When Gust Locks Go Bad

Gust locks are our friends … really … but they don’t like to be ignored. They keep our controls locked in position, so that they aren’t subjected to the abuse of Mother Nature while our airplanes sit out in the weather. In doing so, they reduce wear and tear on the control systems, and keep our planes safe to fly in between those times we are in the air with them. Still, some gust locks have caused problems, most notably due to pilots failing to remove them, and then trying to take off.

In this case, we have a different example — a gust lock that was properly removed, but was then damaged due to actions that the pilot took while taxiing.

DAMAGED YOU SAY? The aircraft affected are outlined in Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin CE-03-17, and include the Cessna Model 402C, 414A and 421C — all of which have a rudder lock that isn’t like your regular gust lock. By regular, we mean removable, since most gust locks are a pin that sticks into a hole in the control yoke and the collar, locking the control yoke in a particular place. In the case of the Cessna models noted above, the rudder lock is actually a lever in the cockpit, and is not removed, but instead moved from one position to another to lock and unlock the rudder.

THE SET UP — Our pilot was taxiing with the rudder lock installed. The POH for the airplane in question noted that the gust lock should have been disengaged, but for some reason, it wasn’t. (Note: If you try to taxi with the rudder lock installed, the rudder pressures needed to turn the plane are greatly increased, which should be a tip off.)

During the taxi operations, the pilot — with the gust lock engaged — turned the aircraft hard to the right, putting the nose wheel against the stops. He also pulled back on the elevator, bending the internal gust lock up and back. The cam was then free to catch and hold the locking pin instead of releasing the mechanism!

NOT GOOD – Our pilot’s actions resulted in a messed up cam. He took off, and during takeoff, the rudder locked up as he lifted off the ground. Fortunately for our pilot, he was able to move the elevator and rudder pedals around until the damaged cam let go of his rudder controls.

THE RUDDER CONTROLS YAW, or the left and right motion of the aircraft’s nose. The rudder is CRITICAL in twin engine operation, as it allows the pilot to counter the force of a lost engine in flight. If one of the engines had failed on takeoff, the pilot might not have had the ability to control the aircraft. The result would have been a less than perfect landing, and more likely, would have resulted in substantial damage to the aircraft.

HAD YOUR PLANE PAINTED? In some cases, this installed handle, which should be red on the bottom (so that when it is actuated, it is obvious) may not have been repainted red after the paint job was complete. The label might also be missing, which can lead to problems since as a new or transitioning pilot, you might not recognize the importance of this control.

OWN A 402C, 414A, or 421C? Better read up on Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) CE-03-17. If you don’t … knowing how another pilot got himself into and out of trouble can help you in your daily flying activities. It can also help you to learn what the pilot did to cause the problem, and then changing your habits to avoid doing the same thing.


  1. While SAIBs aren’t an AD, they are still worth reading to learn from other pilot’s problems.
  2. Following the POH and preflight checklist is important. Deviations can cause problems that result in SAIBs.
  3. When you get your plane painted, make sure that all the important stuff gets painted in the correct color … RED usually indicates something important.

Find SAIBs in pdf format at: http://av-info.faa.gov/ad/saibs.html