Discuss the problems and solutions to all of the situations that Pilot X finds himself in.
By Echo Delta
#1116121
The dog that bit

‘Patience’ is missing from this grumpy pilot’s checklist. Adrian Bleese takes time-out to tell us the story

It would be a cold day in hell before Pilot X would admit that he couldn’t be there on time. What was the point of bragging about his aeroplane and his flying licence if he turned up late or, worse still, by train? He swore at the cold, miserable fog as he drove to the airfield, cursing the radio for its lack of weather reports.
The cheery engineer by the hangar – saying he’d heard that it would clear soon and at least the fog would give X some time to de-ice the aeroplane – did little to lift his spirits. If the engineer had a dog, Pilot X may well have kicked it. He stomped over to the parked Cessna, frowning at all the tie-downs. It was perfectly
safe behind the hangar and the trees! Why people insisted on tying the wings and the tail down he had no idea; he certainly never did. He dragged over the steps and climbed up to check the fuel contents; the gauges were worse than useless and it was bound to need refuelling, no one ever bothered. It would be better if the gauges were just plain broken, at least then there’d be a possibility that they’d read correctly once in a while.
Pilot X had given up checking the fuel in-flight, there was no point; he knew how much he started with and how long he’d flown for, that was enough. It was a pointless item on the checklist for this aeroplane.
“Oh, great, typical.” Pilot X fought with the fuel cap and, had he been in a lighter frame of mind, even he would have to admit that the fuel cap being frozen solid was less than typical. He spent a bitter and miserable time de-icing the aeroplane before finally wrestling the fuel cap free only to find out that the tanks were full to the top.
‘Who the hell flew this aeroplane last? No-one ever bothers filling it up, usually,’ he grumbled to himself as he climbed down and tried with numb fingers to loosen the cold, wet ropes tying the little Cessna to the ground. He finally finished his walkround and headed back to the little clubhouse to smoke desultory cigarettes and kick at inanimate objects; the fog had still not lifted.
Time and again he glared at his watch, which seemed to move in an odd, jerky fashion; he’d look at it six times in a row and barely a minute would have passed. Then he’d glance it at again and realise just how late he was going to be and how little of an option even driving there now was. Not even anyone to grumble to, the engineer had left while X was doing his checks, wisecracking his way past him about how he loved an optimist.

Always the optimist
He walked down to the runway and, as he did, the day seemed to warm up slightly, there was blue up above, the fog swirling around the trees and hangars was the very last of it; he could make it after all. He quickly checked the TAFs for his destination on his phone as he walked back to the aeroplane, his mood lifting with the mist; even the actuals en route were looking promising.
He jumped in and whizzed through the checks, giving an extra pump on the primer for good luck. The engine started first time and he taxied out, checking the brakes and switches as he went. A quick blind call on the airfield frequency and he backtracked to the end of the runway, carrying out his power checks there to minimise delays. Full power, everything in the green, he was going to make it.
Climb out at 65kt, through five hundred feet, start the turn to the left, then… a cough, a splutter, silence and a windmilling prop.
“This can’t be happening!”
X looked disbelievingly at the throttle that he was still holding and the mixture lever next to it, both fully forward.
“It just can’t be bloody happening.”
Six hundred feet. What to do now? Carry on the turn that he’d started and get back to the airstrip or pick a field somewhere ahead? He lowered the nose to keep up the speed and made his decision; he was on final approach. There was a field up ahead, which looked good but he was probably too high, then there was a road, then another field. If he tried to get into the nearer one he might overrun and end up on the road; he was at the point where he didn’t need to make the correct decision, any decision would be the right one.
The speed was OK. Try a Mayday on the frequency in use which he knew to be unmonitored, but hoped to God it wasn’t… he crossed the first field, the hedge at the far side looked tall and close, but he cleared it. He pulled back and he was over the road and could feel the aircraft juddering as he crossed the far hedge, dropping into the field. He touched the surface and the cloying mud of the furrowed field grabbed the main wheels, bringing him to a sickening, crunching, shuddering halt. No time to turn anything off, just get out and run.
As he forced his way out, his legs gave way, just as those of the Cessna had done seconds before. Pilot X dragged himself away and clambered to shaky, unsteady feet; moving further from the poor, shattered and buckled little aeroplane. The only emotion that he could summon up was pity for the mangled flying machine in front of him with crooked and collapsed undercarriage and bowed and broken starboard wing.
Suddenly, he felt very cold and aware of the silence that surrounded him; everything had stopped and there was no sign of fire.
Pilot X pulled out his mobile and, standing shivering in the bleak and melancholy mud of a ploughed field, spoke into the handset, “Police, please.”
His next phone call was, in some ways, even worse.
“Hi,” he mumbled. “I’m afraid there’s been a bit of a hold-up. I probably won’t be there on time.” ■


