All went quiet
I was asked to do a local ferry flight in a Cessna 152 to retrieve a PA-28, thirty minutes each way, flying another pilot over to the maintenance airfield. On the day you could not have asked for better weather, clear skies, 22 degrees and unlimited visibility. My fellow pilot and I planned our route, and around 1030 we walked around and completed our checks on our faithful Aerobat 152. I suggested my fellow pilot fly us there as I wanted to try out my new GPS unit. He agreed. We started up and radioed for taxi instructions, all was well. But at the run up we found the left mag was not working, not a good start, so we headed back in.
After parking, the club said we could take the normal 152 as long as we were back by 1430. We did a walk around and fuelled her up and then found water in the starboard tank so set about draining the fuel until all water was eliminated. Once completed I said “It’s one of those days where you are suppose to stay on the ground”. Nevertheless we decided simply to double-check everything and go through the checklist together. This we did and successfully flew to the maintenance airfield.
At the airfield we could not locate any paperwork for the PA-28 so had to leave it behind. Back in the 152, normal run up checks, no sign of carb ice, mags working correctly, amps charging, suction good, Ts and Ps ok. I was flying back. Takeoff was normal although it did seem to take a bit longer than usual, but I put this down to the fact I was on grass with no wind whereas I am normally on tarmac in a strong wind. Revs and pressure were all good during the run and we lifted off successfully.
During climb out at around 300ft I selected flaps up from ten degrees. The flaps retracted fine and the moment they went up the aircraft lost all power and the engine dropped to idle. Not good. I immediately ran through the checks: fuel on, mags on, carb heat on, mixture rich, battery on… all good, the engine should be running, but nothing. As the big whirly thing started to move slower and slower we realised this is for real. My fellow pilot shouted the field as I was busy trying to get life into the engine. Now at 200ft or less we had no options left. After a brisk left and right turn we were making the field, although fast and a bit high, so we dumped in full flap and decided we would touch about halfway as we would not clear the end row of trees and then slam on the anchors.
At around 50ft I opted to kill the engine and electrical devices before we touched, then
immediately upon impact during the flare the wheat field decided to act as a giant brake and we came to a standstill in about 100ft. Down and in one piece we quickly exited the aircraft. All’s well again, the plane survived and we survived, thank heavens for that.
There is an investigation underway to find the cause of the power loss, although my erstwhile instructor told me he had power loss two days before in the same aircraft during climb out and had reported the incident. It was investigated and they found an air leak of some description and fixed it. It had then flown a few hours before our trip that could have easily ended in disaster.
Thinking back, we were very lucky and if I ever have that feeling again of staying on the ground, that is what I shall do. Full credit to my fellow pilot as he decided he would not intervene but just double-check things, which allowed a decisive outcome and not confusion, which could easily have happened. James Anderson by email