Search of... Aviangels
Guardian Angels: 1, Demons: 0
The charter pilot
who submitted the following report to ASRS noted at the end of her narrative,
"Guardian Angels: 1, Demons: 0." Here's her story of how a seeming
misfortune was transformed into a stroke of luck:
taxiing for takeoff [at night], I lost sight of visual references for
taxiway and struck a taxiway light with the prop. I returned to ramp
for damage check. Purely coincidentally--after the front passenger and
I exited the aircraft, I observed fuel flowing freely from the aircraft's
belly drain. I evacuated remaining passengers and determined that the
belly drain actuator, which in the Cherokee Six is located on the front
of the passenger seat behind the co-pilot position, was stuck open.
Apparently the middle seat passenger must have, while boarding, caught
a shoe on the drain actuator cover, as the plastic cover was half ripped
off (one screw attached, one screw out) and the cover had caught on
and pulled open the handle. If I had not hit a light and returned to
check the prop, I would have flown my trip with a wide-open fuel drain!
Contributing factors to the belly drain being
kicked open: It is poor design to have the drain's actuator in a passenger
area. No one would suspect this freakish occurrence, leastwise a passenger,
who was unaware her seat housed an aircraft fuel drain. It was dark
and she wouldn't have seen an open cover. This drain should be actuated
from outside the plane, like the four-tank drains are.
Pilot acted properly in checking for damage after striking taxiway light.
Several pilots have mentioned that they might have "just kept going
as long as there wasn't any vibration." Prop damage in this case
required prop overhaul. And if I hadn't checked for damage, I might
have run a tank dry on an overwater flight, due to unrelated open drain.
We can suggest several possible preventatives for this unusual type of
drain actuator incident. One is to install a metal cover plate less susceptible
to damage by passengers. An interim solution is to brief passengers on
the location of the drain actuator, and conduct careful preflight and
post-flight inspections of the drain actuator area.
of Being Wise in Time
to impress passengers with piloting skills--known as "showboating"
and "grandstanding"--are rarely in the best interests of safety,
as discovered by a contrite reporter to ASRS:
invited some friends to go for airplane rides...a total of two rides
with five friends in the airplane on each ride. When they arrived they
asked to take some pictures of the airplane in flight. I informed them
that if they stood on the ramp I would fly over the runway at a low
altitude so they could get the pictures. I took off [with passengers]
into the wind on Runway 26, climbed to 500 feet AGL and turned the aircraft
around and lined up on final for Runway 08. I flew the length of the
runway at a low altitude. When I reached the end I made an abrupt pull-up
and climbed 600 feet. We next did some sight-seeing and returned to
the airport and landed on Runway 26. Then I turned the airplane around
and lined up on final for Runway 08 for another low pass. On this pass,
when I was half way down the runway, a Cessna 172 announced that he
would be departing Runway 26. I saw the airplane and asked him to hold
until I was clear of the runway. The Cessna moved into position and
held on Runway 26. I ascended slightly to approximately 75 feet AGL
and passed over the stationary Cessna. After the pass we did some sightseeing
and returned for landing.
I believe what caused this problem was a pilot [me] giving in to others'
requests to impress them with his flying ability through show-boating.
This in actuality shows very poor judgment. This event went without
an accident...only due to pure luck...I have learned a valuable lesson
What I will do to correct this situation in the future is to say what
my flight instructor would say when friends requested him to showboat:
"I don't need to take that risk to prove my flying abilities, I
just need to show you the certificates and ratings in my wallet."
Is on the Side of Clear Heads"
An air carrier crew
describes how the quick thinking of a cargo handler prevented an aircraft
fire, and possibly even greater disaster:
passenger placed a large number of matches in a suitcase along with
a phone book and numerous other flammable materials. The matches rubbed
together and caught fire as the suitcase was being handled into the
cargo bay. Apparently the suitcase did not show visible signs of fire,
but felt warm as it was being loaded. It could have been dismissed...but
cargo handler chose to investigate. It's a good thing he did, because
not only did his actions save damage to other cargo, other passenger
luggage, and the aircraft, but I feel that he may have saved the lives
of the passengers and crew...Our grateful and heartfelt thanks...
Most pilots are intimately familiar with G-U-M-P, a mental "checklist"
standing for Gas-Undercarriage-Mixture-Prop that is used on final approach
to prevent gear-up landings, fuel starvation, and other mishaps. But not
even "GUMP" can save the day if prior checks of flight-critical
items--and good judgment--are suspended. An ASRS report illustrates:
had just completed an extensive annual inspection on this aircraft.
