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SEP over water - do you? And if so how far will you go?

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SEP over water - do you? And if so how far will you go?

Old 18th Mar 2016, 01:16
  #41 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Essex
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Avoid launching out over water with an aircraft that's just out of maintenance. I survived an engine failure through sheer luck and a modicum of skill.
So right. And also applies to ANY flight just out of maintenance.
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Old 19th Mar 2016, 11:12
  #42 (permalink)  
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Thanks for the responses - lots of things to think about there.

For what it's worth, I sail and I used to dive, hence my healthy respect for the sea! Thinking about it, with a few phone calls and a bit of blagging, I might be able to get in to a helicopter ditching simulator through work - worth a try and better than a day in the office. I've already done a sea survival course but no harm in being well prepared.

I have also experienced the 'auto rough' mentioned above - both in an aeroplane on the way back from Jersey and also at sea when the engine note in an old boat seemed to change the more the wind blew up!

I also get the point about not taking an aircraft straight out of maintenance on a 'difficult' flight. Best to give the 'F*** up fairy' chance to work her magic whilst options for a safe return exist.
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Old 19th Mar 2016, 14:13
  #43 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2012
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Originally Posted by foxmoth View Post
I think over the sea is one place I would rather use the chute than try to "land" it, not sure I want to fly Cirrus though - seem to be far too many engine failures!!
Why do you say that? Or do you have any factual data to underscore your perception? Cirrus use the same TCM installation as other aircraft so in my eyes, the engines in Cirrus are neither more nor less likely to fail as other installations in GA. However I would seriously suggest you fly one, you might even like them and prefer an SR20 over your usual C172 / P28A spam cans......
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Old 19th Mar 2016, 21:00
  #44 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Faversham
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Automatic rough? Sometimes it's real.....

Joined this thread a bit late, but here goes....

Was returning to mainland after the Guernsey Rally. Just over Casquets when I felt a "nudge" in the engine. Asked my better half if she'd heard it - but no. Then suddenly it started to run really rough. Yes - she'd felt that! Alderney was in sight and we turned towards it, and as soon as within gliding distance, pulled throttle to save the engine (had previous experience of very expensive engine loss).

Glided in safely, and was left with the problem of what to do next as no-one available to help. Fortunately, phoned back to Guernsey and another rallyist could pick us up and get us back to Rochester. When we eventually returned and fixed the a/c, the problem was a rocker gear which had broken off, which meant a new cylinder. The other 5 had kept going until we decided to glide, but it still felt extremely rough.

Changed to a 4 cylinder Lycoming now, and by comparison to the Continental it feels relatively bullet-proof, and have no quandaries about launching over water, but am always aware and ready to react!
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Old 20th Mar 2016, 14:57
  #45 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: UTUXA
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An elderly pilot back in the 70s ferried a Tomahawk from the USA to Manchester for The Manchester School of Flying(MSF)

Interesting. I got my PPL(A) flying Tomahawks at Manchester School of Flying. When you say "elderly" do you mean it was the CFI? Or do you have a name? Those little planes barely had enough fuel to do a qualifying cross country!""

No it wasn't the CFI,who was Frank Pilkington back then.It was a pilot hired for the job I assume.The Toms you trained on may have included that one.I think it had a reg of G-BMSF or similar.I never used it myself,doing all my time on the PA 28s.I was there from around 1974 to 1988 approx.

I will ask P1FEL and he may post a more informative reply for you
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Old 20th Mar 2016, 16:07
  #46 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2002
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Referring to MSF's PA38 112 Tomahawk.
It was one of a very few (if any) ferried over from the US manufacturer Piper in 1978.
From what I recall at that time, most Tomahawks were crated into the UK in kit form and assembled in Oxford UK for the UK market.
The MSF PA38 112 became G-BMSF, I don't recall it's N registration.
It was flown across the North Atlantic by a 70'ish ferry pilot who had retired previously, several times he said, before accepting this ferry.
If I recall correctly, his name was Hillier Dubois (or something similar) a US ferry pilot.
I recall he flew from CYQX to EINN direct, night stopping there.
The following morning to prepare for the leg from EINN to EGCC the Tomahawk had a massive Mag Drop. The Lycoming engine didn't miss a beat up until the magneto failure he said prior to leaving EINN.
The aircraft arrived a day later after the magneto was replaced.
I recall the fuel tank in the place of the right seat and he informed us he flew the ocean at FL110.
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Old 20th Mar 2016, 16:20
  #47 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by p1fel View Post
The MSF PA38 112 became G-BMSF, I don't recall it's N registration.
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Old 20th Mar 2016, 17:51
  #48 (permalink)  
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you might even like them and prefer an SR20 over your usual C172 / P28A spam cans......
My usual aircraft would not be a C172/Pa28 and I would certainly not prefer an SR20 as it is not aerobatic!
Agreed the perception may be false, but there seem to be an awful lot of reports of Cirrus parachute descents - maybe it is just that they are less newsworthy if it is not under a 'chute, but that also suggests that the non Cirrus types manage to get away with it OK!
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Old 20th Mar 2016, 22:57
  #49 (permalink)  
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I tried to put some numbers on this when I was considering over water flights in my microlight. When your single engine is a 2-stroke with 1000 hours on it and your speed over the water is only 40kn it doesn't take much of a water crossing to get you anxious!

