Stupid pilot tricks: creativity has it's downside. Every year our comrades come up with brilliant, new ways to bend airplanes.
As always, we've confined ourselves to non-fatal bump-ups from the NTSB database. The serious souls seeking meaning in all things aviation can consider this a litany of what not to do--ever. The rest of us will just relax and enjoy the giggle. (For those of you keeping score at home, the original reports are from the year 2004.)
Normally we take a pass on garden-variety fuel exhaustion and starvation. It's just too common and depressing. Occasionally, however, pilots will ferret out new and exciting ways to commit nonignition, which we dutifully pass on.
A Kansas PA-24-250 pilot was ferrying his aircraft, and the soon-to-be new owner, back to home plate to finalize the deal. Around midnight, and about 40 miles from the destination, the first tank ran dry. The passenger/ purchaser suggested that they stop at one of the two airports a couple of miles away, "... because it would look pretty stupid to come up short on fuel after flying past two airports."
The ATP pilot/owner assured him there was enough aboard. And there was. Just enough to put them down in a grassy area next to a well-lit street. Ya reckon the resulting damage to the right wing, undercarriage and prop affected the prospective sale price?
Not to be outdone was the Arkansas C-150 driver who landed for gas after hours. Our intrepid aviator didn't want to wait the hour and pay the $30 for the fuel call-out, so he checked the tanks with an available broomstick and departed for cheaper fuel about 20 miles away--and made it 10 miles.
Although he told the arriving sheriff's deputy that he ran out of gas, the 19-year-old pilot's recollection must have improved with time. The official statement to the NTSB included an elaborate scenario involving mixture issues, gas fumes in the cockpit and then loss of power. Curiously, no gas was observed in the wings or on the ground. Must have been the Fuel Fairy.
Last but not least in this category was the Texas Cessna 210 jockey who waited until he had 10 minutes of gas left to use the E-word and ask ATC for help. During vectors, the engine quit graveyard dead, resulting in a gliding IMC descent through about 5000 feet of cloud. He broke out roughly 1000 feet above the ground, turned into the wind, and put it down in a partially obstructed field. Having used up several lifetime's worth of luck, all three aboard walked away.
OK, show of hands: How many in the class have not caught themselves creeping forward a few uncommanded inches in the run-up area with just the toe brakes on? Then again, at least you were using the toe brakes, unlike the hapless Florida pilot aboard one of two PA-24 trainers set to depart for an hour of fun in the sun. The solo student pilot in the number two position running at 1000 rpm reached back for a water bottle that was just a teensy bit out of reach. Thinking he had set the parking brake, he released the toe brakes and promptly buried the spinner in number one's empennage. Hey, at least he didn't come up with some weasel nonsense about the Hydraulic Fairy.
You know those airpark places where folks taxi around the streets and airplanes have the right of way? An interesting twist on that theme was provided by the Texas Mooney M20E pilot who managed to overshoot the 3000-foot runway and continued completely off the airport property. After striking a no-parking sign, he taxied onto an unaffiliated, residential street. Continuing uphill, the 70-hour private pilot collected a stop sign, and then proceeded down the street through a three-way intersection, apparently intending to wend his way somehow back to the airport. What would you have paid to have been in the lot when the stop-sign-dragging Mooney pulled into the wrong side of FBO parking?
At length, some intrepid soul forced him to stop on the residential street and have it towed back to the airport. For added irony, this wasn't an accident until he hit the two signs, bending wing spars on both sides as well as tagging the horizontal stab.
Our final taxi contestant didn't do any thing wrong but the whole mental image is just irresistible. A Louisiana Grumman AgCat balled up after an attempted landing on a 1700-foot dirt strip located between two crawfish ponds. The accident happened when the pilot tried to avoid a crawfish boat that had crawled up onto the runway. After striking the front of the boat, the pilot came back around to check on the still oblivious fisherman and proceeded to the home field, where the gear, which had bopped the boat earlier, collapsed.
Here at IFR, we're always on the lookout for tips and suggestions to make life safer and easier for our fellow aviators. Here are several examples of things not to do.
Consider the Washington State
Yak-54 pilot out for a bit of aerobatics who went inverted for a "belt check," at which point oil covered the windscreen and canopy. He didn't quite make it back all the way onto the runway and the gear collapsed. Suggestion number one: Before turning plane upside down, screw on the oil-filler cap.
Then there's the Michigan pilot of a Cessna 402B who decided it would be fun to check out a friend's house. Mind you, a 402 is a pressurized twin, large enough to seat nine. Following a steep turn just above the tree line, the pilot and passenger looked up into a large pine tree dead ahead, which they promptly clipped at about 180 knots, breaking the pilot's window, ripping open the baggage compartment and knocking the pilot out of action. The pilot-rated passenger took over the controls and landed successfully back at the departure airport. Suggestion number two: If you're gonna buzz, do it in something slow, stay away from large pine trees and wear your shoulder harness.
