Wednesday, June 17, 2009

They're Okay!

I'm doing my preflight, except I can't check oil because the dipstick is too hot to touch, and if I used gloves it wouldn't give a very good reading anyway. I ask my coworker instead, and she says the oil should be fine. I watch the fueller and then check the fuel tank caps. One of them is loose, not because he didn't secure and latch it, but as the aggregate result of its being opened and closed a number of times. Not many people realize that that one is an adjustable cap. It's a rubber plug designed to fit a few different sized tanks. When you pull up on the catch, that releases the form inside that makes the rubber seal firm and round against the inside of the filler neck. Spin the catch one way and the closed size of the plug increases. Spin it the other way and it decreases. Turning the catch a little bit is a normal part of operating the catch, so by coincidence it has been loosened over the last fortnight of fuelling. I spin the catch to embiggify the plug, reseat it in the filler neck and snap the cap closed. The mechanism expands. It fits securely now.

The fueller points out that some fuel is leaking from the tank onto the ramp. I check it: it's just thermal expansion forcing some of the fuel out through the vent again. There's also a little puddle of fuel in the well around the closed cap. I don't complain about having my tanks completely full. It's the only way to really know that I have the fuel I expect on board. Gauges don't tell the difference between full and sorta full. If the fuel level in a wide, flat tank measuring one metre by two metres is one centimetre below capacity that's 20 litres short--about 15 minutes of holding fuel for that engine. Yikes! I secure the metal cover over the fuel cap and repeat my inspection for all the fuel tanks. I also check that the total fuel load matches my expectations based on my colleague's flight time. It does, almost to the litre. If too much fuel went in it could be an aircraft problem. If not enough went in, the fueller might have skipped a tank. I've had that happen. I had it happen almost every day at one FBO, but we're at a good one, now.

The fueller says he doesn't know if anyone was hurt yesterday or what kind of airplane it was. He heard that it had just taken off, and turned and the wind caught it. I don't know if he is also a pilot, but it wasn't windy yesterday, and one you're airborne the wind doesn't knock you over. An abrupt change in wind could cause an airplane to lose lift, but windshear seems unlikely, too. The fueller also mentioned that he heard it was a November-registered aircraft, which is relevant mainly because their National Transportation Safety Board investigates accidents involving US aircraft, even elsewhere in the world. Perhaps it will turn up on their site, even if only as a notation that the Canadian TSB is investigating. As I write this I find a news article (with a picture) about the crash. It is being reported as a power loss, and both occupants suffered only minor injuries. It's significant that just 100 metres from the runway the bush around here is so thick that it took a helicopter to find and direct the police and ambulance workers to the site. It's a relief to hear that they are okay. Too bad about the Pacer.

I start up. (Come on cranky engine, I know you're hot, you can do it). I crack the throttle open a bit and then when the engine catches leave the mixture in the idle cutoff position for a moment, and very very slowly enrich it, and not all the way to full rich either, so I don't flood it. The engine RPM comes up, oil pressure, oil temperature and cylinder head pressure all in the green already, so I start the second engine. Avionics on, computer power on, ground fan on. In less than a week we've gone from needing heating to needing cooling.

Ready for taxi, we take runway 21. It's hotter today and climb performance is noticeably affected by the heat. I'm climbing at blue line (Vy and Vyse are the same on this model) and making less than 500 fpm through 3000'. We are full of fuel and equipment. That's the drawback to taking every drop you can.

As I'm leaving the area, the FSS comes on with a SIGMET for a large area of thunderstorms, relative to Germansen Landing. I have heard of it, but don't know where it is on a map of this province, so I call Edmonton Radio and ask for the lat-long coordinates of the area boundary. It's mostly north of where we are working, and currently the closest part of the line is a degree and a half of longitude west of us. That's about 50 miles this far north. Degrees of longitude get smaller and smaller with increasing latitude, but a degree of latitude is always 60 nm. I don't think those thunderstorms will bother us, but there's a lot of vertical build up here. By the time we reach the work area, fifty miles north of the airport, the weather is unsuitable for the work. That was a quick flight.

Back, land, and take my stuff to the hotel, including the cushion from the airplane. It smells like feet.


Ben said...

The word of the day is now "embiggify". This is a very useful new word :).

Thank you.

GPS_Direct said...

It smells like feet.

Probably from a) somebody sitting on it all day, and b) dumping water mixed with suntan lotion on it periodically...

(Or it's got my verification word - splorac - growing in it. Yuck.)

Perhaps a more fragrant suntan lotion? Or one of those air fresheners designed for rearview mirrors. You do have one of those hanging from the compass, right?

Aviatrix said...

Worse than sitting on it, I use it behind my back for lumbar support. I don't think my butt sweats much, but my back does.

I'm sure there's splorac in it too.

Sarah said...

"Embiggify"? A more cromulent choice would be "embiggen" I think. But I'm glad you fixed the fuel cap either way. It would be a shame to waste a drop of fossil fuel.


