Thursday, March 19, 2015

Beware When Hand Propping.................

Reading about a “hand propping” accident involving a Pa-18, on the FAA accident site brought back some good old memories, fortunately no bad ones. In my early flying years, I had the opportunity to fly a Pa-18 (Piper Cub). It was bare bones. No electrical system. That’s right, no lights or radio. Better have a flashlight aboard and plenty of batteries. One thing I learned early in the game, was to tie the tail down when hand propping. If not, well say bye-bye and run fast and catch up or else. There were some other things I did as well. I looped the seat belt around the control stick to apply “up” pressure on the elevator. Made sure the throttle was just barely “cracked” open to help prevent an engine runaway. Usually the engine would start on the second pull after the initial propping to prime things. Once started, with chocks still in place, run back and untie the tail. Hold on to the fuselage as you go, pull the chock and hop in. Yes it did take some coordination, but in those days I was able to.

Just to expand on the type accident that can happen, I’ll mention a few I just read about. The first one makes the skin on the back of my neck crinkle, it’s so scary. While refueling their tail dragger, apparently with the engine running, the plane taxied away and smashed into several other planes. Ouch! Two days later, at another field, a C-170 also being hand propped, went off on its own into nearby planes and stopping only after ramming into the hangar. That’s a lot of money to waste because of forgetting to do such an easy thing. Money is one thing, but what about personal injury?  

While on the poor piloting thing, here are some recent ones. On the FAA site of 16 March there were three nose wheel collapses on landing, listed, one after the other, on three different aircraft types. They were a Commander 114, a C-172 and a C-421, three very different birds indeed. Reasons are generally not given on the site, so one must speculate. I have to guess that just maybe they landed too hard and fast on the nose wheel, rather than on the mains. Poor maintenance of course may be a factor.

Finally there were four “off the runway” landings listed on the 17 March 15 FAA site. All very different birds. The first was a Grumman 164 that force landed “short”. Next was M-20k, “landing off the runway”. No reason given. Then a C-340 (plane dear to my heart), landed long, stopping in the overrun in a damaged condition. I have to mention that airport had a 4800 foot runway, more than enough length for that type plane. Finally, a lightweight type sport plane, landed off the runway and flipped over. Remember that excess speed demands excess braking and a longer distance than may be available. Also, many smaller planes, types I have flown, have limited braking available.

The moral of all this is to get recurrent training at least annually. Do very thorough pre-flights, particularly looking over the landing gear and brakes, getting professional opinion when needed. When practicing, be critical and  get check rides often.

P.S. Comments welcome!