An anonymous forum to allow you to share those moments in flying that caused you concern. You can post without registering a username, registered users can log out to post
#1826254
I've been meaning to post this for a while, but it's only now I feel it's relevant to do so.

Not so long ago, I passed my NPPL GST in the C42, which - as many will know - is a fabulous little aircraft with some design quirks compared to others. One of those is that the throttle is located between the pilot's legs, requiring a deft bit of multi-tasking as you steer with the centre-mounted control stick and manage throttle with your left hand between your knees.

I was - and remain - a very conscientious, careful pilot and I am thoughtful, deliberate and methodical with my pre-flight checks, always paying close attention to the things that matter. On what was my first flight with a passenger after getting my licence, things were no different.

On this flight, I was accompanied in the RHS by a good, childhood friend who flies proper planes for a job. I'd explained to him that the C42 was small and that weight was at a premium, so dress and pack light. He arrived at Shoreham on the day of the flight duly trimmed down, but carrying a lightweight rucksack in which he'd got his wallet and a few bits.

After completing our briefing and checks, I taxied us out to the holding point for Runway 02 and obtained our takeoff clearance. From there, line up, throttle open and away we went.

Now, at this point I'd just passed my test and in total had 31 hours of time in the aircraft. So, as a means of excusing what follows, I'd like to say that nothing felt untowards, except perhaps the takeoff roll was a little bit slow. In my head I'd mentally prepared myself for this: it's a microlight with two gents in it, nearing the maximum MTOW limits, compared to recent flying on my own or with a smaller instructor. We got airborne, but then struggled to climb.

Looking at the engine RPM, things looked a bit slow - and I could see we really weren't gained much height. I wouldn't say that panic set in, but maybe some concern. If I'm honest, in my head I started thinking about YouTube videos I'd seen (and I think a couple will pop to mind!) of aircraft struggling to climb out and how things ended badly for them. I lowered the nose and managed to maintain height while the aircraft struggled to accelerate just a few hundred feet as the end of the runway passed below us.

I gave the throttle a hard push forward....and that's when I realised what had happened.

After my pre-flight checks, my friend had inadvertently popped his rucksack down in front of him, between his knees, without thinking anything of it. And in my pre-flight checks, although I'd checked for free and full movement of all control inputs, including the throttle, I hadn't thought to brief him NOT to put anything in that space due to the potential restriction of the throttle. When I lined up, I didn't look over to his side, but I could see that my throttle was clear between my legs and so my brain subconsciously said to me: 'all is good'.

In total, the whole thing probably lasted 15 - 20 seconds. Once I realised what had happened, I promptly told him to put his backback on his lap and once he did, suddenly I realised how restricted the throttle had been; I pushed it forward, suddently got a surge in power and began to climb away.

On this occasion, although there was a bit of drama, there was no harm done, but things could have so easily ended badly.

Lessons to be learned:

[list=]Think about WHY we have each pre-flight check, not just 'WHAT' each pre-flight check is. If I had taken some time prior to the flight to think about this, I would recognise that there is a risk in a passenger impeding the throttle accidentally and so I should have checked there was nothing in the way on their side, as much as I check mine
It sounds so blindingly obvious, but there's almost a blind assumption that 'full and free movement' applies only to the control surfaces rather than the throttle, which is such a schoolboy error to make*
Make sure you are aware of the gotchas in your aircraft and brief your passenger about them; don't assume that they know how to behave correctly (as an innocent mistake can testify)
[/list]

Finally, as controversial as this might sound, I actually think this is one of those examples where watching YouTube is really good for you. The videos I was thinking of (which you'll easily find, I think one is on FlightChops) are a good way of dealing with issues by proxy; it's actually quite refreshing to see someone else make a mistake, because you can learn from it vicariously. In this situation, I felt like I was more aware of the aircraft not climbing out correctly not because I was experiencing it directly, but because I'd seen other pilots struggling in that situation.

