Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Carmel on the Case: Flooded Planes
After a hurricane - most of us are aware of storm damaged cars being sold as undamaged. But now, flooded airplanes are also being sold as undamaged. Even an FAA employee was fooled into almost buying one. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has more in tonight's Carmel on the Case.
WSVN--Hurricanes leave a lot of damage in their wake - not just to buildings and cars - but to airplanes too.
Dan Baker: "Where we're standing the water was probably pretty close to waist deep."
Dan Baker's Cessna was parked at the Marathon airport when Hurricane Wilma hit.
Pictures he took show the water line on a nearby fence.
Pictures from another Marathon resident also show the water line and water still standing on the tarmac after us one was re-opened to traffic.
Salt water damaged some planes so much - insurance companies declared them destroyed and paid the owners off.
Dan Baker: "So when I told him it was in the belly of the plane - the fuselage - he says we're paying you off - it's totaled."
This is a similar aircraft to Baker's with the seats removed.
You can see the kinds of control cables that would have been under saltwater in his aircraft.
And once exposed to saltwater - the cables could start to corrode.
Dan Baker: "When it gets up into the belly then it gets into wiring, it gets into control cables, it gets into antennas."
Baker signed this document - provided by his insurance company - notifying the FAA that his cessna was destroyed.
So imagine his surprise when a week later - he got a call from a man who said he was buying the plane...And that the only salt water damage was to the wheels.
Dan Baker: "I didn't want anybody to buy something that I knew could be a death trap down the road."
It turns out the "would be" buyer is an employee of the Federal Aviation Administration who was making a private purchase.
He didn't want to talk on camera but told an FAA spokesperson he was "..mislead. That there was no disclosure about the hurricane damage."
That's because when it comes to buying an aircraft - pre purchase inspections are an option to the purchaser.
Dean Jorge Guerra: "Well, saltwater causes corrosion..."
Dean Jorge Guerra is the dean of Broward Community College's Aviation Department.
He says regular inspections should catch corrosion - but they are only done once a year.
Dean Jorge Guerra: "A person that's taking an airplane should have full disclosure of what has occurred with that aircraft.
Carmel Cafiero: "And saltwater in the belly is significant?"
Jorge Guerra: "Oh yea - especially if an insurance company has already called that airplane a total - a total loss."
In 2001 - saltwater is to blame when a Cessna made what's called a hard landing at Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport.
The National Transportation Safety Board found the plane had been partially submerged by hurricane Floyd two years before in the bahamas and there was "..extensive corrosion of the yoke.".. or the plane's steering wheel.
Baker worries something like that could happen with his plane in the future.
Dan Baker: "Everyone said that if the plane was here or in Key West, it should never fly again."
Carmel Cafiero: "Baker's plane was being offered for sale by a salvage company out of Northeast Florida."
No one from the company was available for an interview.
It's attorney said Baker's plane had been offered for sale - as is - where is - and that a low sales price was warning enough that there was a problem with the plane.
But Baker worries that there is no way to warn future owners.
Dan Baker: "There's no way to track this airplane for damage unless somebody wants to report it."
And now, the FAA says planes damaged during the hurricanes are turning up in other parts of the country...And it will be posting warnings for buyers to beware.
Seven News has learned - the Department of Transportation is asking questions about what went on with Dan Baker's plane.
We will keep you posted with any significant developments.
If you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE