Safety Matters and Safety Briefs are based on the AAIB Bulletin and UK Airprox Board reports, with additional material from the US National Transportation Safety Board
Turbulent tip-up, close kite encounter, beware props and Airprox reports
Aircraft Type: Rollason/ Druine Turbulent Date & Time: 14 August 2016 at 1430 Commander’s Flying Experience: PPL, 922 hours, 360 on type Last 90 days: 8 hours Last 28 days: 2 hours The aircraft was one of three from the Tiger Club’s Turbulent Display Team taking part in an airshow at Herne Bay, Kent. The pilots briefed for their show, walked through the planned routine and, given that the display was taking place just offshore and adjacent to a congested area, agreed that in the event of an engine failure the best option would probably be to ditch in the sea. The display routine proceeded normally until the balloon-bursting segment, for which the aircraft adopted a racetrack pattern along the display line. A member of the team’s ground crew, positioned in a small boat, then released balloons so that the team could burst them by flying into them at 500 feet.
On his first run the pilot of the accident aircraft did not make contact but on his second he hit a balloon ‘dead centre’ with the propeller and continued around the racetrack. When established on the downwind leg, however, the Turbulent’s engine power much reduced. A check of instruments and controls revealed nothing amiss, but the engine continued to run at low power. Judging that it would not be possible to glide as far as open land inland from the seafront for a forced landing, he continued towards an area just off the beach, beyond the display area, where there were fewer spectators. He planned to stall the aircraft onto the water, touching tail-first, followed by the undercarriage, so that it remained upright.
In the event the mainwheels touched first and their drag caused the aircraft to pitch forward rapidly onto its back.
Although the pilot was able to unfasten his straps, he found himself trapped with his head close to the seabed and insufficient space to manoeuvre himself out of the cockpit. His automatic lifejacket had inflated and its bulk and buoyancy were pressing him up into the inverted cockpit. Members of the public ran into the water, lifted the aircraft upright and helped the pilot out of the cockpit and onto the beach. He had been under water for about twenty seconds, but had remained conscious, and apart from a small cut on his face from striking the canopy surround was unhurt.
The aircraft was recovered intact but with some damage to the wing leading edge. It could not be established whether this was caused during the ditching or subsequent recovery. Initial investigation did not identify any other damage, but detailed examination of the engine found a piece of balloon, approximately 50mm in diameter, lodged in the air path of the carburettor. The operator of the aircraft has subsequently developed a modification to fit a screen to the engine’s carburettor intake so as to prevent ingress of debris similar to the balloon fragment. Should this screen become blocked, air can still be supplied to the carburettor via the alternative hot air supply, thereby allowing the engine to operate normally.
The pilot was wearing a 150N (Newton) life jacket intended for
use in boats. He had selected an automatic design as he believed that this was a desirable feature, and wore it whenever flying over water. However, the CAA’S General Aviation Safety Sense Leaflet 21d Ditching advises: ‘Many automatically inflated lifejackets, used by the sailing community, are activated when a soluble tablet becomes wet. This type is totally unsuitable for general aviation use as it will inflate inside a water-filled cabin, thus seriously hindering escape.’ The leaflet also provides guidance on suitable lifejackets, where to obtain them, and information and advice on the preparation for and practices to employ in the event of having to ditch an aircraft in water.
This accident calls to mind a previous ditching involving a Tiger Club Turbulent when club member Robin d’erlanger was forced to put down in the English Channel in the summer of 1964 whilst returning from a trip to France. The Turb floated, and when a passing Norwegian freighter rescued him (and the aircraft) d’erlanger was calmly sitting on top of its fuselage smoking a cigarette. Robin was later to win the King’s Cup Air Race while flying another Tiger Club Turbulent — MJ
(Too) high as a kite
Aircraft Type: Bell Jetranger III Date & Time: 19 February 2017 at 1045 Commander’s Flying Experience: ATPL, 6,800 hours, 350 on type Last 90 days: 118 hours Last 28 days: 17 hours The pilot was carrying out a series of sightseeing flights from Manston. The first trip departed to the south along the coast at Sandwich Bay to Dover before turning inland towards Canterbury, then back to Manston. As he was flying along the coast at around 700ft he noticed a kite very close by and took avoiding action. He was not aware of any contact. During a second flight in the same area, at 1,500ft amsl he noticed a number of kites in the sky at levels that he estimated to be above 1,000ft amsl. Finally, there was a short (third) flight in a different direction after which ground staff noticed a scuff mark on the Jetranger’s windscreen. Inspection revealed further damage to the right forward door screen, the main rotor pitch change links, one rotor blade and the vertical fin.