*I might be totally wrong, but actually looking at my checklist, I don't think there is an item for checking that the throttle is clear with free movement; it's implied as part of the controls full and free check. There are multiple checks that the throttle is set, or as part of the mag checks, but nothing after the passenger gets in - and nothing to check that the throttle can open fully.
Dodo, Rob P, TheKentishFledgling and 8 others liked this
#1826315
Thank you for taking the time to post this.
I'm still a newbie so this is a very useful example of checking for other things when the scenario differs.
I think I will be at my most nervous when I take my first pax!! I say 'well done' for remaining calm, running through your mental emergency checklist (with the aid of Flightchops) and problem solving.

My C152 checklist does state to check throttle for full and free movement, and set to 1/2" on pre-start checks. Also during power checks the movement to max power should also reveal impediments? However, as new passengers are unpredictable, that alone is a good learning point.

Sounds like the C42 has more idiosyncracies that I realised though!
#1826317
I've taken three learning points from this:
  • Ideally, stow your passenger's baggage for them - don't let them decide where to put it
  • Always do a comprehensive passenger briefing, including where not to put your hands/feet
  • When you apply full throttle, double-check the engine RPM/manifold pressure to see that you're actually making full power

I've never checked full-movement of the throttle after starting the engine (power checks on the planes I've flown don't need full throttle).

Very useful, thanks for sharing.
#1826401
Anon wrote:Finally, as controversial as this might sound, I actually think this is one of those examples where watching YouTube is really good for you.
:
I felt like I was more aware of the aircraft not climbing out correctly not because I was experiencing it directly, but because I'd seen other pilots struggling in that situation.


It's not controversial at all. It's the reason we read accident reports and "It happened to me" articles. Any information about other pilots' mistakes, however it is circulated, is a step towards other pilots not making the same mistake, and how a pilot dealt with a situation can prompt someone else to follow the correct steps. Memory can be jogged at any time by a situation.
MachFlyer, JAFO, T6Harvard and 2 others liked this
#1826446
nothing felt untowards, except perhaps the takeoff roll was a little bit slow. In my head I'd mentally prepared myself for this: it's a microlight with two gents in it, nearing the maximum MTOW limits


This was your last, and probably best chance to capture any possible problem before putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. It doesn’t matter how many times beforehand you check anything. The commencement of the take off roll is very likely the first time you will ask the engine to produce take off power. This is the moment to look at the gauges and confirm the power plant is behaving as it should.

In your case it wasn’t. A great moment to stop the take off roll and have a think, rather than wondering how on earth you managed to get airborne with a problem that needs dealing with.

To me this seems like basic stuff and I’m surprised it wasn’t covered in your training?

There are very many reasons why an engine may not produce take off power when it is required. Some of which can be checked beforehand. Some of which cannot. Continuing to check it’s performing as advertised during the take off run is the best time to capture as many of those issues as possible.

I would humbly suggest that is the most valuable take away from this event?
T6Harvard liked this
#1826521
Check “full power commanded and full power delivered “ has been quite a helpful part of my training on at least two occasions. For a fixed pitch prop, ten percent reduction in engine speed represents a twenty percent or so loss of power. It’s worth calling out the engine rpm at the start of the takeoff run and deciding whether it’s right or not.

Well done managing the situation and keeping the plane flying.
T6Harvard liked this
#1826665
A4 Pacific wrote:
nothing felt untowards, except perhaps the takeoff roll was a little bit slow. In my head I'd mentally prepared myself for this: it's a microlight with two gents in it, nearing the maximum MTOW limits


This was your last, and probably best chance to capture any possible problem before putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. It doesn’t matter how many times beforehand you check anything. The commencement of the take off roll is very likely the first time you will ask the engine to produce take off power. This is the moment to look at the gauges and confirm the power plant is behaving as it should.

In your case it wasn’t. A great moment to stop the take off roll and have a think, rather than wondering how on earth you managed to get airborne with a problem that needs dealing with.

To me this seems like basic stuff and I’m surprised it wasn’t covered in your training?

There are very many reasons why an engine may not produce take off power when it is required. Some of which can be checked beforehand. Some of which cannot. Continuing to check it’s performing as advertised during the take off run is the best time to capture as many of those issues as possible.

I would humbly suggest that is the most valuable take away from this event?


I hope the mods don't mind me re-logging in to respond to this, as otherwise I'll give the game away with my reply!