There's a lot of guessing here, but the orders of magnitude should be about right. My 2-stroke had had 2 failures in 1000 hours, and speaking to other microlight pilots with a lot of 2-stroke time an engine failure about every 500 hours seemed a reasonable guess. If half of ditchings are survivable (probably pessimistic) then every hour out of glide distance of land has a 1:1000 chance of ending badly. The risk of a fatal crash in GA (and microlights are similar) is about 1:50000/hour flown, so flying over water out of glide distance in a 2-stroke microlight is about 50 times more dangerous than flying over land. So for me a cross channel trip at 5000ft with 10-15 minutes out of glide distance from land was as risky as 10 hours of normal flying, (or 2-3 months of my 3 hour round trip commute to work by car).

A more reliable engine and a faster plane with a better glide makes water crossings safer, but it should still be possible to frame the question in terms of "how many hours flying is this crossing as risky as" and get an idea as to whether its a risk you want to take.

Last edited by hollo; 20th Mar 2016 at 22:59. Reason: typo
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 09:03
  #50 (permalink)  
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I take your point but then the faster the aircraft the less likely you are to survive a ditching.
In your microlight into wind your forward motion will be at snails pace.

we have all seen a car crash into a brick wall at 30 mph, hitting 20 foot block of moving water would be similar.

Ok if you limit your crossing to nice high pressure no wind days with a flat calm sea your chances of survival are probably high in slower and faster aircraft but in my experience pilots cross in SEPs when its windy and white caps cover the sea

On those days which around the UK probably account for 70% of sea conditions you are better off in something with a slow stall speed which will plonk down into the ocean rather than ploughing into it, so your better off in the microlight

Statistics are great but not so great if its an unlucky day and the failures or partial failures in pistons I have experienced means I don't fully trust them.
Too many moving parts

But its risk and sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and go

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Old 21st Mar 2016, 10:31
  #51 (permalink)  
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'Too many moving parts' indeed, Mr Pace !

And all trying to get away from each other !

Maybe I have been lucky, but with my logbooks totalling 3,500+ hrs now, mostly SEP, I can honestly say that I have never had a real engine failure.

My old instructor told me emphatically 'Don't fly crap aircraft !' and seemingly I never have. To that I would add a personal recommendation never to fly in crap weather either. I confess to having done plenty of that .. and pretty scary much of it was too. But I am still here.

Caveat aviator.

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Old 21st Mar 2016, 10:43
  #52 (permalink)  
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It would be interesting to know approximately how many SEP's fly across the channel on an annual basis. Comparing that to the number of ditching incidents over say a twenty year period would give an interesting statistic. Just from my own memory over that period, I would suggest it's less than ten but happy to be corrected.
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 16:51
  #53 (permalink)  
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The AOPA guys did a study on the survivability of ditching. I don't have the exact number but I recall that 90 + % resulted in all surviving the ditching and exiting the aircraft. Survivability after the ditching was obviously heavily dependent on how close help was and whether or not the pilot/pax were wearing life jackets.

My home airport is on a spit with water adjacent to one end and about a mile off the other end. If it is busy it is not unusual to be out of gliding distance of land while in the circuit. For that reason and the fact that there is a lot of other water nearby, I always were a constant wear type horse collar style life vest on every flight in a SEP.

I also fly sea planes and the survival numbers are much lower because of the sudden unexpected and usually violent upsets that occur when control is lost on the water. Here the survival numbers are much worse, with typically people drowning inside the aircraft before they can get out.