The location where contact with the kite line most likely occurred was on the coast in Sandwich Bay, where the terrain consists of low lying coastal plain and sand dunes from which high level kite flying activity has been observed, both on the day of the incident and on previous occasions. Online footage of activity at this location shows a number of people flying kites with 700m line spools, with adapted power drills and winches being used to wind in the lines after flying.
The operator of the helicopter carries out charter flights and organised sightseeing tours in the local area around Manston, and Notam are routinely checked before flight. None were applicable to the area on the date of the incident flight. The pilot had flown sightseeing tours on behalf of the operator on a number of occasions and was familiar with the routes and had not previously observed kite-flying activity. He reported the incident and notified the local Coastguard SAR helicopter facility at Lydd Airport of the hazard. Later that day two of the operator’s personnel visited the beach from which the kites were being flown and advised the people flying them that they were causing a risk to aircraft.
The AAIB report concludes: ‘Evidence from the nature of the damage to the helicopter and photographs taken at the probable kite flying location suggest that the kite string was coated with an abrasive substance. In a number of other countries, kite fighting is a competitive sport where the objective is to cut the string of an opponent’s kite. To facilitate the cutting action, the upper parts of the kite string may be coated with [such] an abrasive substance. There is evidence that a number of different coastal locations in the United Kingdom are used for kite flying at heights above 60m but the activity is not being notified. The AAIB reported on another incident in June 2016 in which a light aircraft was also damaged when it came into contact with kite string (see ‘Safety Matters’, January 2017 — Ed).
‘The Air Navigation Order 2016 Article 92 (c), which is applicable to kites, states: A relevant aircraft which is launched, moored, tethered or towed must not be operated in such a manner as to represent a hazard to other airspace users or without the permission of the CAA result in any part of the relevant aircraft whilst it is being launched or towed, or its tether, mooring or towing equipment, extending more than 60 metres above ground level.
‘Permissions for exceptions to Article 92 of the ANO can be obtained through the CAA. On receipt of an application, the location of the activity is checked with regards to the surrounding airspace and the activity’s impact on that airspace. Special conditions may be imposed for a permission to be granted, such as attaching streamers to the line to aid conspicuity, and a Notam will be issued.
‘The evidence indicated that the helicopter encountered a kite at high level [which was] not being flown in accordance with Article 92 of the ANO, and the activity had not been notified… Although the damage [to the Jetranger] was repairable, the potential exists for the result of such an encounter, on aircraft and/or its occupants, to be more severe.’
Painful prop strikes
Aircraft Types: 1 Piper Warrior II 2 Mercury flexwing microlight Dates & Times: 1 26 March 2017 at 1450 2 9 April 2017 at 0810 Locations: 1 Halfpenny Green Airfield 2 Otherton, Staffordshire Commanders’ Flying Experience: 1 PPL, 56 hours, 42 on type 2 NPPL, 33 hours TT Last 90 days: 1 5 hours Last 28 days: 1 3 hours The Warrior’s pilot followed his checklist to start the engine, including priming the fuel system, but it did not turn over when the key was turned. Two further attempts also failed. He closed the throttle, turned fuel and electrics off and removed the keys, then turned the propeller by hand to check if the engine had seized. He noticed that it was stiff, applied more force and the propeller suddenly started to spin, turning over some five revolutions. It struck his right elbow, causing a small puncture wound, swelling and bruising, but no long-term damage.
