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  • Thursday, November 01, 2018 1:19 PM | Anonymous

    Good afternoon everyone,

    Before I get into the details of an event that happened last night, I would like to thank everyone that came out to vote last week, and I thank you for voting for me in as the chapter's VP. I am excited to be able to help in a administrative role with the chapter and look forward to moving forward!

    Now, onto last night...

    For those of you that do not know me, I am a student at BGSU's flight college and currently in the first half of my instrument/commercial flight training. As a result, I do a lot of cross country flying. On my way home from Grand Rapids Michigan last night I had experienced something that I consider extremely odd....

    According to the flight briefer before the flight, their was foretasted to be a low hanging cloud layer starting over top Toledo and heading south-westward cutting between Bowling Green and Findlay which would form while I was en route to Grand Rapids. My instructor and I get to Grand Rapids with out a problem, turn around and head back to Wood County. As we cross into Ohio we can notice that cloud deck over top Toledo and pointing towards BG area. Wood County AWOS was reporting Visibility as 10 (with somewhat low hanging clouds,) while Toledo Executive was reporting Visibility 4 and very low clouds. With the thought that those clouds over top TDZ were on their way down to 1G0, our goal quickly became to land while we had visual flight conditions. We were able to see the beacon light at this point and decided to cancel flight following and soon made our initial call 10 miles out. 

    It was at this point when we had a surprise.

    Someone on the ground was pointing an extremely bright spotlight on the left side of the aircraft. 

    At first I thought we were about to have a midair and that bright light was simply a landing light, but after being blinded and the entire cabin lit up, I squinted my eyes and looked off to the left side only to notice that in the middle of the dark field was a spotlight. After about 5 seconds, the light turned off and we didn't see it again. 

    Even though this situation did occur, my primary focus was still to get the plane to the airport before the weather moved in. Since that was the case I simply had to allow my eyes to readjust to the darkness of night and continue flying the airplane. I soon made another radio call saying that we were 5 miles out, meaning that this incident occurred between 5-10 miles north of 1G0. We eventually landed at Wood County, avoiding the incoming weather.  

    While taxing back to the hanger my flight instructor and I make the decision that I would contact the Wood County Sheriff, but they suggested me to contact the Toledo Tower. I gave the tower a phone call and they made a report of it.

    The reason I am writing this is because either we have some guy that likes to shine lights at airplanes during night time, or maybe it was a deer hunter searching for  his kill and thought it might be fun to point a light at an airplane. Either way, it is still a very dangerous situation and I wanted to get the word out to other pilots that my be flying at night over top the Perrysburg area soon. 

    Hind sight is 20/20, and if I could go back and correct my mistakes I would have contacted Toledo Approach immediately and told them the situation so they could track my position at that location, and/or recorded my Latitude and Longitude position and report a exact location myself. 

    Hopefully none of you guys have to worry about anything like this in the near future but if this does happen to you make sure you contact the nearest approach or call the tower after landing and report it, but most importantly make sure that your flight is safe and continue to safely fly the airplane. If this is someone who likes to blind pilots then that person must be brought to justice, a situation like that could kill someone if it is not taken care of soon.

    - John Kurfess, EAA Chapter 582 Vice President 

  • Wednesday, November 15, 2017 10:04 AM | William J. David

        Goodbye to Denise and Barry Knotts.  I guess Barry is pretty much retired now and is heading for warmer climates.  He tells me they have a place in an exclusive flyin community down in Florida called, “Spruce Creek.”

        They will be rubbing elbows with like minded aviators from all over the world that come to nest there.  I have been lucky enough to know a couple of folks over the years that lived there and visited them a time or two. I got to fly one of those big Sukoi stunt planes a few years ago down there.  They are going to be in hog heaven.

        I would like to take some time to say a few words about Denise and Barry.  They were great Chapter members.  One of the first times I every flew with Barry was in a twin Cessna to pick up the then editor of sport aviation, David Hipschman, to speak at our awards ceremony.           Barry flew all the way up to Waupaca, Wisconsin and back to pick him up and then drop him off the next day.  No charge to the Chapter.

        Denise helped the Chapter in an official capacity on a number of occasions.  She did a lot of volunteering for Young Eagles too.  Barry would fly Young Eagles all day long in his gas guzzling, fire breathing four place pressurized airplane, and paid for his own gas.  I cannot think of a time when he didn’t do this.

