When a Boeing 757 crashed in the ocean less than five minutes after takeoff in 1996, it tragically killed all 189 people on board Birgenair Flight 301. The black box revealed that the instrument panel had told the very experienced captain they were going too fast, so he slowed down too much and crashed.

 

In reality the air speed gauge was completely malfunctioning because a small insect had plugged it.

The sensor measures wind speed using a small, onehalf inch hole in the exterior of the plane, and that hole had been plugged while the plane had been sitting at the airport for three weeks.

 

It was first thought that one of the common mud dauber wasps plugged the hole with mud, but later it was proved that another wasp, called a “keyhole wasp,” was more likely the culprit. This wasp looks for pre-existing tunnels or holes to nest in, and seals the hole with a neat mud plug. The plug made by keyhole wasps

is somewhat hidden inside the hole, so it was easily missed when the plane was inspected before takeoff.