The pilot later said that the engine had already been primed with fuel from a previously failed start attempt and that he believes that fuel in the cylinders may have detonated when he turned the propeller, causing the engine to ‘run’ for a few revolutions. Although he had removed the ignition key prior to leaving the aircraft, and as on most types it had to be in the ‘both magnetos off’ position before it could be removed, it is possible that one, or both magnetos were not properly earthed when the ignition switch was in the off position.
In the second incident the microlight’s pilot-owner was running its engine to investigate a misfire that had occurred in flight on the previous day. He did not intend to fly: the wings had been removed from the trike, a chock placed in front of the nosewheel and he had applied the footbrake. Although the pilot’s recollection of the sequence of events is hazy, he believes he may have relaxed pressure on the brake pedal, causing the aircraft to move forwards by about ten feet. He immediately applied full brake, throttled back to idle power and the aircraft stopped moving. Preoccupied with the fact that the nosewheel had jumped over the chock, he stepped out and reached down to pick it up, at which point he was struck in the face by the propeller, sustaining a serious injury.
A bystander rendered first aid and the pilot was subsequently airlifted to hospital. The pilot recognised that the accident could have been averted simply by turning the engine off or not being distracted by his perceived urgency to retrieve the chock. He additionally commented that he had not been wearing a helmet as he was not intending to fly, but believed injuries might have been less serious or even eliminated had he been wearing one. Although he was an inexperienced pilot, he had served for thirteen years in the Royal Air Force working as ground crew and was thus well aware of the dangers associated with running engines, yet still made a basic error.
The AAIB comments: ‘[These events] serve as a stark reminder of the potentially lethal power of a propeller, emphasise the importance of always treating magnetos as “live” even when they appear to be switched off… [and] also underline the need to treat propellers with respect at all times, even when attached to a small engine running at idle.’
Passenger handling of a different kind
Aircraft Type: Jodel DR100A Ambassadeur Date & Time: 23 January 2017 at 1600 Commander’s Flying Experience: LAPL, 1,950 hours (of which 155 were on type) Last 90 days: 11 hours Last 28 days: 5 hours During takeoff after the seventh touch-and-go landing of a familiarisation flight at Dunkeswell, the handling pilot lost control as power was applied. The aircraft ground looped, its undercarriage collapsed and the propeller struck the ground. The handling pilot, who had no previous experience of tailwheel types, had recently purchased the aircraft. He was accompanied by a Light Aircraft Association inspector who was experienced on type and had offered him some familiarisation flights, of which this was the third. The handling pilot sat in the right seat for the first general handling flight and in the left seat for the next two, during which circuits were flown, some by the aircraft’s new owner.
The LAA inspector stated that, prior to these flights, the handling pilot was made fully aware that he was not an instructor, and the handling pilot was under the impression that the inspector would be pilot-in-command. The handling pilot was also aware that he would have an opportunity to take the controls during the flights but as the PIC was not an instructor he would not be able to offer any tuition. Consequently, as the handling pilot was not being trained, nor was he PIC (and thus was effectively a passenger), he would have been unable to log hours for any of the flights.
The AAIB comments: ‘The handling pilot had no previous experience of tailwheel/ dragger aircraft and the accident occurred whilst carrying out familiarisation training, but this was not with an instructor. This event has highlighted that, when converting to another variant of an aircraft than the one used for the skill test, pilots must undertake appropriate training with an instructor.’
The UK Airprox Board discussed sixteen aircraft-to-aircraft and fifteen aircraft-to-drone incidents during its June meeting. Five of the former were assessed as having a definite risk of collision (three Category A and two Category B), and the main theme was the number of incidents brought about by ongoing military ATC controller manning problems at their busy units. ‘Although not all of these incidents involved GA aircraft, there is much that the GA community can do to assist military ATC units by calling at an early stage and being clear in intentions,’ says UKAB. ‘Even an extra couple of minutes can help the controllers assimilate what you want and find time to
respond in the increasingly busy military environment, especially in Lincolnshire and East Anglia.’