        I heard he is a good doctor too.  I always thought it was funny when passengers I flew on a charter would say to someone, “this is Bill, he is a really good pilot.”   How would they know if they weren’t pilots themselves?  It turns out I taught a fellow how to fly that was learning to be a general surgeon under the tutelage of Dr. Knotts.  He told me that all of the residents thought Barry could walk on water.  Nice compliment.

        Denise and Barry would come and help out at Plane Fun.  Since I have been around they have always been a positive force for the chapter, supporting everything we did.  You would see them a HATH too.  I think the Knotts are a joy to be around and I will miss them both.  I know they will always stay connected to us but I will miss running into them from time to time. The chapter can use more folks like them, the world could too.

        So thank you to them for their selfless support for our cause, and good luck from all of us on their new journey. 

  • Wednesday, March 16, 2016 11:53 AM | Tom Park

    The following was sent by one of our members (Jim Boule)  as an interest article about the B24 built at Willow Run Airport in Detroit Michigan.  Read the prelude and follow the link at the bottom of this page!

    The long hanger at Willow Run, Michigan has a 90 degree turn in it so Henry Ford would not have to pay taxes in the next county. That short end is being saved and restored today as a museum. The big hanger doors are still operational after all these years. 

    This is one of the best and most informative clips about a great American accomplishment, thanks to the Ford Motor Company during WWII. 

    A Ford Airplane! AMAZING!

    Production began here 6 months BEFORE Pearl Harbor! Henry Ford was determined that he could mass produce bombers just as he had with cars, so he built the Willow Run assembly plant and proved it. This was the world's largest building under one roof at the time. This film will absolutely blow you away -- one B-24 every  55 minutes! -- and Ford had its own pilots to test them. And no recalls!


    B24 Liberator link - Click here

  • Monday, February 15, 2016 11:22 AM | Deleted user

    I raised the subject of shop cleanliness and safety at the last meeting, and I am suggesting that we consider installing a central dust collector for the machinery, with floor sweeps for general clean-up. The members would install. I recently purchased a reasonable unit for my own shop for around $200 (not installed yet) from Harbor Freight, so that plus duct etc should be of ok cost, say <$1000 for a clean shop.

    Also with regard to safety, some equipment have open hazards which need to be addressed. 1st to prevent injury and 2nd to limit liability. 

    If any member would like to second this as a proposal for discussion at the next meeting, please do. 

    And if any member should disagree, well let that be known also.



  • Thursday, January 21, 2016 2:59 PM | William J. David

    Learning to fly has a profound effect on a persons life.  I am glad to have shared that with a few people in my life.  This is one person's thoughts on having gone though the process at our chapter.  I am very flattered to read his kind words on the experience.  Read the comments and and you will see how unique TBLSACI is.  Long live TBLSACI! Craw!!

    Bill David

    Click here to read more 

  • Friday, August 28, 2015 11:05 PM | Anonymous

    Dear EAA 582,

    As most of you know I am now at the Naval Academy and therefore have not been out at the airport since I left at the end of June. In the last two months since I left home my world has changed a lot, waking up at 6 a.m. is considered sleeping in, 20 minutes to shower, change, read current events, and memorize a an array of the day's meals and other information we're required to know seems like a lot of time, and many other things. Overall it's an incredible experience that I wouldn't trade for the world the things I get to do here are opportunities that most can only dream of. 

    The first week of classes was this week which has been a nice change of pace. Plebe summer is constant control and pressure the academic year gives us a little more opportunity to act like normal human beings. Seriously, after a little while you forget what it's like to just act normal. 

    Unfortunately, I haven't been able to fly since I left home, I'm working on joining the flight team. Team tryouts should be held soon I should get back in the air soon. An astronaut is the head of the program, so that should be pretty sweet!! The people that walk around here are incredible. Seriously, you never know who is going to walk around the corner. I also joined the sailing team (kind of random, I know), but there's actually a lot of pilots on the team, sailing kind of employs a similar skill set of skills as flying. 

    Since I left I've really started to realize how nice I have it at home and at the airport. The people in Ohio are some of the best people in the entire world. The reasons why are infinite, but I'll give a few examples. The community is incredible I have yet to meet a single person who wasn't willing to go above and beyond to help me out in anyway. In Ohio, everyone knows each other and wishes each other well. The kids from other places don't have that it's weird really. Not to mention the experience I had flying at the airport is like nothing else anyone else here has. They've seen pictures of Pietenpol Air Campers, I got to fly my first solo flight in one. 

    I need to go to bed, but what I'm attempting to do is to thank everyone for their support and communicate how much I appreciate it. Seriously, keep doing what you're doing it made an incredible difference in my world. 