I was proud to certify its airworthiness. I had promised to fly an acquaintance's
son (age about 25) previously and today he showed up for the flight.
This was to be the son's first airplane ride ever. I spent an extra
amount of time going over the pre-flight with him. The right fuel tank
was nearly empty (about 5 gallons) but the left side had plenty of fuel.
When we boarded the plane for flight I made the error which would result
in this incident. I had the fuel in the "off" position for
maintenance and in a rare case of disorientation selected the right
tank for the flight...
Returning to the airport traffic pattern I entered upwind and as I was
completing the cross-wind leg, about to start my landing checklist,
the engine quit. I immediately set the airplane up for best glide and
started going through emergency procedures. I checked everything but
the fuel selector because I did not consider that I was out of fuel
(believing I was on the fuller tank). My next mistake was in extending
my downwind too much while going through the procedures, and when I
did finally turn base I was short of altitude. I landed in the corn
less than a hundred feet short of the grassy approach to the runway.
I didn't realize I was on the empty tank until after we landed and heard
the electric fuel pump clicking away.
I showed the young man the fuel selector before we started up, and I'm
sure I'll always wish I'd asked him to change the tanks...I [also] wish
I had concentrated more on landing the airplane on the runway while
it was right there for me...
It was our reporter's apparent practice to check and set the fuel selector
only once. Sound procedures call for manual and visual checks during preflight,
before takeoff, and before landing. Also highly questionable was the decision
to carry a passenger on the first flight following extensive maintenance.
Finally, the entire incident might have been prevented by the simple expedient
of refueling the aircraft prior to flight.
Pattern Serves a Purpose"
Our next reporter
learned not only about the proper use of "GUMP," but also that
there's more than one reason for flying a standard traffic pattern.
was...near the end of a very long day. I was completing a three-hour
flight on an aircraft with a total of 6 hours since major overhaul and
3 hours since annual inspection. The last 1.5 hours...was at night and
over rough terrain. There was no moon out, and therefore it was very
dark. Although the weather was VMC, I had to keep a close eye on the
gauges due to the lack of horizon. Needless to say, the last leg of
this trip was very stressful...
When I finally saw my destination airport...I noticed that my descent
from cruise was going to leave me too high and fast for a straight-in
approach. Therefore, I slowed the aircraft down to flap extension speed,
and lowered the gear and flaps nearly simultaneously. Knowing I needed
to lose altitude quickly, I immediately side-slipped the aircraft until
short final... Once there, I initiated my flare for landing. The next
thing I heard was the ticking of the prop and the scratching of the
airplane fuselage on concrete. My initial thought was that I did not
put my gear down. However, I remembered doing so [because] I needed
the drag. I checked the gear selector. It was in the down position.
Then I remembered that I had never verified that the gear had actually
How could this have happened? I realized that three systems must fail
for this incident to have occurred.
First, the actual gear system must fail. This mechanical system is not
foolproof. Indeed, on this night, the electric motor which drives the
hydraulic pump did fail. Therefore the gear was only partly extended.
Second, the pilot must fail...It was a long day, I was tired, stressed,
and hungry (I had not taken the time to eat), and I was trying to salvage
a poorly planned approach....
And finally, the gear warning system must fail. This is another mechanical
system which is prone to failure. This final system failed along with
the previous system, on the same approach.
As a pilot, and not a mechanic, I can only improve on the second system.
I've determined that the most important element which could have avoided
the human error, was to have flown a complete landing pattern. To fly
a pattern appropriately and successfully, I would have lost altitude
before...descending into the pattern...Before this incident, I flew
the pattern only if other traffic was in the area. However, I now realize
that the pattern serves a purpose other than keeping aircraft sequenced;
it helps to distribute and organize tasks required for landing. Each
element has its proper place...
Also, I did not mention the checklists. I did complete the "GUMP"
checklist. However, I rushed through the list. Instead of verifying
each action, I performed the task almost simultaneously. A checklist
is no good if performed in this manner. It is not only important to
perform the actions, but the actions must be accomplished correctly
ASRS Recently Issued
- Smoke from electrical
wiring in a Beech 1900C cockpit
- Hard landing of
an Airbus A320 attributed to dust devils
- Recurring coverage
problems with an ATC ASR-9 radar
- A near midair collision
of a turbojet with a weather balloon
- Uncommanded roll
of B747-200F with autopilot in INS mode
October 1994 Report
- Air Carrier Pilots--1874
- General Aviation