In response to this comment, I'd like to say something which might be a bit controversial: as a student pilot, or even as a newly qualified pilot, you're still operating at or near the limit of your mental capacity and still very much learning. What you say is 100% correct, but I suspect closer to 10% of students or newly qualified PPLs do it in practice, even if you might be appalled by that idea.

It is only now - after around 60 hours and a year or so post-licence - that I actually feel sufficiently relaxed and in control that I have the space/time/mental capacity to check my instruments on the takeoff roll.

In something like the C42, it's a 3-second process to gradually open the throttle, by which point it's maybe only another few seconds before you're airborne (when solo). Everything happens very, very quickly.

I remember very clearly during training how much of my effort/focus was spent just trying to keep the aircraft tracking straight down the runway. The idea that there was/is much spare capacity to check the instruments, assimilate that information, make sense of it and react correctly is purely ideological from a teaching standpoint IMHO, because I just don't believe many students or low hours pilots have that mental buffer at that stage in their flying career.

I accept that this is controversial...possibly dangerous, even. But it explains the risk of why, on a takeoff roll, I didn't abort. I was operating out of a long runway and the aircraft became airborne with plenty of runway left. I had never taken off from this airfield before (which is a lesson in itself) and I was operating near the limit of my capacity.

I totally get that this is wrong and bad practice - and of course I was taught to check instruments. And, indeed, I would always try.

However, I bet you £100 that if you put a camera in something light like the C42 and watched the eye movements of a brand newly qualified pilot, I very much doubt many - if any - actually do anything other than a superficial glance at the instruments (and they don't take any of that information in) on the takeoff roll as they are so overwhelmed. It's not until the aircraft is climbing that I would wager most have the breathing space to check their instruments.

FWIW, it's not entirely bad - I'd still set myself a mental mark on the runway and say to myself 'if I'm not airborne by that point, I'm aborting', but still...

That said, I 100% agree with you. I'm just explaining that the theory and the reality are some way apart; obtaining a licence isn't a rubber stamp to confirm you are a good pilot, merely 'not dangerous enough' to warrant not being allowed to continue your learning journey independently.
#1826748
I appreciate the time-to-look problem but surely it’s an important part of training to learn to fit in checks of static rpm, airspeed alive and Ts & Ps before you’re too far down the runway? Crikey- you can do two of the three with the brakes on or very shortly after if you really need extra time.

Frankly it _is_ dangerous in some aircraft with some loadings to attempt to take off with less than full power. The pilot has no idea whether take off will be achieved in the available runway length nor whether obstacle clearance can be achieved let alone how en route performance (eg fuel consumption, range etc) will be affected by a sub-par engine
#1827159
JAFO wrote:
cjrpaterson wrote:I've never checked full-movement of the throttle after starting the engine...


I'm not certain that that would be a great idea.


Except if you are flying from somewhere hot and high, when part of the pre take-off checks involve full throttle against the brakes, then gently leaning till slight misfire before richening a tad . Taking off fully rich might spoil/end your day. :wink:
JAFO liked this
#1834090
I have had a couple of incidents which may be of interest.
1----Coming in to land at about 300 feet the control column went stiff---fortunately realised that my passenger had a clip board in his hand which was wedging the column---lesson--put all charts, boards behind you when landing.
2--Taking of from short strip with a couple of passengers--use 2 stages of flap--pull off at 58/60
knots--. Went down strip -pulled up --no usual lift off --finally hauled it over the hedge at far end of runway. Once settled down in air realised what had happened. As i"m doing my final pre flight checks the strip owner came across to me to wish me a good flight. So the interruption caused me to leave flaps in neutral.--easily done. I always now check last item if interrupted.
and do a last final check on flaps.
T6Harvard liked this
#1834154
Distraction is a very frequent player in accidents. The human brain is highly susceptible to it. Whenever you recognise it happening BIG alarm bells should ring!

The real trick is the ‘recognise’ bit.

Best way to combat it, is to start again from the last time you were totally in the groove..... Or earlier.

Pre take off checks should be done shortly before turning on to the runway, as a final check to capture any change or omission that may have inadvertently occurred. Many people actually touch or point at the things they’re checking. Because it is so easy to just say words without actually doing anything!

Not usually a bad idea to do the more important checklists whilst stationary.