Accidents and Close Calls Discussion on accidents, close calls, and other unplanned aviation events, so we can learn from them, and be better pilots ourselves.

Hurried Walk Rounds

Old 3rd Sep 2015, 14:20
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Hurried Walk Rounds

I've been mighty lucky in my flying life. Glider pilot at 16, PPL at 17 on a Tiger Moth, sponsored cadet with a legacy carrier in my early twenties, right seat of a big jet with 400 hours, and then the airline I worked for had a need for helicopter pilots and I was selected for rotary training.

My rotary instructor was a huge bear of a man called Jake Jackson. Ex-Colonel in the Army Air Corps who had lived a very charmed life Jake insisted that his students applied the same high standards he did, happily using violence if he believed that the student's standards were slack, his cry of "gently boy! Gently! Its' like w***ing a hamster! If you don't do it gently its' f***ing messy!" as I learned the art of hovering comes through my headset every time I pull power in a helicopter.

One hot Summer day I was sent out to get an aircraft started ready for Jake to join me I can't remeber the exercise, I just remember Jake storming out to the aircraft, opening my door, yanking me out and nearly throttling me by my tie (training was so much more formal then) as he roundly criticised my walk-round.

Fast forward twenty years and you would find me on a beautiful Summer Saturday evening parked at a LZ on the England/Wales border. My job for the evening was to collect a regular customer and fly him in to Bristol to meet his jet so he could clear off to Barbados on holiday. The customer was well known in powerful circles, deliciously indiscreet, fun to be with and at one time had a PPL/H so liked to sit in the front with me and chat as we flew.

The helicopter was nearly brand new, it had only flown twenty hours on top of its' test flying and acceptance flights, it was a very comfortable and capable IFR twin with eight passenger seats, great avionics useful range and best of all, really comfortable, sheepskin covered pilots seats.

The only slight snag was the weather, which although wonderful was due to deteriorate to OVC at 700', viz about 2k at base, which would be closed on arrival (I was on an out of hours indemnity) but knew that following the NDB/DME profile for noise abatement would guarantee my arrival.

Eventually the customer finished his meeting and we left for Bristol as the daylight faded. Bristol ATC got me in with their usual efficiency and then it was a brisk left turn into the handling agents, land next to the jet, shut down and see the passenger away.

It was at this point that my evening started to go wrong. I needed fuel and the bowser was held up. Eventually (after an hour) it arrived and with the tanks topped to full I prepared to leave, to find the handling agent waving in front of me, he came up to the aircraft and told me my credit card had been refused (I had phoned ahead with the number to save time) and I would have to go into the office. In the office I found that the office staff had transposed two numbers, they swiped the card and the payment was made. I dashed back to the aicraft, now under pressure because my out of hours indemnity ended at midnight and I was going to be really pushed for time.

Rather than jump in and go I quickly carried out a second walk round, looking at, pushing, pulling and waggling anything that could be looked at, pushed, pulled or waggled, jumped into my seat and requested start and clearance to my base. Due to IFR inbounds I was going to have to initially route south west before turning back north east, crossing the inbounds and picking up my route home.

Eventually airborne I followed ATC's instructions and after about ten minutes was heading north east, the wind was almost calm and I could clearly see the inbound airliners, suddenly there was a huge thump of turbulence, I went light in my seat and the aircraft rolled forty degrees either side of upright, guides and maps went everywhere and I heard a slight rattle, I had hit the wake of a Boeing 757 with his flaps down, which some of you may be aware has some of the worst wake turbulence ever.

I got my breath back as the aircraft settled back into the cruise, and shortly afterwards was transferred to Brize Zone for transit. While crossing Brize a "new aircraft snag" cropped up. I was constantly having to increase power as the collective kept gently lowering itself and the collective friction was struggling to cope. In frustration I re-set the power to max cont and really wound the friction tight, as I did so I noticed that the collective was actually quite happy to stay where it was for a change.

Clearing Brize I began to set the aircraft up for arrival at base. It is company SOP to use auto-pilot with coupled modes at all times at night so I dialled in the route and altitudes to be flown and then tried to reduce power............ The collective was as rigid as a porn star on a bonus scheme, it just would not go down, it was stuck at max cont power. I leaned on the collective, risking a serious overcontrol if it moved suddenly.