    Very Respectfully,

    S.R. Johnson


  • Thursday, August 20, 2015 7:25 PM | William J. David

        I have been here too many times before.  I get a sharp and disgusting feeling of angst whenever it happens.  I have been through it enough to recognize the sequence of feelings that are about to march through my brain as the scene unfolds.  I know better than to pay much attention to these feelings but they are still there in the background as I focus on taking the steps necessary to survive.  I don't want the experience again however,  a long time ago I came to the realization that unfortunately it is part of the game and this game is played for keeps.

        Me and my buddy Brian were to fly a 1947 Fairchild 24R to Oshkosh in the hopes of selling it for another friend.  I had flown this airplane several times before.  In fact I picked it up when the owner purchased it and flew it practically all the way across the country and through tall mountains to get it home to KTDZ.  A few years earlier I flew it over Lake Michigan from Oshkosh.  In all the years I have flown to Oshkosh I have always flown over the lake.  That would not be the case this time.

        We departed fully loaded and full of fuel.  We were heavy, topped of with sixty gallons of avgas, and more junk than we needed stacked all the way to the ceiling in the baggage and back seat.  It was hot out side too.  Hot and hazy.  As we climbed out my GPS was telling me that there was a wide area of marginal VFR to IFR between our position just north of Toledo and the lake.  I made a quick decision and decided to fly west instead to avoid this area.  It was was supposed to be improving to clear the further west we flew so, west we flew.  Remember this pilgrim, it is better to be lucky than to be good. 

        People are not moved by fact or reason but rather skillful manipulation of emotion.  Sometimes that manipulation comes from within.  A couple of facts come into play when it comes to flying over the middle of a lake that is freezing cold and even colder most of the year.  One is that it is only about sixty miles wide at the narrow point which is for all practical purposes on the way to Oshkosh.  Another is that airplane engines almost never quit abruptly, they usually run rough for quite a while before they quit if they do quit altogether.  The fact is however they hardly ever quit and if they do a pilot usually has enough time for a favorable out come if, and it is a big if, the pilot is prepared for it.

        A couple of things I know from experience is that very few pilots are prepared to make a a forced landing period, in spite of the fact that we live in a place on the planet where everywhere is a suitable landing site.  It is perfectly flat and for the most part smooth no matter where you go.  If you loose an engine around here all you really have to do is trim the airplane and point it into the wind.  Chances are that it will make a perfect landing in a nice field with no help from you.  That is usually not what happens though.  The ill prepared pilot will start to think and when that happens look out!  The last place you want to start thinking is immediately following an engine failure, it's too late.  You should have thought about it before and when it happens you react with a well though out plan.  This may be a bit of an overstatement but, very, very few pilots are prepared (read practiced) for any emergency, let alone an engine failure so it really doesn't help if you don't fly over the lake, chances are you will crash anyway, usually stall/ spin in.

        An example of what I am talking about took place at my home airport recently and the poor fellow eventually died from the injuries.  It didn't have to happen but it did.  Unfortunately it is very easy to predict.  His engine failed for whatever the reason and he stall/spun her in trying to get back to the airport.  It happens almost all the time.  All he would have had to do is land in a field, any field.  Emotionally you may "believe," that you can handle a forced landing by flying around the lake but, I don't "think," you will.  In fact I will go further by saying your chances are better because there are fewer decisions for you to "think," about by the fact that all you have to do is land into the wind without stalling.  Of course you will probably do neither of the two but the results of your failure may be more forgiving than they would be on terra-firma.

        Emergencies are occurrences that are by nature are unpredictable, otherwise they would not be emergencies, duh.  So how do you best handle them?  It is actually quite simple, you establish and communicate a plan.  We have a book in the cockpit of our jet airliners that is called a QRH, it stands for quick reference handbook.  There are a bunch of procedures to guide us through an abnormal situation like loss of a generator or a fuel pump, etc.  Some of them are more dire than others but, only a few could be called holy !@#$ emergencies.  As an example, there is something in there about smoke in the cockpit but nothing about the cockpit bursting into flames.  The bottom line is that the book is there for you to read because the situation is really is not that bad, the really bad stuff is not in the book and if it was you probably would be limited by time, or ability to to read it.  The other thing is it is not possible to think of every scenario and put it in the book.  So you had better have established a plan for certain eventualities. 

