multi-engine training, and PA-28R Arrows are used in the Commercial
But the most serious interruption to the university's feverish
training pace is caused by the 172 debacle. "Every 172 is down for
broken skylights," the same source told us (exaggerating slightly
-- after all, there were two undamaged planes!) "Cessna sent their
rep to see the damage and I believe they added another shift to get
the necessary parts down to us."
What's Cessna Doing?
At this writing, a Cessna
spokeswoman said no new workers or hours have been added as a
result of the hail storm.
"I've checked with our facilities in Columbus,
GA, and Independence, KS," said Cessna's Jessica Myers. "We haven't
added a shift at either facility for this. We have added shifts in
certain areas for our regular production (because we plan to
deliver approximately 900 single engines this year), but we haven't
added any shifts specifically related to ERAU."
Transparencies for the single-engine line are mostly made in
Cessna's Pawnee Plant at Wichita, and shipped by truck to
Independence (for production) or directly from the Pawnee Plant to
maintenance customers or parts distributors. The shipping
facilities are immediately adjacent to where these parts are
These Parts WIll Be High Priority
Embry-Riddle is a flagship customer
for Cessna, and the manufacturer could be expected to pull out all
the stops. But Cessna is always prepared for an emergency like
this, and has procedures in place to get the customer back in the
air ASAP. Like many manufacturers, Cessna prioritizes service
parts, when, like this, they have a customer at a standstill. Parts
that are for a customer aircraft on the ground are always marked
with a large red AOG (Aircraft on the Ground) tag and expedited at
every stage of manufacture and delivery.
Meanwhile, Back In Daytona Beach...
Students, who are young and
ambitious by definition, and perhaps a little impatient, are
chafing at the shortage of aircraft, and maintainers and schedulers
are doing all they can; fortunately it's the end of an academic
year so flight operations are not at peak levels.
This might be the ideal time for anyone who's normally
intimidated by the intensive training traffic to fly in to DAB --
it's bound to be a little lighter for a couple of days.
Aero-News Is On The Story
We're following up with sources at Riddle and in the
manufacturing community (remember, a number of New Piper planes are
down, also), so this is unlikely to be our last word on the
subject. When (if?) the manufacturers get back to us, you bet we'll
tell you what they have to say.