While waiting for a street
car - I dropped something and ran out into traffic to retrieve it.
I was hit by the street car and went under the "cow
catcher" - escaping with just cuts and bruises.
My next encounter was in an old barn full of hay - a group of
us were having a party in an barn and were jumping off the loft
into a stall full of hay. I was having a great time. Then as I
landed in the hay I heard my shirt rip and felt pain in my
shoulder. Looking down I saw the new shirt my mother had bought me
just for the party - turning red! Amazingly as I think back my
thoughts were "moms going to kill me" for ripping the
shirt. What had happened was that I had just landed on one of
those old 5 tine pitch forks - the ones with the long thin curved
tines! Two of the tines dug into my shoulder - while a third cut
Over the years I have kept a little diary of "my close
encounters" - digging them out for this article. Is flying
For example is it more dangerous than driving a car, I have had a
license since I was 16.?
Two accidents both minor fender benders.
Driving a motorcycle - 4 accidents no injuries.
Driving a snowmobile - a number of accidents but no injuries.
Flying ultralights? -
My first ultralight accident happened while flying a weight shift
"Birdman Atlas." It was powered by a single cylinder
Yamaha go cart engine of about 11 hp. I had become airborne and
was flying when I noticed my climb rate was not going to allow me
to clear a group of trees at the end of the runway. I made a
decision to abort - landed the plane safely but on a little bit of
an incline. The plane rolled back, the tail wheel dug into the
ground and the two boom tubes going to the tail snapped off.
Rotec Rally Big Lifter - I had just taken off with a student on
board - we were about 75 feet in the air over some very high corn
- when the student inadvertently shut the engine off. Dead
sticking us into the corn - no injuries just a little damage to
Quicksilver MX 11- A customer asked me to fly his plane over to
my field for some training. It was about a 2 hour flight from his
place to mine. During the flight I noticed that I was having to
keep pushing the stick farther and farther forward to keep flying
level. I decided to land and find out what was wrong - but as soon
as I backed power down the plane would start to porpoise, and
elevator control response was non existant. But I found with power
and full stick forward I could still fly the plane. I flew it like
this for about 20 minutes until I arrived at the sod fields I was
using for training. Over that time I had been able to get the
plane down from 1500 feet to about 800 - but every time I
backed power down the plane would stall! Loosening off my seat
belt I moved forward in the seat, this brought the nose down.
Undoing the seat belt allowed me to move out to the very edge of
the seat. I flew it down to the ground like this then chopped
power and the old girl landed with a thump but landed.
Investigation revealed the king post had come all the way down -
because the owner had applied never seize to the threads of the
more information click here.
Quicksilver on floats: While doing
a shoot for a bill board advertisement I was flying a Quicksilver
MX on floats along the Ottawa River. As I was touching down on the
water the floats separate at the seam and the plane somersaulted
and sank. At the time I had a full face helmet and a chest
parachute on me. Trying to undo my seat belt I couldn't get the
latch released. Finally it released and I escaped from the plane
and attempted to reach the surface. BUT something was holding me
back - my parachute cable was attached to the airframe. I had to
unscrew the connector before I could reach the surface. Breaking
the surface I still could not breath, the helmets visor would not
break free and the helmet was full of water, which meant I had to
undo the helmet strap. According to witnesses I was under water
for nearly 4 minutes. It is amazing what you can do when under
fire like that.
more information click here.
Rotec Panther 11 - This is story that is a story in itself! The
long and short of it is - after take off and climb out to 1,000
feet - as soon as I backed down on the power the plane began to
"porpoise" or "oscillate." After about 10
minutes I was able to keep the oscillations constant - that is I
would apply pressure to the elevator "in tune" with the
ocillations. This allowed me to get the plane down close to the
ground where I sort of landed the plane at the bottom of an
oscillation. The problem was that the elevator push pull tube was
about 14 feet long with NO support - and a bend at both ends.
Every time you applied elevator input the tube flexed and then
Buccaneer Amphibian XA - I had just finished building my plane,
had about 7 hours on it when I got caught in a some rough air over
Lake Simcoe, when all of a sudden the plane pulled to the left and
started a long slow spiral. Fighting the plane with spoilerons and
rudder I was able to prevent the spiral from getting any worse BUT
could not get out of it. I landed on the water sort of side ways -
but with no damage.
