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For when it quits.

I first became enthralled with aviation at the age of 10, watching in awe as a crop duster roared, soared, swooped and climbed while spraying pesticide over a field of soybeans on our family farm. Thirty years later, during my primary flight training, I learned a valuable lesson about aircraft aerodynamics and control back when aircraft spins were still on the optional training menu.

With that experience and my newly issued private pilot license in my pocket, I began to build cross-country flight time. 4.4 On one such trip, I landed at the airfield in eastern North Carolina from which the crop cluster of my youth operated.

Sure enough, there sat this big, beautiful, yellow biplane with its massive radial engine. It had only the minimum flight instruments in the panel. However, I was intrigued by the hand-written note taped to the panel. It simply said, "When It Quits."

I often wonder what were the critical actions that pilot had committed to memory in the event of an engine failure. Step one may have been to pull a lever to disgorge his 300-gallon cargo of liquid pesticide. Step two may have been deciding which six rows of soybeans he was going to take out during his off-airport landing!

As pilots we are constantly reminded that two of the most critical phases of flight are the low and slow 90-degree base turn to final and the low and slow engine failure during takeoff. My home airport has a huge rock quarry on arriving one runway as you turn base to final: the same rock quarry greets you when deputing in the opposite direction.

Base-to-final arrivals to the other runway are conducted directly over a massive shopping center and a huge parking lot filled with cars. A similar view awaits when departing in that direction.

The lesson I've learned from these experiences is to always have a plan of action in the event of an inadvertent stall/spin entry, or a low-altitude departure engine-out emergency. In the interest of flight safety, not to mention self preservation, never ever, ever tune out that calm voice in the back of your mind that quietly whispers, "What if it quits?"

A Special Note

If you've ever wanted to see something you wrote appear with your name on it in an aviation magazine, here's your chance. Each month, this space is devoted to giving readers the opportunity to share with other pilots something they've learned about flying aircraft. We'll always assure anonymity if you want it, but we'll be happy to put your name on it, also.

Check the instructions at left, then write up what happened, how you dealt with it and what you learned. Be sure to let us know if we can use your name!

The following information is derived from the FAA's Service Difficulty Reports and Aviation Maintenance Alerts.


Cracked Control Yoke

The pilot's control yoke (p/n 3538006035) was found cracked. An earlier attempt had been made to repair the yoke using glue. Aircraft had operated for 20.7 hours since previous inspection.

Part Total Time: 3560


Corroded Control Yoke

During preflight, the pilot couldn't move elevator flight controls. Inspection revealed weld in yoke assembly (p/n 05600145) broken off due to corrosion inside the tube.

Part Total Time: 6162 hours


Loose Fasteners

Slight twitch or looseness was discovered in yoke when positioned to the right, resulting in lagging control response on initial roll input. Pilot control yoke fasteners (p/n 126014017) at the control column tube were found loose. They were secured with Locktite. Aileron cable tensions were found within limits.

Part Total Time: 8323 hours


Cracked Upper Yoke

During landing flare, pilot's voke snapped, resulting in a go-around. Inspection revealed yoke was cracked completely through upper left hand corner. Yoke material appears to be plastic; suggest removal of all plastic yokes from service and replacement with aluminum.

Part Total Time: Unknown


Cracked Yoke

During annual inspection, owner requested control yokes be changed. Both yokes were found to be cracked on the lower side. through the hole for the roll pin. The condition was not visible without removing emblem and yoke, as plastic coating on yoke exterior had not cracked even though aluminum yoke beneath was cracked fully through. If yokes are removed or emblem is removed. look hard for cracks in line with roll pin hole.

Part Total Time: 3428 hours

GULF5TPEAMGIV Locked Pitch Control

Takeoff was aborted after discovering the control yoke pitch axis was locked. Maintenance performed thorough visual inspections of the gamma tubes and other areas while cable runs in the boiler room and aft quadrant were inspected for defects. Numerous panels were removed to inspect flight control system for defects and FOD. No FOD or defects found. High-speed taxi tests verified freedom of movement.

Aircraft Total Time: 13,841 hours
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Publication:Aviation Safety
Date:Aug 1, 2014
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