A egress course is IMO an absolute must if you are flying or even in a seaplane. As a very experienced scuba diver plus a regular breath hold diver I thought it would be a piece of cake. How wrong I was

This training provider had a mock up of a small light aircraft trainer cabin. You were strapped in then they submerged it gave you a good shake and shuffle and left you upside down. The first time I ended up totally disoriented and was never able to escape, instead the safety crew had to raise the cabin above the water. I tried it 6 more times include blindfolded and by the end was secure in the knowledge I could escape pretty much no matter what happened.

However if that first time had been a real crash I would probably not be writing this..........

Finally you can only escape an crashed aircraft in the water or on land if you are conscious. The No 1 way to ensure you stay conscious after the crash is to have and wear a shoulder harness. I will not fly in any aircraft that is not fitted with one.
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 17:35
  #54 (permalink)  
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Some good advice here too:-

Ditching Safety Sense Leaflet
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Old 21st Mar 2016, 18:11
  #55 (permalink)  
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Mostly good points above about doing the math, gliding distance from shore, proper equipment (aircraft and personal).

But here is the thing...the airplane doesn't know it's over water. You can have exactly the same argument about crossing a major mountain range, flat prairies in the middle of the winter or a desert in the middle of summer. It always comes down to proper pre-flight planning and you should not have to put extra effort into flight planning if you're doing it thoroughly enough to begin with.

There is always risk mitigation required, but consider that airplanes come out of maintenance all the time and go across big swaths of water. An engine failure is just as likely the hour before a maintenance check as it is the hour after and this is where proper pre-flight checks and run-ups are worth their while.
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Old 22nd Mar 2016, 13:32
  #56 (permalink)  
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I get your point but this is still the level of risk you are prepared to take.
Pilots will do all manner of things like flying over fog banks or at night where they are in the laps of the Gods if the Donkey goes bang.

I have always tried to fly with an out and over long stretches of rough sea, at night or over fog you have no outs

It then becomes a game of Russian Roulette hoping that flight doesn't hold the bullet even though there are 9999 empty slots in your gun you still have the one which is not empty

If I had a gun which had capacity to hold 1000 bullets and loaded one and gave the gun to you would you put the gun to your head and pull the trigger? There is no difference

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Old 22nd Mar 2016, 16:02
  #57 (permalink)  
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Slight difference. If I fly over water and the engine fails, I will have planned to have the survival equipment in place and ready to once I put her down and will know in advance how to egress. I can't very well survive a self-inflicted gunshot wound, no matter how much preparation I put into it.

I never said don't fly as high or leave yourself in a position where you have no outs. I actually said completely the opposite: do your proper planning in a manner that flying over water is simply a different consideration to flying over land. Perhaps this simplicity comes from years flying above the clouds where the only thing telling you you're over water is the colour moving map, but that's why I say treat water as a consideration rather than as a specific plan all to itself.

I'm always amazed at how people will plan more for a flight over water than they would flying over a major metropolitan area. Frankly, I would prefer ditching to have to find a place in a downtown core. Yet for most people they wont spend a second thinking about the city but will fret for days about water.
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Old 22nd Mar 2016, 18:34
  #58 (permalink)  
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An engine failure is just as likely the hour before a maintenance check as it is the hour after
As someone who has done a fair amount of air tests and post maintenance flights I'm sorry but I cannot agree!
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Old 22nd Mar 2016, 19:02
  #59 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2007
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As someone who has done a fair amount of air tests and post maintenance flights I'm sorry but I cannot agree!
UV, so have I and that's why I said it.

Sure, the post maintenance flight prior to releasing the aircraft back to service may result in an increased exposure to further maintenance actions. But once released to service, there is typically no increased risk from one end of the schedule to the other. Therefore, the average pilot is just as likely to have an engine failure (or other maintenance issue) following maintenance as they are coming up to it.

I say this having done quite a number of engine break-ins and other maintenance test flights. The only engine failure I've ever had was 5 hours prior to an inspection, but I've sent just as many airplanes back into the shop following maintenance as I've sent coming up to an inspection.
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Old 23rd Mar 2016, 04:26
  #60 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2001
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Thanks for the explanation, now I understand what you are saying.

Here in the UK (I assume you are in the US) for light aircraft, we no longer have a requirement for an Air Test (by a suitably qualified pilot) following maintenance or engine replacement. There are some exceptions.

So, generally owners are now free to collect their aircraft, post maintenance or engine change, without these aircraft having been flown at all.

Hence my comment.
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