        So there we were, Brian and I, slowly making our way along the turnpike toward Chicago.  Since this route would take us through Toledo's airspace I had to give them a call.  When I dialed up the frequency I tuned into some pilot trying to file an IFR flight plan to Ripon.  If you don't know what the Ripon intersection is you could be an air traffic controller because this guy didn't either.  It is a VFR reporting point on the VFR arrival procedure to land at OSH during Airventure.  I listened to this long winded and unprepared pilot and controller go on and on before I cut in.  It took several calls before I got through the nonsense and got clearance through the airspace.  That is when we first smelled it.

        There was a faint smell of what we decided was like a smoldering piece of paper.  A napkin was what popped into my mind for whatever the reason.  I thought it might be something in all the stuff we had in the back.  The propeller had thrown quite a bit of grease on the right windshield but there was only a trace of oil.  We decided to make a precautionary landing at Fulton County Airport in Ohio, only a few miles away from Toledo.  Upon arrival I got out and inspected the airplane.  The propeller had thrown a lot of grease but I figured that was normal since it had recently been greased during an inspection a few weeks prior.  There was very little evidence of oil on the nose.  Again, I had quite a bit of experience with this problem in previous flights and the amount that I observed was insignificant.  All seemed well so off we went.

        About twenty minutes later the smell returned.   Damn, I thought.  One side of my thinking was based in emotion, the other in fact.  The emotional side of me said that it was nothing to be concerned with, old airplanes stink and leak oil.  It will keep running and we had a schedule to keep.  The other side of my thoughts, the ones I listened to, fell back on an old aviation adage, "it is better to be on the ground wishing you were flying than to be flying wishing you were on the ground."  I selected an alternate airport and proceeded directly to it about four or five miles away.

        A big mistake a lot of pilots make in this kind of a situation is they begin a decent in order to arrive at the airport at pattern altitude.  Controllers will actually tell you to begin a decent for the same reason and this can be and often is, a fatal mistake.  I held on to the altitude I had as I headed toward the airport. Soon I was about to change my mind on that altitude thing.  The smell was quite strong now and as I was looking at the fields I could stuff the airplane into should it catch fire, then cabin filled with thick blue smoke.  Possible fire.  The next thought was this airplane didn't have shoulder harnesses in it, that actually pissed me off, there is no reason for that and I should not be flying in an airplane with no shoulder harnesses.  If we were on fire no matter how fast I got us on the ground it would not be fast enough.  Oh sure, I could stuff it in a corn field but we would most surely smash our faces into the dashboard as it flipped over on it's back.  This was desirable compared to the alternative of burning alive trying to make it to an airport now only about three miles away.

        Seconds after the smoke started I was looking out the windshield and could see smoke coming from around the propeller and all of the sudden woosh!  The windshield was completely covered with brown oil, I could see nothing out off it.  I shut off the engine with the mag switch and pointed the nose down steeply.  I wanted to get the airplane on the ground now!  We started at a little less than three thousand feet AGL.  I still had the airport in sight and Brian saw it out there too.  I was flying the airplane but I was thinking about burning up in it.  When we got down to about fifteen hundred feet AGL I said out loud, "I don't feel any flames!"  He didn't say anything so I figured we must not be burning.  I leveled off and turned the mags back on. 

        I knew exactly where the airport was but I couldn't see it.  We had rolled down the windows (roll down windows are common on old airplanes) to let the smoke out so I thought I would stick my head out in the breeze to get a better view.  Bad idea, my face was immediately covered with oil.  Good thing I had my glasses on.  I pulled my head back in and set my glasses on the instrument panel.  I slipped and slided the airplane from side to side to get a glimpse of the airport.  When I figured I had it made I shut the mags off again.

        I was about a mile and a half out for a down wind landing on a fairly long paved runway.  At that point I don't think I knew the name of the airport.  I didn't know the the frequency or anything and I didn't care either. I just knew I had the runway made and we weren't on fire.  The rest would be easy.  It always amazes me when I hear about a pilot that was about to crash and they get on the radio and declare an emergency just before they hit.  There was a commuter crash at the Charlotte airport a few years ago where they took off with a very aft center of gravity with improperly installed control cables which limited down elevator.  On rotation the airplane pitched almost straight up, climbed about a thousand feet, rolled over and dove straight into the concrete ramp of the maintenance hangar by the runway.  On the way down the pilot declared and emergency on the tower frequency.  What good did that do?  Shouldn't  she have been trying to fly to the bitter end?  In a situation like that you had better be totally focused on flying.  The radio is a distraction that plays no roll in the outcome.