Questions
1 What may have been the cause of the engine failure?

2 At 600ft with fairly still conditions should Pilot X have turned back for the field?

3 Should he have landed in the nearer field?
User avatar
By adhawkins
#1116138
1 What may have been the cause of the engine failure?

Did he do a fuel test? My first thought when he was surprised that the tanks were full was that they might be full of water...

2 At 600ft with fairly still conditions should Pilot X have turned back for the field?

Not sure I would...

3 Should he have landed in the nearer field?

Probably. Better to hit the far hedge while slowing down than stall in trying to make the next field.

Andy
User avatar
By madmaveric
#1116249
Not qualified to answer this but I fancy a go anyway :P

1) Was it even his plane? (I have once gotten on someone else's motorbike by mistake, it was identical even to the number plate being one number out :shock: , both bikes being 3 days old and from the same shop but parked at a pub 25 miles away from said shop)
Could have been water in fuel or someone fueled it with wrong fuel and just left it (did he check the log to see if the last user fueled to leave then found an a engine/fuel problem and tied it up and went home).
If not then I would say carb icing, as no mention of carb heat in there and definitely icing conditions there

2) nope too much risk of stalling in the turn

3) yup, side slip and brake into a hedge at low speed better than stalling into whatever lies the other side of the second hedge.

How'd I do :P
By johnm
#1116280
How'd I do


Pretty well I'd say :D

Water or ice in fuel and carb ice in any combination. Ice in fuel is particulalrly nasty as you won't see it in a fuel drain check. Keeping the tanks full is actually quite a good idea as it reduces the risk of getting condensation the tanks. Turn back at 600 ft probably could be done but very risky, so landing in first field with a sideslip if need be would get my vote
User avatar
By kanga
#1116320
johnm wrote:
How'd I do


Pretty well I'd say :D

Water or ice in fuel and carb ice in any combination. Ice in fuel is particulalrly nasty as you won't see it in a fuel drain check. Keeping the tanks full is actually quite a good idea as it reduces the risk of getting condensation the tanks. ..


my thought exactly. If fuel cap seals were poor, then given overnight cold with high humidity (causing fog in morning), water could have got in in 'surprising' (but not surprising to those used to some N American locations winter conditions) quantity, thus filling the 'usually never refilled' tanks. There might well then be a block of ice at each tank outlet (not apparent on drain). Taxiing and t/o run would have been on, and have exhausted, the fuel in the pipework between tanks and engine.
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By KNT754G
#1116419
The frozen fuel cap was my first clue that there was a high probability of water in the fuel.

Absolutely no turn back at that level unless the pilot was in regular practice at such a manouever, having started training for it at 4,000'

The far hedge at walking speed is always preferable to the near hedge at flying speed. Go for the first field with flap as necessary.
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By GrahamB
#1116472
1) Almost certainly a large lump of water in the fuel due to leaking fuel caps - hence the unexpected full tanks, and frozen caps.

2) No, unless you know exactly what you are doing and have practiced it at altitude.

3) Nearest field, for the reasons given above.

I've never bought the idea of condensation in a partially empty tank resulting in a large amount of water in the fuel. To use an extreme example, cooling 75 litres of 100% saturated air from 30 degC to zero will condense about 2ml of water. At 36lph this would be pulled through the engine in 0.2 of a second, so is unlikley to cause a stoppage.

That amount would be a problem if it was frozen in a line, or the carb itself, but if that were the case it would be unlikly that the engine would start at all.

