Catastrophe narrowly averted during children’s initiation flight in France

Kev Gregory /

Suspicious cuts were found on the wings of an aircraft that was about to carry three children on an initiation flight. 

On September 24, 2023, at Calais–Dunkerque Airport (CQF) in northern France, the pilot and president of the charity “Un enfant dans le ciel” [A child in the sky – ed. note] that organizes regular initiation flights for sick children, was conducting a walk around of the one of the Robin DR300 aircraft, registered F-BSPK, that had been used by the association.  

The Robin DR300 is a single-engine, four-seat light aircraft manufactured by the French company Avions Pierre Robin in the 1970s.

The plane was about to take off for its last 20-minute flight of the day. Three children had already boarded when a concerning discovery was made: a thin black line at the midpoint of the left wing. 

“I run my finger over it and feel a bump,” the pilot told local news Nord Littoral. “The wing was cut. I press a little, and my finger goes through.” 

About 40 centimeters (15 inches) of the leading edge of the wing was cut. Upon further inspection, another similar 20-centimeter (8 inches) incision was found on the right wing. Embedded in the cut, the pilot found a thin yet highly resistant cable with a diameter of less than one millimeter (0,03 inches) and a length of nearly 70 meters (230 feet). 

“I realized with horror the extent of the damage, grounding the aircraft immediately,” the pilot explained in a Facebook post.

The pilot raised the possibility that the cable could have belonged to a weather balloon sent to a high altitude that was struck by the aircraft mid-flight. However, it seems unlikely that it could have damaged both wings of the aircraft.  

Another theory being considered is that the cable was intentionally or accidentally left on the runway, meaning the aircraft ran into it during either takeoff or landing. 

Whether it was an accident or willful sabotage, such structural damage to the wings could have led to disastrous consequences, had the aircraft taken off for another flight. 

“It was a guaranteed crash,” the pilot commented. 

The French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis (BEA) reportedly opened an investigation, though this is yet to be announced on its website. The flying club which owns the aircraft also filed a complaint with the police. 

AeroTime reached out to “Un enfant dans le ciel” for comment. 

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