        Flying was all that I was concentrating on now and to me this was the easy part, I think about and teach this stuff and practice it all the time.  It was second nature to me.  I played the approach out, managed my energy, and positioned the airplane for a good downwind landing.  By the way I didn't need to look at the wind sock to tell which way the wind was blowing, I could see it in the trees and the corn we were flying over.  I could see it in the wind correction angle I was holding as we cruised along.  Knowing where the wind is to me second nature as well. 

        I did this all without the benefit of a front window too.  I always teach the the worst window in the airplane is the one that most pilots spend their time looking out of, the front window.  When I fly I seldom look out the front window, the side windows provide a much better view for attitude.  I think they do that because every vehicle they have ever operated requires them to look out the front window.  A car, a boat, a motorcycle, a skateboard all require your attention to the fore.  That is not the case in an airplane, the front window provides the least benefit of situational awareness but, most pilots still sit there staring out the front window.  So it didn't really bother me that I couldn't see out the from window.
        By now it was prettying much all over but the shouting.  The motor was off, there was no fire, and we were over an airport.  All I had to do was land the thing.  Although I knew where I was I couldn't see the fine detail of our situation.  I was grateful to see our shadow as I looked out the left window.  It was providing me feedback on my decent rate.  That would make it easy to tell when I was about to touch down.  I thought I was over the runway but I couldn't tell for sure because it was right directly underneath us.  I made a remark to Brian, something like, "I think I'm over the runway."  He responded very positively, " oh you are directly over the runway right now."  This gave me great confidence. 

        I made a good landing except for the fact that I was not exactly straight when I touched down.  This is one of the few times you want to look out the front window, when you are landing a tail dragger so you can keep it straight.  The wheels were squealing as I jabbed at the rudder and brakes to keep it where I thought the middle of the runway was.  We slowed to taxi speed and we're still under control.  I let it cost off the side of the runway being careful not to hit any lights so the runway could remain in use.  That is another thing I learned a long time ago, don't get on the runway unless you are going to use it.  The reason I was told is because somebody that is having an emergency might need it.  I see pilots pull out on the runway and sit there, sometimes for several minutes before they take off.

        As soon as she came to a stop I jumped out and started dancing a jig because I had survived another situation in an airplane.  The outcome could have been much worse and I was glad it was over. I have been through this too many times and I feel like I am starting to get used to it which of course I am not.  As I was doing this the usual suspects pulled up within seconds to two vehicles.  Knuckleheads I thought, thank God for all of the knuckleheads that spend their days hanging around the airport.  No matter how bad the weather is they cannot drive by the airport, they have to see what is going on even if it were nothing which unfortunately it is too much of nowadays.  These guys saw us coming in and knew we were I trouble and started after us before we came to a stop.  If the airplane flipped they would have got us out before we knew it.  The one guy looked at me and smiled a real smile as I was dancing. He knew exactly what I was feeling, I'm sure he had been there to. 

        The worst thing to come out of the whole mess was the mess itself.  I was planning on meeting up with a fellow airline pilot and riding with him out to California to pick up an airplane he had just bought.  That meant that I had to look presentable in order to ride the jump seat so I brought a pair of slacks and a shirt and hung them on a hanger in the back seat.  When we rolled down the windows oil splattered all over them.  Once we were on the ground we had to climb back in the slobbering mess to retrieve our luggage because we rented a car to drive the rest of the way.  I had on a new EAA shirt a good friend had given me along with a new pair camping pants I was wearing and both of them were ruined with oil stains.  Brian had on a nice new Under Armor shirt and it suffered the same fate.  There you have it boys and girls, my latest adventure.  I hope you can take something way from it, I hope you never have to use it but, there you have it if you do.

  • Wednesday, February 18, 2015 2:56 PM | DeAnne. (Dee) Wiese (Administrator)



    For our Facebook members and friends .....


    We interrupt this series of “What Our Members are Flying” for this week’s special addition. Are you sitting by the fire looking out the back door at the Arctic weather that just seems to hang around? Are your local airport runways identified by the mounds of snow that are piled up alongside?  Have the green grass strips become a white blending blanket of snow matching adjacent fields? Well, your options for flying have just become an adventure. The season for many has just begun. That is if you’re flying passion may include flying off skis! My goal this year was to put my Chief on skis and be able to shoot right out of our 2400’ “Snow” strip. ..And if I can get the Chief’s annual finished up I think it just might be possible! My thoughts about ski flying are with a safe attitude. It may just be some of the safest flying one could do in Ohio… since landing strips would nearly become endless, providing your finding clear areas. Most aviators are, by necessity, restricted to runways of some sort during the summer months, but winter offers a whole new range of possible "airports", with literally thousands of level landing sites within reach in northwest Ohio and Michigan. These landing sites are often lakes and rivers, but with sufficient snow cover, ski-equipped aircraft can land virtually anywhere that’s relatively level, and even some places that are very definitely not level.