I've owned an aircraft, or share of one, for 17 years, both kept outside and in a hangar at Welshpool (i.e Wales, and 400yds from the Severn), and I have never yet found water in the fuel despite religiously dipping tanks as part of my pre-flight checks. IMO condensation into fuel is a theoretical possibility, but in practice is a myth.
User avatar
By kanga
#1116579
GrahamB wrote:... IMO condensation into fuel is a theoretical possibility, but in practice is a myth.


not in Maryland .. :?
By johnm
#1116592
I've owned an aircraft, or share of one, for 17 years, both kept outside and in a hangar at Welshpool (i.e Wales, and 400yds from the Severn), and I have never yet found water in the fuel despite religiously dipping tanks as part of my pre-flight checks. IMO condensation into fuel is a theoretical possibility, but in practice is a myth.


I agree that this may not be the major issue, but I used to keep my Archer outside at Kemble and the only time I ever got water in the sample was when I'd left it very low on fuel for a week in seriously cold and foggy weather.
By rssaero
#1116603
The best way to get water in the fuel is through a cap, the seal of which has perished and it's happened to me on the same type of a/c Graham B flies! The drain which (should) take water from around the cap (and runs down a pipe through the tank to the underneath of the wing) had become blocked. This blockage can be noticeable if you check the a/c immediately after heavy rain - the recess is full so if you then open the cap and let more in!

So - water in fuel (cap frozen by trapped water around the cap), don't turn back at anything under about 1000'+ and near field for a slower accident!
By zlhglp
#1116675
I've certainly found water in aircraft that were kept out in the rain. I find it very unlikely that the rain could have caused the tanks to be filled with water though - more likely to be in the region of mls, not liters.

1)
The fuel cap was frozen solid, which implies that it was able to allow water under the seal. This water will have gotten into the tank. The airframe appears to be cold-soaked so this was probably ice, but may have melted as the aircraft warmed.

Another potential cause - ice in the tank vents, causing fuel starvation. A possibility, perhaps, in freezing-fog.

A quick take-off sounds unlikely to have warmed the oil up.

Failure to realise that aircraft are not a reliable form of transport in this country.

2) No, 600 feet is way too low in a Cessna, even for people who have practised for such an eventuality.

3) You had to be there to know, though the general idea that you are better to risk running into an obstacle at slow speed rather than flying or stalling into a more distant obstacle is sound. The fact that pilot X cleared the hedge so narrowly implies that he could have made the first field, as with full flaps and sideslip you can go lose height surprisingly fast, but I'm told this is a bad idea on some 152s as you lose pitch stability. The surface in the second field sounds poor.

I would not have bothered with a radio call to a frequency I expected to be unmonitored - better to fly the plane.

I think the pilot was correct not to try restarting the engine at this altitude - too much of a distraction and would have complicated the identification of the correct field to land in. He should also be congratulated for not bringing the nose down when the engine stopped at quite a vulnerable part of the climb - 65 knots, nose-high, banked. Brisk decisionmaking isn't always a bad thing!
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By KNT754G
#1116696
kanga wrote:
GrahamB wrote:... IMO condensation into fuel is a theoretical possibility, but in practice is a myth.


not in Maryland .. :?

I have experienced it in the Isle of Man.

Drip checked the tanks first thing inthe morning, completely clear.
Flew to Jurby for Air display.
Clear blue sky and hot sun all day long.
Check aircraft out late afternoon, significant water in both tanks, needed three samples from each to give clear fuel sample.

It does happen, beware!
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By tomshep
#1117013
The aircraft was filled to the brim and tied down properly. Not Pilot X's style. Anybody that careful would have turned the fuel cock off. Anybody that careless might not have checked. Water in the fuel a distinct possibility but I bet the tap was off.
Don't turn back, nose down to gather some speed and put it on the floor asap.
#1117750
1 Carb ice is a possibility but water in the fuel is most likely. He raced through his checks so may not have checked his carb heat. Certainly any water in the tanks would not have worked its way through the system. A proper tech log would show how much fuel uplift there had been.
2, Put a C152 into a medium turn at best glide speed and look at the VSI. Do not turn back!
3, Trying to stretch a glide simply won't work. If you have badly misjudged and can make another field without stretching, that's another thing.