Discuss the problems and solutions to all of the situations that Pilot X finds himself in.
#1136445
A Bright New Year for Pilot X

Cessna or Piper? High-wing or low? What difference can it make that a quick few minutes conversion training can’t solve? Adrian Bleese on Pilot X’s bright New Year

One 3rd January, with the ink on his PPL barely dry, X had turned up at his local airfield with the intention of stretching his aviation limits. To be brutally honest, his boundaries didn’t currently extend too far, so it shouldn’t really be that tough. His entire aviation experience to date comprised his flight training and a handful of post-qualification hours, all in the redoubtable Cessna 152. This year he planned to do more, fly something new, see new sights, and learn more. That had to start somewhere and today he planned to convert to the Cherokee and, if all went well, take a trip further afield. He had planned a route that took him just 45 minutes from home but over some gorgeously rugged countryside to an airfield he’d never visited before.
X had booked the aircraft for the morning and the instructor for the first hour. For once the weather seemed to be on his side – the fronts that had brought cloud and snow had moved away leaving bright and cold conditions behind them. It took Pilot X and his young instructor a surprisingly long time to sweep and brush the aircraft clear of snow. Luckily, they didn’t need any fuel; according to the instructor it had a couple of hours in each side, more than enough for today’s trip. Even so, X’s hour was already pretty much up.
“Don’t worry,” his instructor had told him, “it won’t take us long, it’s just a big, upside-down 152; even the speeds are much the same.” So Pilot X settled himself down in the left-hand seat and they whizzed through the checks. The instructor had been right, there wasn’t really that much difference: just the fuel pump. “Put it on below 1,000 and if swapping tanks.” And the fuel selector, “Don’t bother switching for now, there’s about the same in both.”
Take-off was smooth and straight and they climbed away nicely − out to the local area for some turns, getting steeper as his confidence grew. A couple of stalls, one clean and one with that massive handbrake of a flap-lever fully up. All went well and the instructor was keen to get back into the circuit and move on to his next lesson. The approach and landing were straightforward and the instructor was more than happy to taxi in.
“Just do one circuit by yourself and, if it all feels good, do a touch-and-go and head off.”
So, Pilot X did just as he’d been shown and everything seemed to go quite well, even if he did float a little bit more than he’d expected. Yeah, he was fine, full power. But the climbout wasn’t like before, everything felt and looked wrong. The houses seemed much bigger, the angles weren’t right, the bloody flap-lever was still up. He dropped it a notch and things improved, he breathed out, settled down and dropped it another notch. OK, he could do this. One mistake, he’d recovered. Just pay attention from now on.
Everything calmed down and he set course; taking the opportunity to really look around for the first time at the wonderful, white world beneath him, the roads, towns and woods standing out starkly against the snow. He joined the circuit at his destination and pulled off one of those landings that you wish more people had seen. As he stepped from the wing he had a rising feeling of pride, which he knew was massively out of proportion with what he had actually achieved. He almost swaggered over towards the black C to pay his landing fee and buy a coffee to warm up.
He was feeling just as proud as he strolled purposefully back out to his aeroplane and looked it over before climbing in and starting up for the journey home. With the flaps where they belonged, the climbout was a much less nerve-wracking affair, though he did seem to be putting in constant right aileron. Soon he was settled in the cruise, chart tucked away, everything trimmed out...
It was then that the engine stopped; it didn’t skip, it didn’t cough, it didn’t splutter, it stopped.
OK, he could stay calm, he looked out through the slowing prop. Suddenly the white mountains and hidden fields looked menacing and cold. He set up the glide and ran through his checks: primer locked, mags on both, throttle open, carb heat to hot and fuel checked. Oh, bugger. He was flying with one empty tank, one full tank and a stopped engine; not ideal.
OK, what was it the instructor said? Fuel pump on when swapping tanks, okay, fuel pump on and where the hell was the fuel selector? It wasn’t between the seats, it wasn’t on the panel, where the hell could they hide a fuel selector?
It became clear that he couldn’t stay calm and would need to tell someone about his impending doom on a snow-covered peak; but where was he? He picked up the chart from its place next to his left leg. Ah! That’s where the fuel selector is. He swapped tanks and the noise returned.
He’d cheated an icy death but the ice stayed in his veins for the rest of the day and still returns when he allows his mind to wander back to that New Year’s resolution. ■

Questions
1 Was missing the flap retraction a clue that X should not have gone on?