    For me it would be just another adventure a great way to keep up flying skills in what most would consider the “Idol” season. But for many ski flying is a way of life and in other areas, many become dependent on planes with skis to bring supplies, medical needs as well as an only means of transportation to travel any major distance.  Thanks to social media and the vast websites and interest groups I have found, I have become friends with others who share a common interest as well as those who are dependent on the type of aircraft and flying I would like to do. “Back Country” Although I am very green in this type of flying, nothing says I can’t learn research and discover new territory even in my Lil’ Chief.  I have a web friend I correspond and chat with who is very fluent in Backcountry flying, he says this to me, ….. For those aviators who haven’t experienced ski flying, you don’t know what you’re missing. Many of those scenic destinations that you couldn’t quite find time to visit in the summer are even more spectacular when covered with a blanket of snow.” Of course he lives in Denali and flies a 170 on every configuration, Tundra tires, Floats and Skis.  He joked with me that we in Ohio, have “seasons” , in Denali he calls it “Swapping Time”. I don’t know if “Chief –n-I” will ever make it to Denali but I would sure love to visit their way of life someday. If you want to come out of winter hibernation to see what winter flying is all about, there are many local and national Ski plane events including Oshkosh’s annual EAA Ski Plane Fly in, Local Chapters also host Ski Plane fly ins such as Chapter 50 recently hosted theirs at hind Field (88D) in Huron Ohio as well as several lakes throughout the country host regular gatherings.  If Ski plane flying is something you’re interested in, there are also training services throughout such as Northwood Aviation in Cadillac Michigan who also do tail-wheel  as well as seaplane ratings.


    As soon as the airplane became a successful controlled flight… people were already finding ways to adapt them to various accessories to fly them off sand, water, ice and snow simply because Airports obviously came as a successor after the airplane. Snow skis were actually invented prior to paved runways.  The ski types in common use today are straight skis, penetration skis, semi-retractable skis, and fully retractable wheel skis. To make things more interesting, there are skis made from metal, fiberglass, thermoplastics, some high tech carbon fibre composites, and the original composite material, wood. Originally, most skis were made from wood.

    Skis although are common place to adapt to conventional gear airplanes and well as high wing airplanes, many tricycle gear and low wing airplanes have been adapted with skis as well. I feel a high wing design is more flexible than a low wing for ski operations, but there are successful low wing ski planes out there. I’m thinking tasks such as draining the wing sumps can be somewhat more “interesting” on a low wing plane in snow and deep snow may make the low wing design a liability due to snow berms and other obstacles.

    So, start thinking about those ice fishing/cross country skiing/snowshoeing/winter camping adventures. A set of skis on your airplane may just open a lot of doors to winter adventure that you never dreamed of. Stay tuned for the coming years when EAA 582 may just start our annual Ski Plane Fly in… I hear there may be left over chili !!..........Now I need to go finish the  annual!

  • Sunday, January 04, 2015 1:38 PM | William J. David

    Is This Clear?

    I started flying, "real," airplanes when I was 16 years old. Before that I flew model airplanes. I credit my father for teaching me how to fly because he got me started flying model airplanes when I was just a small boy. I used to sit in the basement shop for hours just watching him build model airplanes. I was so young if I told you how old I was you would not believe me so lets just say I was young.

    First it was small balsa wood hand launched gliders, then gas powered U-control or control line models. I remember hanging on with both hands, arms out stretched, struggling to control a .45 Fox powered stunter. My dad would kneel behind me with his hand around my belt so the screaming machine didn't drag me with it.

    later when I was about 12 years old I built my first radio controlled airplane. It was a K&B .45 powered Goldberg Sr. Falcon with a "full house," set of Orbit reeds in it. I doubt but a very few of you know what I am talking about here but if you do a web search you can find out, if you are interested. Little did I realize that all of this model airplane building stuff would prove to be so beneficial when it came time for me to learn how to fly full scale airplanes. I can't say enough good about learning how to build and fly model airplanes. It put me miles ahead of the average student pilot.

