04 - Flying Safely

  • Safety Articles

Hello again everyone,

I am delighted to say that I counted no fewer than 24 aircraft flying last Sunday, many of which were very sensibly practicing circuits. Since I didn't arrive until 11am, there were probably more. We also managed to plant lots of trees, cut up some damaged branches, and clear out some rubbish vegetation, so it was generally a successful day.

I would also like to thank everyone for their positive response to our campaign for improved safety and ability among our pilots.

Among the e-mails I received was one from a very senior member who had an exciting experience a few weeks back. I would like to thank him in public for allowing me to publish the following (slightly edited) extract. I am sure we all can learn from it, and I hope it makes us think about occasionally practicing both stopping on the runway and right-hand circuits.

Regarding my quick circuit. It was not a wise thing to have done. Generally my thoughts on taking off are about likely engine failure. This day not so, and when I realised the engine was mis-firing badly I delayed for a few seconds which left me the choice of continuing or going through the fence.

The plane was climbing and turning back is generally not on, so I commenced a turn between the club house and the hangar. Down-wind at about 150 feet with an airspeed of around 50kt. To use a first world war expression, it was button pinching. I could hear a flying instructor's words in my ears when, many years ago I checked mags downwind and only returned one. The engine missed on a go-around. He said, "Gentle turns, watch your airspeed." I concentrated on that this time, and approaching base leg I had 50kt with the nose up slightly but not climbing.

I turned inside the high tension cables and felt some relief as I put the nose down for the turn onto final which took me a little south due to the gentle turns. We landed safely.

I frequently carry out stalls and slow flight. The plane will climb on 1600 R.P.M. Had it been a hot day with a heavier passenger and a full tank the story would have been different. As it was these things were in my favour as we only had about one third fuel. My 1500 plus hours on the plane probably helped a bit also.

I should have known better as I have witnessed a Wirraway attempt to turn back. Both the flying instructor and pupil were killed in a fiery crash. He could have gone straight ahead.

I removed the engine as I wanted to replace it. The engine has an oil leak at the front of the airscrew, not much, but it makes a mess. I removed the magneto cap. There was a layer of carbon which when wiped off revealed spider like tracking marks. The plugs looked OK, perhaps a little sooty but the engine has always been a bit rich.

Wise words, from a wise man.

Have fun practising both stopping on take-off (but do be careful of that swing the other way, particularly taildragger pilots) and a few right-hand circuits. If you feel unhappy about practising right-hand circuits at Serpentine, you can easily pop across to Murray Field, where at least one of the runways requires a right-hand circuit.

Have fun flying safely,

Bob Grimstead
SABC Safety Committee