By now, everyone on the internet has seen the video (HD!) of the Beaver on floats in Alaska that went onshore instead of the air. It has a horrifying inevitability to it as it gets closer, and closer... No one badly hurt in that one either.

I hope first of all, I never have a serious accident. But if I do, I hope no one gets a video of it up on youtube!

kbq said...

OK, the Beaver doing what Aviatrix would **never** do:



Aviatrix said...

I hope I would never do that, but it's not completely clear what the pilot did.

I've only flown a Beaver a couple of times, and can't say it was on the same style of floats, but the nose attitude looks high for most of the take-off slide, as if the pilot is trying to haul it off, rather than letting it speed up in a more level attitude. Then when he does lift off there's a further pitch up, just before the camera operator dives for cover.

There must be some reason I'm missing why the pilot did not turn more down the channel and allow the aircraft to speed up in ground effect before climbing away.

Does anyone have more information on this accident?

Here's a normal takeoff from the same lake. See how the attitude of the airplane barely changes after the airplane is balanced on the boat-shaped forward part of the floats. It just flies off the water without any pitch up, and speeds up straight ahead.

steve said...

semantics? PFFT!
Eni fule kno that to embiggen it, you have to embiggify it.

a useful sort of word to add to the language, anyway.

As to the cushion, I presume the smell was foetid?

Sarah said...

No NTSB entry yet. NTSB isn't as quick as the CADORS.

Nice find on the other, successful take off. It appears a slight left turn to align with the channel is routine, and yes, the take-off technique is quite different from the failed "soft field" haul-it-off attempt.

Probably the pilot just turned too far left - poor visibility because of the nose-high bounces &/or not enough right rudder .... and, whoops.

The pilots mention of a 'wind gust' is a nice try, but the windsock handily visible in both movies says otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Definitely in need of some RIGHT RUDDER! on that crash? ... I don't fly floats but from what I've seen/read it's a two-step process: 1. Keep nose high to get the floats "on the step". 2. ease back pressure to let aircraft accel. with floats on top of the water. (any float plane pilots out there?).

Seems like the crash pilot never got to step 2!?

A squared said...

Sarah said: No NTSB entry yet. NTSB isn't as quick as the CADORS.

The FAA maintains an accident/incident page which generally has a brief description within a day of two.

A Squared said...

There must be some reason I'm missing why the pilot did not turn more down the channel and allow the aircraft to speed up in ground effect before climbing away.

Because he was not in control of the airplane.

Aviatrix said...

I've worked on floats, but different airplanes and different floats require slightly different techniques, and I know better what it's like INSIDE the airplane.

Here's yet another Beaver taking off where you can see the initial high nose attitude, a clear lowering of the nose as the airplane gets onto the step, and then if anything a further lowering, not a pitch up as it lifts off the water.

It would be funny if the final NTSB report included a link to the YouTube video. The investigators should use it. But as there are no fatalities or serious injuries it will probably be a quick report.

Aviatrix said...

Because he was not in control of the airplane.

LOL! You put it so succinctly and typed that in while I was trying to find the widest possible benefit of the doubt to extend to the pilot.

When you see the plane yaw to the left, while it's still on the slide and should be turning right, if only the throttles had been pulled to idle right there it would have mushed to a stop, then get the water rudders down to turn away from the bank, and taxi back around for another go.

Cirrocumulus said...

Embiggen? Good grief!

You folks should study this:

Peter said...

Cut from the FAA link posted above by A squared:

Regis#: 915RC Make/Model: DHC2 Description: DHC-2 Mk1 Beaver (U-6, L-20)
Date: 06/07/2009 Time: 2133

WEATHER: 2053Z 00000KT 10SM CLR 19/08 A2990


nec Timide said...


I prefer the urban dictionary in this case. A Simpsons reference in Aviatrix's blog brought a smile to my face.

A Squared said...

When you see the plane yaw to the left, while it's still on the slide and should be turning right, if only the throttles had been pulled to idle.....

this is true, but I think more to the point, if he had maintained directional control of the airplane, he would have passed into the takeoff channel and had almost another 3/4 of a mile of open water to get airborne, although the way he had the plane yanked nose up, dragging the heels, that might not have been enough water which case there would have been a lot more to hit at that point, like my own plane, so I'm glad he crashed where he did.

For those who are having a hard time picturing the situation (and it's tough from video) Use google earth to look at Lake Hood (approximate coordinates 61-10-45, 149-57-45)

If you're looking at it in North up convention, the takeoff run starts in the lake to the right (East) which is actually Spenard Lake (Hood Lake is the lake on the Left, collectively the whole thing is Lake Hood Seaplane Base) THe point where the plane approaches the shore and attempts to fly is on the South (down) shore, approximately abeam the East (right) end of the long skinny island that separates the two canals. From that point, if the pilot had not allowed the plane to drift left (of course, down in the picture) and out of the channel, he would have had the entire channel, plus the next lake to get airborne.