Spring is rapidly approaching and with it, its characteristic thunderstorms and high winds. It is time to review the use of gust locks and attention to wind direction when opening cabin doors and engine cowling.
Wind gusts, whether from spring storms or jet blast, can be very destructive to unrestrained control surfaces, doors and cowling. This is particularly true of larger control surfaces, such as rudders and cabin doors.
The photo is a torn rudder skin and bent vertical stabilizer hinge point, presumably caused by wind gust or jet blast. The damage was found during a routine inspection, so the damage was not noted when it occurred! The aircraft was presumably operated with the existing damage for several flights.
The vertical stabilizer hinge points were bent and the rudder skins were torn at the hinge opening when the rudder was forced to over-travel and contacted the vertical stabilizer hinge points. The resulting damage will cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair, as well as several days of aircraft downtime.
Citation 500 Series cabin doors are also prime targets for wind damage at this time of year since the wind direction and velocity quite often change hourly. An aircraft that had been parked into a light breeze an hour ago may now have a howling wind from the rear of the aircraft. An inattentive opening of the cabin door may result in damage when the wind catches the opening door, blowing it forward against the stops, breaking the stop casting and allowing the hinge to contact the hinge opening causing damage to the fuselage skin and underlying structure.
Gust locks should always be used and undivided attention given when opening any doors or cowling.