    You see, I knew from the time I started kindergarten that I was going to learn how to fly when I got old enough. I was too young to figure I would end up doing it for a living, which I'd did. I got a job at Colts Neck airport about 1970 and have worked at airports in one capacity or another ever since. Oh there were a few short stints as a factory worker, a waiter, and a nursing home during school but for the most part it was line boy, mechanic's aid, instructor, right on up the ladder. Honestly, the first flying job I ever applied for was with the majors. Compared to now there where lots of jobs. I always knew somebody that was leaving a job for a better one and would take over for them. In one case I didn't meet my boss until I had already started!

    Those days are over with. Airports like Colts Neck are rapidly disappearing from the landscape. Nowadays the chances are a new pilot will attend one of these, "aviation universities," that advertise a fast track to the airlines. The military has cut back too and drones are replacing some of the flying there. I am not making any judgement here but, going from one of these schools to a commuter pilot, and then a job with the majors (if you are lucky) limits one's exposure to the complexity of other forms of flying. Corporate and charter flying expose a pilot to all kinds of experience and perhaps more importantly, mentoring not found in the airlines. I include flight instruction in this too. Chances are a newly minted instructor will work for the same university they graduated from, just like their instructor did, until they get a job at the commuters. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, I'm just saying.

    So what I will attempt to do in this article is to shed a little bit of light on how this may be effecting our ability to improve judgement in view of the fact that it has to be taught rather than experienced. The time honored tradition of becoming a line boy or girl is gone. It's probably not even politically correct to use the term line boy or girl. The path through a military flight career has been reduced greatly too. Typing skills for the FMS are replacing stick and rudder skills. Again, I make no judgement on this, the way things are it is inevitable. The vehicle of choice for attempting to teach judgement is senecio based training. Although it is a good way to learn, in my opinion it is no substitute for the actual experience of being in the, "battle" so to speak. Many times the core reasons for doing what we have been taught to do get, "lost in the sauce," so to speak. In today's flying environment whether it is amateur or professional, procedural compliance reigns supreme and will continue to do so as our base of experience shrinks. Here is an example of what I am talking about, something we have all been schooled on, and most probably wrong.

    So, where do I start, with the chicken or the egg? I choose egg.

    When you hop in your airplane you have been taught to shout, " clear!," or, "clear prop!," about one the tenth of a second before you turn the key or push the button. Is this a question or a statement? Chances are you will say that it is a statement and if you do you are wrong. It is supposed to be a question not a statement. I know, I know, "but my instructor says..." Believe it or not your instructor is wrong. I know because I am an instructor and I make mistakes all the time.

    The next response in usually something like, " but everyone else does it too." This is a great position to take. One thing I desperately tried to teach my children was to do what others do before you think (sarcasm). That way you achieve group acceptance and for me that is very important no matter what the activity is. I am being facetious of course.

    Everybody has been doing it wrong, like other things in flying and that is the point of this article. We have been doing it wrong because we don't understand the fundamentals in this case, and that includes instructors. Over time the right way has evolved into the wrong way as generation after generation have come and gone. A long time ago when I was a line boy at a small grass strip, I remember my very first job clearly, clean the toilet. There is a story there too but let's stay focused. I learned many other things too, how to tie down an airplane, change the oil, cut the grass, work the unicom, start a cold engine, start a hot engine, all kinds of things that they don't teach at these flight schools. And I was taught by experienced mentors that didn't go to a pilot school either. They all learned from the school of hard knocks. As a sixteen year old kid I was not aware they were trying to keep me from attending any classes at that school. One of the guys that I was around was a fellow by the name of Cecil Cofferin, had his license signed by one of the Wright Brothers! I don't know how old he was but he must have been in his seventies at the time and he was still a very active professional pilot.

    One of the jobs I learned was how to hand prop an airplane. This didn't scare me either because I had experience propping all kinds of model airplanes. My boss went over the basics with me, the proper stance ( no pun) the proper grip, stick back, fuel off, and so forth, all of the things that lead to a safe and successful prop job. I also remember reading and discussing the evolution of how to prop an airplane with guys like Cecil.

    You see, when airplanes first started showing up in the skies there was no such thing as an electric starter or electric system for that matter. All aircraft needed to be hand propped and all pilots had to know how to hand prop an airplane. It was common place, normal, and routine to do so. This is what an average propping event might have gone like, let's say Bill is the pilot and David is the propper. (Armstrong starter).

    Bill: "Hey David, do you mind giving me a prop? (Today we might say, "do you mind flipping me off?")

    David: "heck no Bill, I don't mind at all, I would be happy to help you get started."

    David walks around to the business end of the airplane and starts giving orders. The propper is in charge of this process, not the pilot. "Switch off?" "Switch off," Bill replies. "Brakes set?", "brakes set," and so on goes the exchange until David is ready to yank on the propeller.