2 What led to him missing the fuel imbalance?

3 Were there any earlier clues to his impending plight?
By riverrock
#1136458
Echo Delta wrote:Questions
1 Was missing the flap retraction a clue that X should not have gone on?

2 What led to him missing the fuel imbalance?

3 Were there any earlier clues to his impending plight?


Obvious answers first
1
Not being a 152 driver, others will correct me, but I believe it's normal to retract flaps on go-around on a C125, just as it is on a PA28. Therefore it should have been normal to have done so. Forgetting to do it shows pilot X may have been distracted or over worked with the new type.
2
He was not used to checking for a fuel imbalance as his normal Steed - a Cessna 152 has a "both" option when selecting fuel tanks. In a PA28 you need to select one tank or the other. It would not be his usual pattern to switch tanks frequently.
3
The abnormal attitude (with one wing wanting to be lower than the other) should have been a clue that something was wrong. This was likely caused by the fuel imbalance.


When looking at a new type, I would expect to read the Pilot Handbook and so know things like the fuel selector and the speeds before getting in the cockpit. Not knowing this suggests a general lack of preparation. Although still a student I have flown both high and low wing types and there are other things, such as different blind spots, which should have been covered for someone who is converting, beyond the type differences.
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By tomshep
#1137409
New type, high workload. Mistakes are possible at any time but Pilot X realised that something was wrong and dealt with it so he is in control and shouldn't draw stumps just yet. Fuel imbalance would have been a new concept to him, the instructor should have been more thorough about the fuel management and should have been satisfied that Pilot X was fully au fait with it before sending him solo. His complacency transferred to Pilot X who ought to have known (or ought to have had it explained to him) that the tanks ought to be switched to keep the aircraft flying level. Another hour's dual would have done him a favour.
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By Gertie
#1137421
tomshep wrote:Another hour's dual would have done him a favour.

Yes. One has to ask WTF the instructor was up to, and back a level WTF the school was up to accepting the solo booking before the sign-off.
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By KNT754G
#1138087
The root cause is before he ever got airborne in the PA28.

Power checks, first item CHANGE TANKS. clearly not done. The instructor needs sacking!
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By Keef
#1138257
I blame the instructor. He should never have advised “Don’t bother switching for now, there’s about the same in both.”

With a PA28, I change tanks after start and before taxying (just to be sure they both work), and then every half hour in the air. In fact, I had G-UTSY's kit set up to remind me every half hour. I don't change at the holding point - that's a good recipe for a fault to stop the engine just as you get airborne.
#1138408
1. Possibly, it indicates he wasn't really on top of the new type.
2. Inadequate differences training. Not just about getting used to handling
variations, but also fuel system. These differences should be pointed out in a
proper briefing. Instructor should have known better.
3. Lop-sided attitude was a good clue.

I learnt on an aircraft with a simple on/off fuel tap for a single tank, whereas the first aircraft I bought had wing tanks . I was utterly paranoid about managing the fuel system properly. I know of one example of an owner of the same type as mine, who failed to select the second tank and the engine stopped on final.
#1143611
Blimey. I really hope that sort of conversion training no longer happens.
When I do conversions the first thing I do is point out the gotchas in differences. With a Cherokee versus a 152 it will be the position of the wing and lack of gravity feed for the fuel system along with an inability to run on both tanks. Different blind spots, mushy stall, different v speeds and hugely different attitude with 2 stages of flap which is the short field takeoff technique.
The primer is half the size too.
After that I would take them for a few circuits close to MAUW to show them the difference.
Of course that's all in the PoH so the first thing they do is look at that.