All went quiet

Pilot - - AIRMAIL -

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

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