The first rule of General Aviation isn't a bromide about "aviate, navigate, communicate," or, "maintain thy airspeed." It's: "Never pass up a bathroom opportunity." Witness the 10,000-hour Minnesota pilot operating a Champ with extended-range tanks on an aerial photo expedition. Extended range is great as long as you remember that the pilot's bladder is still original equipment.
Five and a half hours into the flight, the pilot felt the urgent call of nature. Ya think? So he put it down on a gravel road, unfortunately whacking a road sign on rollout, at which point the valiant little craft "got sucked into the [snow-filled] ditch." Lisa Nowak, where are you? Suggestion number three: Hardware endurance should be considered subordinate to the holding capacity of the wetware operating it.
Those of us who have been around a while tend to forget that everyone in the world isn't as enthralled (or blase) about committing aviation as we are. All that Joe Cool stuff. But as these summaries indicate routinely, the price of unbent airframes is eternal vigilance. Take, for example, the student pilot with an instructor in a Georgia 172. During initial climb-out, the student panicked and demanded that they "go down now." Recognizing a vapor lock in the left seat and insufficient runway remaining, the instructor demanded control of the airplane, but the student kept a death grip on the throttle, bringing it back to idle. The ever popular, "Let go, you're going to kill us," was insufficient to break the student loose, and a hard landing resulted.
Along the same lines was the Washington State passenger in a PZL 104 Wilga. On the eighth touch-and-go landing, a wind shift dictated a prompt and appropriate go-around, which the pilot initiated. At about five feet up, the passenger grabbed the control stick and pushed it full forward. Suggestion number four: routine cockpit equipment should include a readily accessible and fully charged taser.
Not all accidents are the infamous chain of triggering events. Some result from one, massive, breathtaking brain fade and you find yourself reading the summary several times, going, "Naw. He didn't do that ..."
Wisconsin pilots of a Cessna 172M and a Cessna 182S had a close encounter of the aluminum kind. The 172 was in front, in visual conditions, intending what the pilot described as a "visual" practice approach, presumably a part of his in-progress instrument training. Maneuvering behind, and ultimately into, his tail feathers was the instrumentrated Skylane pilot, whose reported purpose, " ... was flight proficiency with the intent to fly to BUU [Burlington] to practice holding, procedure turns, and instrument approaches." Neither pilot was in contact with ATC.
The guy in front gets a bye, 'cause we can't be sure he didn't just want to see how this IFR worked without a hood. But the rated pilot who ran up the Skyhawk's tailcone doing all that proficiency stuff had one teensy-weensy little problem: No safety pilot aboard.
Even better was the short but exciting flight by the Florida Cessna 210 pilot who initiated takeoff without filing or opening a flight plan in instrument conditions from a private airstrip. The private pilot reported that the early morning fog became even heavier during run-up. Then the windshield started fogging, adding a whole new meaning to zero-zero. In the words of the report, "[I] thought about aborting the flight, but elected to take off," because, according to the pilot, windshield fog "normally" cleared with full power. Makes you wonder how many times he'd done exactly the same thing before, doesn't it? Actually, the windscreen did clear off, just in time to see the fence that snagged his gear.
It's rare that we come up with a whole new category of Gee Whiz, but 2004 delivered same in the form of two--count 'em, two--Beechcraft exploding-wing reports.
First up is the Beech 65 pilot in Arizona who had landed literally a minute or so prior and was taxiing off the runway when the left wing just went "kaboom!" The leading-edge cambered skin was blown completely off the airplane. Fortunately, the pilot was able to suppress the resulting fire with an onboard extinguisher. After what we presume was a change of underwear and several very stiff drinks, they ultimately determined that persons unknown had wrapped what looked like leather around a fuel line and affixed a clamp, probably to stop a fuel leak. Makes perfect sense to us: Apply a porous, malleable material to a fuel leak, inside an enclosed space subject to static buildup and with electrical lines running through it.
The pick of the litter for 2004 has to go to the Beech 95 driver who landed at Louisville with three passengers aboard, to pick up a fourth. On the ground, the pilot was informed that he would have to pay a ramp and parking fee or buy a minimum of 15 gallons of gas. Problem was, he didn't need gas.
Apparently the gas was less than the fee, 'cause that's the route he picked. Now, we would just have paid for the gas and told them to keep it in the truck or even put it in someone else's plane, but according to the refueler, he was instructed to put a proverbial 10 pounds of 100LL in the five-pound sack. In the process of servicing the left aux tank, he allowed four to five gallons to overflow onto (and into) the wing.
Approximately 15 minutes later, the pilot did an exterior inspection, didn't see any liquid-fuel residue, and loaded up the passengers in the midst of five gallons worth of gasoline fumes. The shout of "Clear left" was followed immediately by "Kaboom!" Don'tcha bet the ramp fee was looking a whole lot more reasonable at that point?
Maybe next year gas will stay where it's supposed to, nobody will buzz and pax will keep their hands folded quietly in their laps so we just won't have any fellow fliers to fricassee. Now about that swamp land in Florida ...
Jane Garvey is IFR's queen of aviation follies and a contributing editor.
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|Title Annotation:||REALITY CHECK|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2008|
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