    I neglected to tell you that Bill is considered somewhat of a pompous twit around the airport and David was sheathing with joy when he walked around the front of the airplane and discovered Bill left a small steel stand right were it was when he checked the oil. The nose of the airplane completely hid it from Bill's sight and when David was just about to yell "contact on left," he stuck his head out to the side of the cowling and said, " you want me to move this steel stand first Bill...Captain...Captain Bill?"

    The folks around the airport loved to hear the story about Bill's screw up but the fact is that because there was somebody out in front to start the airplane the propeller area was automatically made clear by the person that propped the airplane. It wasn't until later when the electrical system came along that things start getting caught in the propeller. I'm sure that a some folks were taken by surprise when somebody hit the starter button in an airplane they were standing very near. I bet some airport dogs learned not to sleep near them too. There were probably a few cases where somebody was struck by a prop when the button was mashed but by far and away it was ladders, stands, and tow bars that bore the brunt of the negligence.

    This of course would take it's toll on the airplane damaging not only the propeller but, fabric and sheet metal as we'll. It wasn't too long before they came up with a system, the system that I was taught so many years ago. If a pilot was about to start the engine, he or she was to yell to the mechanic or pilot closest to them, "clear?" Notice the question mark? That is because they were asking a qualified person if the propeller arc was clear when they yelled out, "clear!" The second part of the procedure required that a knowledgeable person in the vicinity of the airplane would survey the situation, make sure there was no dog, stool, or civilian standing in the way and would reply, "clear," a response to the question of, clear? meaning it was safe to hit the starter button at that time.

    That my friend is in fact how it is supposed to be done but that is not how you were taught and that is not what you do. The proper procedure has been replaced with a shout of "clear," with the simultaneous pressing of the starter button. No external replies from a qualified observer are offered even though there may be plenty of them around. This is because nobody knows they are supposed to respond with, "clear," if nothing is in the propeller arc. The procedure was taught to you wrong but, you are complying with the procedure you were taught. "Procedural compliance," right?

    If you think about it, you and I know what clear means but do you think a person that has never been to the airport knows what it means? Does a child know what it means? I think something like, "get out of the way, I'm going to start the engine!," might be the better thing to yell, and then give them more than a second to respond. Of course a stool can't respond and I'm sure most dogs can't either.

    The wrong way has become the right way, it is the new normal and starting the engine is only a small part of the way things have become "different," with flying.

    While we are on the subject of hand propping, I doubt that you have ever hand propped and airplane but, I am sure you will tell me that it is dangerous if I asked you. Even though you have never propped one you are sure that it is dangerous because your instructor told you or you read about it in some book somewhere. Let me let you in on a little secret, flying is dangerous. If you don't believe me ask John and Martha king. I could fill a big room with pilots that I know that are dead. Do a web search and see how dangerous the job of pilot is. Compare that to policeman or fireman.

    In all my years around flying and airports I cannot recall anyone getting hurt while propping an airplane. I read about some guy in a Cherokee that was killed when he propped his airplane after it quit taxiing out for departure but like most, "news," they left most of the details open for speculation. The fact is most people that have been injured or killed by a propeller strike had nothing to do with starting the engine. They simply walked into a propeller that was started with an electric starter. Sometimes the airplane gets away after it is hand propped but the lion's share of "propping accidents," have nothing to do with getting caught in the propeller. They have all to do with what happens after the motor is running, even though more often that not it was started by an electric starter. Am I saying propping is safe? Just like shooting an instrument approach to minimums it can be, if you know what your doing, and you do it right. Never confuse those two elements, the latter being the most important of course.

    An interesting observation I have made is that when I am teaching an experienced pilot the proper (get it?) procedure for propping, they invariably yell, "clear," before they yank the prop through. What's up with that? Procedural compliance perhaps? That's what I'm talking about.

    Another aspect that goes along with this story is the way that pilots will defend the way they have been doing it wrong all these years. I think this stems from a group mentality and I think this is because the basis of their experience is very limited compared to what it used to be. The only anchor to their knowledge is what they have been taught. I find this in the cockpit all the time and I am not passing judgement on it, or at least trying not to, it is just the way it is and will continue to be however, some things are bound to get mixed up on the way and starting an engine is just one small example of how that is taking place, clearly.

  • Saturday, December 13, 2014 12:48 PM | Deleted user

    Any one in the chapter know how to vac-bag light glass cloth onto foam base? Looking to protect underside of floats with minimum weight added. 



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