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I've written a legal thriller. One scene involves the antagonist lawyers hiring someone at O'Hare to sabotage some other lawyers' private jet so that it crashes. But I don't know enough about aviation to write a plausible scene, as in what could someone on the ground do to down a plane that the pilots wouldn't see. So far, I've heard about someone deliberately installing the wrong size screws in the windshield because the pilot could miss them in pre-flight checks. This could cause the windshield to fail at altitude, either crashing the plane or ending in an emergency landing at the closest field. But are the screws are visible from the cockpit? And if so, would the pilot detect a problem before takeoff? Any guidance would be great. Thanks!

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marked as duplicate by Ralph J, fooot, David Richerby, Pondlife, abelenky Sep 10 '18 at 0:17

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  • $\begingroup$ Does this have to look like a accident, especially afterwards? Something which looks like a vibration fatigue failure maybe work in this case, but is probably fatal and require some kind of access to plane and have to look like maintenance. If you don't need to hide you can manipulate the fuel in one of the tanks, can be done quickly, which will only be used later during flight (depends on plane type?) and cause all engines to fail. Here is the chance much higher for the pilots to save the situation. Of course your free to serve the pilots decaffeinated coffee, serious harm ;) $\endgroup$ – Peter Sep 10 '18 at 9:16
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I would suggest to look into Wikipedia overview on Category:Airliner accidents and incidents caused by maintenance errors, immediately focusing on the "Investigation" sections. Some errors could be reproduced deliberately.

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Depends on the plane. On many the windshields are sandwiched in place between riveted strips of metal - no screws.

Might have better luck messing with the O2 system, reference the golfer Payne Stewart's jet plane accident.

From Wikipedia:

On October 25, 1999, a month after the American team rallied to win the Ryder Cup and four months after his U.S. Open victory, Stewart was killed in the crash of a Learjet flying from his home in Orlando, Florida, to Texas for the year-ending tournament, The Tour Championship, held at Champions Golf Club in Houston. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators concluded that the aircraft failed to pressurize and that all on board were incapacitated due to hypoxia as the aircraft passed to the west of Gainesville, Florida. The aircraft continued flying on autopilot until it ran out of fuel and crashed into a field near Mina, South Dakota.

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