Inspection revealed the trailing edge spar had bent upwards about
about 18 inches from the root tube. I loaded the plane up and took
it back to the factory, they couldn't believe it until they
checked all the six other aircraft they had sold - all had
deformed trailing edge spars!
more information click here.
Antique Parasol - While at Sun N Fun I had helped a
manufacturer get his little 277 Rotax running - something no one
else had been able to do for the first three days of the show. In
gratitude he asked me if I would like to fly his beautiful little
craft. Of course I said yes and after a very thorough preflight
took to the air. After about 30 minutes of flying I decided to do
a couple "S" turns - coming out of one I pressed on the
right rudder pedal my foot went forward but the rudder did not
respond. I was able to level the plane with ailerons and fly back
using left rudder and ailerons. Landing the plane safely, and then
purposely ground looping to stop from going off the runway.
Inspection revealed the 4 screws securing the pedal to the wooden
floor had been torn from the floor.
Lazair: My wife saw me watching video of a parachute being
deployed on an ultralight that brought both pilot and plane down
safely. She bought me one for my birthday. I installed in on my
Lazair (also had one installed on my Challenger 11). While flying
around the outskirts of Lake Simcoe I was doing some steep turns
and pull ups when I flew into a flock of birds (geese I think) one
hit on the engine. The plane jerked to one side, I shut both
engines down and with rudder and aileron was able to fly the
plane. About 15 seconds later the wing failed. Disoriented I tried
to find the parachute handle, finally finding it I pulled it heard
a loud bang, felt a jolt, then a few seconds later another jolt -
and I was down on the ground. Two broken ankles.
more information on Lazair troubleshooting click here.
Chinook WT 11 single place: At an altitude of about 800 feet,
while on approach to a landing I noted that there was no
"feel" on the stick, no pressure, and the plane was
picking up speed, moving the stick back and forth, nothing
happened, the crafts speed was now over 75 mph, no matter what the
dealer did with rudders, or joystick, the plane would not respond.
The craft was now about 150 feet in the air and headed for the
very end of the runway, when the plane experienced a sudden
lifting action, the plane actually started to climb with nose
down, along with the lift came a fair amount of turbulence, and
all of a sudden pressure returned to the joystick. I landed the
plane, several onlookers rushed to the craft, including the owner.
I sat in the plane for several minutes, gathered my thoughts, then
climbed out. A check of all control systems, found no problem. The
elevator worked, the ailerons worked, no cables were broken frayed
or, disconnected. A check of the washout on the wings revealed, a
slight deviation from factory specs but only a very slight
Challenger 11: While flying along
at 3500 feet with a student, my trainer suddenly started to
buffet, and then went into an uncontrollable porposing action.
Looking back I could see that the horizontal stabilizer had failed
and was flopping up and down in the wind, and thumping the
elevator. The student came on the intercom to ask what was wrong -
"turbulence" I replied! Slowing the plane down I found I
could fly it at about 40 mph with the engine at an idle, and MOST
of the "turbulence" would disappear. My first thought,
once I got control back (that's right my initial reaction was to
get control - I never even thought about the chute) was to deploy
the chute, in fact I had already started to cock the deployment
handle! Then I thought you have control, can fly the plane, so fly
it! You won't believe how many things can go through your mind
while coming down from 3500 feet, with a wounded bird - how many
times you say "deploy the god damned chute." The panic
that starts at your toes and works it's way up your legs -nearly
paralyzing you! The amount of energy needed to fight it off would
Anyways, to make a long story short, on the way down I tried
several times to drop the nose to pick up a little airspeed, every
time I did the plane would start to porpose violently. So I was
forced to fly it in at between 35 and 40 mph into a 15 mph
crosswind. At about 50 feet I had no choice the plane was about to
stall, I shut off the engine, dropped the nose, then
pulled back on the stick to try to level the plane, something let
loose on the tail and the plane hit the ground.
The plane was loaded up and trailered back to the factory - where
it was found that it only required 13 lbs of pressure to break the
stabilizer at the point it broke. Part of the reason was that
there are about 8 rivets right in that area. The factory has since
strengthened that area.
more information click here.