Other Airprox themes were ‘a mixed bag’ that included five late- or non-sightings, four conflicts in Class G Airspace, and seven airmanship issues varying from flying too close, poor selection of ATS for the conditions, inaction, and sub-optimal avoidance or integration with other aircraft already in the visual circuit. ‘Just to clarify,’ says UKAB, ‘the difference between non-/ late-sighting and a conflict in Class G is that for the non-/late-sighting incidents the pilots had the opportunity to see the other aircraft earlier but did not, whereas for the conflict in Class G incidents the pilots saw the other aircraft as early as could reasonably be expected given the conditions at the time.’
The Board’s ‘Airprox of the Month’ focuses on integration problems in the visual circuit caused by flying non-standard patterns and joins. This incident occurred when a Piper PA-28 and a Cessna 152 came into conflict at North Weald.
‘The C152 was downwind, but very far out compared to the normal circuit width, whilst the PA-28 initially wanted to join left-base,’ says the Board’s report. ‘But, on hearing the C152 was downwind [the PA-28 pilot] converted to a downwind join of sorts that saw him route the opposite direction for a while before turning to try to intercept a base leg. Although there is no specified circuit width in the UK, North Weald has a notional track, and, not expecting the C152 to be that far out and therefore not seeing it as he looked into the circuit, the PA-28’S pilot turned and came into conflict as it rolled out onto base leg. A combination of the C152’s wide circuit and the PA-28’S non-standard join, this Airprox demonstrated the need to fly procedures accurately and state your intentions clearly in the circuit, especially when there is only a FISO to assist.’ Full details of this incident and all others can be found at airproxboard.org.uk
Airspace Infringement Safety Awareness Course offered
The CAA and the General Aviation Safety Council (GASCO) have jointly developed a training package targeting pilots who have infringed controlled or notified airspace. The CAA will recommend, where appropriate, that these individuals undertake the course as part of any licensing action. GASCO will be responsible for delivering the courses at various locations around the UK.
The course enhances the options available to the CAA when deciding if any action is required following an airspace infringement. Each case is assessed individually based on the incident, the pilot’s actions and whether the pilot has previously been involved in airspace infringements.
“We have always tried to prioritise pilot education as the way to deal with airspace infringements,” says Rob Gratton, Principal Airspace Regulator at the CAA. In the past, infringers were invited to take an online test that, as Pilot’s ‘Airmail’ pages have revealed, some felt was arcane or even irrelevant to GA. The new course “provides an excellent, in-depth option to help pilots learn from an infringement to both avoid future infringements and also to improve their general airmanship and planning skills.”
Mike O’donoghue, GASCO Chief Executive, said: “We are told that the national speed awareness course used for drivers has proved very successful and so we looked at the key elements of a typical course and developed an engaging and educational version for pilots employing threat and error management techniques. The GA community has said that educating a pilot after an infringement is the way forward. With this course the CAA and GASCO will deliver a significant part of that work.”
The courses will be run regularly throughout the country. Pilots who are asked to attend a course will be given a date by which they will be expected to have completed it. Each attendee will pay £200 to cover GASCO’S expenses in providing the course and facilities.
‘Airspace infringements continue to occur at a high rate in the UK with over 1,000 reported in 2016,’ says the CAA, which offers this advice to help to avoid infringements:
Carry out effective preflight planning and take advantage of free online flight planning tools
Turn on your transponder and operate Mode Charlie (ALT)
Use listening squawks when flying near controlled airspace (see airspacesafety. com/listen)
Use an airspace-alerting device to assist in maintaining situational awareness
Be aware of the danger of becoming distracted Make contact with local ATC services If in doubt, utilise the Flight Information Service or contact Distress and Diversion on 121.5MHZ.
The process that the CAA uses to deal with infringements is set out at caa.co. uk/cap1404.
Wonderful people: the prompt action of bystanders saved the Turbulent’s pilot, trapped under the aircraft, from certain drowning
The Turbulent Display Team has been a fixture at British airshows for as long as many of us can remember