He hadn’t expected this day to end like it did when he boarded his aircraft for just a short flight for a bit of fun around the local area. But what happened in the next few minutes could have changed his life and the lives of those around him forever.
Doing a full and thorough DI (Daily Inspection) on my aircraft, has been drilled into me from the first day I started flying. It was never fully explained why this is needed and exactly what to look for, but as time went on, I picked up little tips from other pilots. And learned of some of their close calls that could have been averted if a full DI had been done.
The significance of this has become more and more relevant to me over the years, and it has now become almost an obsession, especially if I haven’t flown for a while. Those of you who understand know what I mean. I sometimes find myself doubting whether I have done enough before I get in my aircraft and start the flight.
This was driven home recently when we were called to do some repairs and maintenance on one of our customer’s aircraft. The lucky pilot had taken his SSDR out of its hangar for a short pleasure flight around the local area like he had done several times before. We don’t know exactly what inspection was done, but what happened after take-off can only be described as a miracle.
The pilot experienced partial power loss (a topic for another day) immediately after the plane lifted off. Thinking it was just a momentary thing, he continued to try and climb only to have the engine continue with partial power. The pilot was confronted with just one option – put the plane into a row of trees only 200 metres from the end of his runway. Fortunately, he was unharmed and was able to walk away from the accident only being very shaken up.
The plane didn’t fair quite as well, with 2 broken wing struts and some bent struts on the tailplane. And that was just for starters.
When we arrived a few weeks later to assess the damage to start the repairs, we found something very disturbing. The picture below shows the exhaust manifold hanging precariously from the 2-stroke engine, with just one bolt partially secured. The second bolt was inserted but had nothing holding it on. This left a huge gapping opening in the exhaust, which would have contributed significantly to the power loss.
How it got to this state we will never know. Was it caused by the crash, or did it contribute to the crash? Given the amount of oil on the prop, the exhaust and fuselage of the aircraft, the suspicion is that it was like this before the flight and the power loss was a direct result of it. Given that the aircraft left the ground at all is a miracle in itself.
Could a thorough DI have picked up the problem? If we are thorough with our inspections and look for anything and everything that could be out of place, then probably yes. Will our DI pick up everything? Probably not, but they should ensure that gross problems like this are detected while we are still safe on the ground.
Why not share with us what steps you take before each flight to ensure your aircraft if fit to fly? What are the “non-negotiable” areas you check before each flight?
Your comments and suggestions could help save a disaster from happening to someone else.