Beaver RX 550 - A student and I
were training on a Beaver RX 550 - we had flown for about an hour
and landed for some more fuel. After fueling we did a quick
preflight and took off. We had done another 2 or three circuits,
and were starting down the runway for another take off. As we
started our climb out at about 25 feet the elevator control stick
came back into my lap and the planes nose dropped. I chopped power
the nose leveled and we pancaked into the ground. Bent landing
gear and nose wheel nothing major. A check of the elevator control
system revealed the elevator cable had broken. Several years later
I told the story to an RX 550 owner, we checked his cables - but
could see no indication of wear. Two days later he phoned to say
that on landing after a two hour flight he inspected the cable and
found the cable had failed and only 7 strands were left connected
to the elevator.
here for more information.
Kitfox: A customer had recently
finished building his Kitfox and asked me to take it for a test
flight. The plane had taken him about 4 years to build and he had
done an excellent job.
I had done half a dozen take offs and landings, stalls, climb
outs, etc. putting the plane through its paces. Everything had
checked out. The plane was a dream to fly, cruise came in at 80
mph at 5800 rpm. All the temperatures were normal I was having a
very enjoyable flight. Setting up for a landing on final I dropped
the flaps. Just as I did the plane started to shudder violently.
If you have ever had a tire on your car go out of balance that was
what it was like, but it was getting worse. I released the flaps -
it got worse - down to about 50 feet now and the plane felt like
it was going to shake itself apart, in fact one aileron had
separated from the wing. I got the plane down. The vibration was
"aileron flutter" the factory has since installed
weights on the ailerons to prevent this.
SeaRey: Setting up for a landing
on Lake Simcoe with a friend on board we had just touched down and
were skimming across the water, at about 45 mph. When the center
hull "exploded." As the plane dove into the water nose
first my hand was on the throttle and it went wide open. I yelled
at my passenger to get her seat belt off, she screamed back that
she couldn't. I reached over and yanked with all my strength on
the belt - it came free. But we were now under water - the doors
wouldn't open because the rails the doors slide on were no bent. I heard
the engine roaring and chopped power - I was nearly out of
breath, my passenger was in front of me, but seemed to be unconscious.
Bracing myself against the seat and with every ounce of strength I
had I pushed on her with my feet. The windshield broke free from
the plane and we were able to get out. A fisherman came by in his
boat and picked us up.
The factory has since strengthened that section of the hull - in
fact they have completely changed the hull on new models.
Last but not least: A customer
brings his two place trike up to my field to do some training. I
fly the plane but am not comfortable with the way it flies. Every
time I do a turn to the right it wants to come back to the left.
While flying requires input all the time to fly straight and
level. I call a couple of friends up who also fly trikes and ask
them to give me their opinion. They report the same findings - the
plane is not flying right.
We disassemble the wing and check all the nuts and bolts - but can
find nothing wrong. We then check all the battons and tension
straps etc. Still we can find nothing. I again take a couple of
flights with them in the plane it seems better but still doesn't
feel just right.
I decide that the best way to find out what is wrong is to take
the plane up first thing in the morning in no wind conditions and
see if I can locate the problem. The next morning I get up at 5:30
to a beautiful sunrise. No wind, no clouds perfect flying whether.
I do have a dozen take - offs and landings but every time I turn
to the right the plane wants to bank back to the left. I land and
decide that I will do one more take off - go to altitude and shut
the engine off and see if that makes a difference. I apply power
take off climb out to about 90 feet start a gentle turn to the
right. The plane plunges back to the left, I manage to bounce off
the top of a fuel truck parked on the side of the runway, drop
under some hydro wires and come to rest between two trees. Broke
every rib in my body, punctured both lungs, broke my left leg and
ankle, fractured my pelvis, broke my back - and had to wait for
nearly an hour before someone found me. Now when I go thorough an
airport security check I set off more bells and whistles than you
can imagine. Problem turned out to be an incorrect nico press
fitting, allowed a wing support cable to slip.
So what is the purpose of this
article - if you have read this far then the following should be
of some use to you.
There are several areas that you
deal with every time you go flying.
You are the first thing you have
to deal with.
Then there are the weather conditions.
Then there is the plane you are considering flying.
Your flight plan or flight itinerary.
Then there is your preflight.
Which should include engine, airframe, control systems.
Your take off procedure
Your cross country procedure
Your landing procedure.
Your thanks to the woman upstairs for getting you
through another day of life!