Concerned About Flap Canoes

July 6, 2010

in Airplane Stories

I make my home in SE Alaska, so our only carrier is Alaska Airlines.

On a southbound trip out of Sitka, I was seated in a window seat on the left side, just behind the wing.  As I settled into my seat for the short flight, I noticed an anomaly on the left wing.  You’ve probably all seen those small pods that are attached to the trailing edge of the wing.  I’ve since discovered that they’re called “flap canoes.”  Their purpose is to house the machinery that controls the extension and retraction of the flaps, those movable segments on the back edge of the wing that can be extended to provide essential additional lift on takeoff and landing.  The canoes themselves are streamlined to offer less drag, and they taper to their rear.

Well, I noticed that the back half of the canoe housing was missing and that I could look up into the innards where the flap drives were located.  I didn’t think too much about this, figuring that the flight crew knew what they were doing.  Surely the plane had been given a walk-around inspection before flight and had passed.  We took off and the flight down to Ketchikan was uneventful.

About ten days later, I was once again traveling out of Sitka, also southbound, and was seated in approximately the same position on the left side of the plane.  As I took my seat, I realized that I was on the same aircraft as my previous flight, since the flap canoe housing on this plane was still missing on its rear half; the trailing portion of the canoe had not yet been replaced!  I had the same view of the machinery inside the canoe, still exposed to the Alaskan elements.

A couple of the guys around me also noticed this defect and we were discussing it when the flight attendant came by.  We told her that part of the plane was missing and inquired if this was safe.  She said she’d question the captain about it.  She returned a couple minutes later with the message that the pilot had said everything was OK, the rear portion of the housing “was not necessary for flight.”  Afterwards, we were all joking that they should just remove the other one, too, in order to balance out the aircraft.

Alaska Airlines pilots are among the best; they have to fly in terrible weather.  But you wonder a bit about an aircraft that goes unrepaired for ten days…

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom July 6, 2010 at 5:42 pm

I don't have much to say about your story. Just want to agree with you that Alaska Airlines has some of the best pilots. I got to take an extensive tour of Alaska years ago to several of those small airports they fly to (Ketchikan, Wrangell, Sitka, Petersburg). It was some of the most exciting flying I've ever done. God bless those guys and gals in those cockpits!


DOn July 7, 2010 at 10:07 am

And this is a "flight from hell" how???


Tom July 7, 2010 at 11:08 am

If the flap canoe was indeed missing, it would present a safety hazard that could cause a flight from hell.


Kyle April 6, 2012 at 1:34 am

Correct me if I am wrong but it would just make the mechanical parts inside the flap canoe age quicker then if the flap covers were on.

As soon as possible the Captain should cover them up or they will age twice as fast to whatever the manufacturer specifies since the salt and high humidity will find it's way in eroding the parts.


Kyle April 6, 2012 at 1:36 am

This site is pretty funny though I wish there was a sister site *Flights From Heaven* dot com where good airplane stories are put up like getting upgraded to first class or nice conversations with the FA.etc.

I am not forcing you as it's just a suggestion to balance out the karma but I am sure there are *other* ways the karma will balance out with so much negative stories and trolls on this site ready to attack. 🙂


Gregg April 6, 2012 at 8:20 pm


The domain name is currently available. Maybe you could start up such a site!


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