I needed some thinking time, so programmed the hold at base into the nav system and sent it off to fly the hold while I worked out what had happened. I had by now completely loosened the friction, and found there was some limited but spongy movement. We train for control restrictions in the simulator and I knew that a stuck collective at high power was one of the hardest to deal with. However my brain was starting to work again.....that clatter as I had hit the wake turbulence. I checked all around the area of the P1 collective but could see nothing, I shone my torch across to the P2 position and realised the P2 seat belts weren't buckled. In the hurry after the delays I has forgoten to check them. I reached over as far as I could and saw the P2 buckle jammed between the P2 collective and the seat base. It had dropped down in the turbulence and as I had pulled back to max cont it had slid into position and jammed the collective completely. I tried more downward presure on my collective to no avail. There was nothing else for it.

I took off my straps and very gingerly slid across the centre consol making sure I didn't touch anything vital (like the auto-pilot controls, disconnecting them could have been mighty interesting in that position!) Once in the P2 seat I spent ten minutes freeing the buckle while the aircraft flew the hold. My weight on the seat made the situation worse by making the cushion spread outwards. With the buckle finally free I fastened the straps behind me and climbed extremely carefully back into my own seat.

The remainder of the flight in falling weather at night into a closed airport was an anti-climax. But ever since whenever the P2 seat is vacant my final pre-take off, pre-landing, or en-route check is always to grab the P2 straps and pull them hard, security is not just your straps being done up.


Last edited by Sir Niall Dementia; 3rd Sep 2015 at 14:24. Reason: Worms and Smelling
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Old 3rd Sep 2015, 17:34
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Hurried Walk Rounds

A salutary lesson and perfect ILAFFT inasmuch as you walked away from it to share the knowledge with others, thankyou!

As one of my captains regularly observes when time pressures are on us, we have all the time we need to perform the tasks required and we will not rush things like checklists and briefings.
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Old 3rd Sep 2015, 18:04
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Good story for less experienced pilots to learn from. You can never stop learning in this business, whether you have less than 100 hours or 20,000 plus hours.

Just in case you are not aware of this, the first fatal accident in a DC-3 was caused by a microphone that had fallen to the cockpit floor and jammed the control column preventing the pilot from flaring on landing.

Loose articles in the cockpits of aircraft has caused many problems, some minor and sadly some very serious resulting in death.
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Old 5th Sep 2015, 08:27
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Good lesson.

Wasn't there a gazelle written off when the pilot did a hover 180 to turn the aircraft around. During the very short manoeuvre the p2 strap fell between the seat and the cyclic and restricted movement. The pilot said afterwards since he wasn't going 'flying' he thought a pre flight check wasn't necessary.
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Old 7th Sep 2015, 08:05
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You're right, there was, there was another privately owned, ex-mil one where the crotch strap fell behind the cyclic and the pilot couldn't stop. he went between two trees and took all the blades off and badly broke his leg in the crash. If he had pulled power and gone round he would have had plenty of time to sort it out.

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Old 7th Sep 2015, 09:15
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An important story very well told. Thank you.
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Old 7th Sep 2015, 09:44
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One of the QFIs I flew with during my RAF rotary course (well over three decades ago) recounted a tale where things got fraught during a rotors running change involving an inexperienced passenger, an Army warrant officer. This was in a Whirlwind 10, turbine engined.

The passenger had been briefed and was delivered to the aircraft, rotors running on dispersal, after the previous passenger got out from the left seat. For those not familiar with the Whirlwind, it was a bit of a climb up into the cockpit, above cabin level (a bit like driving a Luton van from the cab overhang, having climbed in the front window)..

The burly soldier hauled himself up, plonked himself in the left seat and began to strap in, assisted by my QHI, who had to take his left hand off the collective to do so. The aircraft suddenly went light on the skids and began to lift. My QHI diagnosed it as an engine computer runaway up, so he used the disengage lever on the cyclic to go into manual control. The aircraft continued to lift at an increasing rate, as he instinctively tried to grab the collective. He couldn't initially find it because it wasn't where he left it!

By this time the Whirlwind was approaching hangar roof level. The passenger, who wasn't yet on intercom, realised something was wrong and perhaps understandably pulled the lap straps even tighter. This made things worse, the collective went even higher, now with the rotor rpm decaying.

The problem was that the passenger had allowed the left lap strap to go under then around the base of the collective before he pulled it tight. He inadvertently applied almost full collective and strapped it in that position!

The situation was resolved without the aircraft finally coming to grief, but getting the passenger to unstrap wasn't easy; big and tough as he was, he was very frightened! As a government official might say, "lessons were learned!"
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Old 8th Nov 2015, 18:30
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The aircraft suddenly went light on the skids and began to lift.
A Whirlwind with skids? Are you a real pilot?

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