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Old 12-11-2011, 07:22 PM
Ironflight's Avatar
Ironflight Ironflight is offline
VAF Moderator / Line Boy
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Dayton, NV
Posts: 12,877
Default RV-3 Flight Number Two?.There is a Reason We Prepare!

So RV-3 flight number one ended as planned on the wide runway at our neighboring airport. With a recent cold front passage, the winds were gusty and building, so we activated our contingency plan, tied the airplane down, and head home in our ground vehicles. The forecast was for the winds to drop as the day went by, so we re-planned for a 1500 (lcl) gathering time, and sent the team home for a few hours. When we got back together, the weather was great, so we launched for the flight we had planned – basically, a twenty-mile long “race track” for engine break-in. All went well until I had to make this call…

“OK, I've just lost power – going for a good glide speed.” Test Director Steve, riding in the right seat of the chase plane, responded in a calm voice “Copy that, lost power – I’ll listen, you talk.” No hint of panic in either voice, but then, you have to understand, Steve and I have worked together, often sitting side by side in missions and training, for close to 15 years. We have handled THOUSANDS of simulated emergencies and failures – along with a few real ones. We know how each other thinks – and we were prepared. I calmly worked through the standard power loss checklist – the Whirlwind kept going round and round, but I had no throttle response. I switched tanks several times, tried the boost pump, played with the throttle and mixture – no joy.

“OK chase, I’m descending through 3,000, and nothing’s working, I’ll keep trying – see if we can make the Creasy strip (private field of a co-worker).” While Steve was checking the GPS, I already realized this was too far to reach. We were going to have to find a place to set down off-airport.

OK, so hold that thought. This was not the first time this scenario had run through our mind. In fact, we were over my regular practice area – A spot I know upside down as well as I do right side up. There was a reason we were here – miles and miles of cultivated fields, criss-crossed by oil-field roads. The east-west highway is often sparsely-traveled, and there are few power lines. It also wasn’t an accident that we had a chase plane. No, they weren’t there to play Yeager games – they were there to communicate, keep me on plan, and keep my location in sight – in the air – or (as now appeared likely) on the ground. We were about fifteen miles from home base, and ground radios just don’t reach that far. Speaking of ground radios, our ground team was on standby for just such an event. After helping make sure that I launched with my checklist complete, they had gathered up the extinguishers and other standby gear and headed back to our home field – with radios and cell phones ( with GPS) in hand. The mission was thoroughly briefed – right down to who would do what in the event of an off-airport landing. No one really thought we’d be there – but preparation and years of training are hard to beat.

“OK Steve, I’m through 1500’ – we’re going to have to put down. I’ve got a gravel road running north-south, intersecting the highway, a mile west of the big antenna. I’m in good position with plenty of energy – I’ll land to the south.” Truth be told, these oil field roads are better than a lot of gravel runways I’ve seen. And frankly, it was wider and more open than our home airpark strip – longer too! I picked my spot to allow plenty of room for an under- or over-shoot, and dropped the flaps. This would be my second landing in the RV-3…but it seemed to fly just like an RV, so I figured I’d fly it like one. As I rounded out in the flare, Steve called that they had me in sight – I called that I was down and safe, totally undamaged, and would get on the cell phone to the ground guys. I kept the radios up as Louise and Steve circled overhead and I pulled off my helmet to use the phone. Oh yeah – we had the cell phone numbers of everyone on our team right on the briefing card. The ground crew was surprised, but calm, and I gave them the GPS coordinates off the G3X before shutting it down to save the battery. Then I realized I had Google Maps on my Iphone as well….and cell towers everywhere. I put my helmet back on and told Steve the cavalry was coming, that Chase was released, and they should call when they were down to see what the next need was.

To shorten this long story, it was too close to sunset to make an effective effort at fixing anything that evening, and Steve (Test Director) quickly vetoed any thought of further flight that day – citing my own preflight plan that said we’d take our time and be methodical. Besides – no night flying in Phase 1! I had about a forty minute wait for the ground team to arrive, and before it got dark, I had already figured out what had brought us down – at least I was pretty sure of it. But the darkness and caution made the prudent move to tie things down for the night and come back in the morning. The cars on the highway passed by without slowing, blissfully unaware of the airplane sitting a quarter mile up the side road. When the team arrived with tie-downs and covers, we closed “Junior” up for the night, and were happy he was safely out of sight behind a HEAVILY locked oil-field gate. We figured we’d be out of there first thing on Sunday morning, and figured no one would be by in that time – and we were right.

This morning, we showed up at the crack of dawn, and easily got Junior going. No damage at all – no dents, no chips, no rocks in the wheel pants. We had spent a couple of hours overnight talking through the most probable cause I had figured out, and the ramifications for further flight. All agreed that it was safe to fly him out (and by ALL, I mean some pretty experienced flight test safety guys), so that’s what I did. Beautiful morning – but we scampered right home for further inspection and testing.

OK, so here are a few key points from the story. First, preparation. Second, preparation. Third….MORE preparation. We didn’t take anything for granted, and when we had a problem, we were ready to handle it in as routine a matter as possible. Test flight routine – take it seriously, and plan for all reasonable eventualities. Lots of folks just kick the tires and light the fire. They are referred to as daredevils. The flight test folks I have known and worked with? We can be pretty boring. Pedantic. We do briefings.

We think about putting the pilot’s jacket in the baggage area because it can get pretty chilly out there on a lonely gravel road….and we carry cell phones and radios to make it less lonely. And the next morning, we have all the people and airplanes still around to fly again.

Oh yeah, Junior flew three times today – once to get home, then (after thorough examination of the cause) twice more to continue engine break-in and to get some fuel.

The cause of the forced landing? Well, let’s see what you can come up with. It was a single screw backed out about ½ turn. One of those thousands of pieces that go in to making up an RV. We’d like to think that we can catch them all – but nobody is perfect. This was a builder error. Flight test makes allowances for that. I was the builder. We are prepared.

Anyone want to guess about what screw?
Paul F. Dye
Editor at Large - KITPLANES Magazine
RV-8 - N188PD - "Valkyrie"
RV-6 (By Marriage) - N164MS - "Mikey"
RV-3B - N13PL - "Tsamsiyu"
A&P, EAA Tech Counselor/Flight Advisor
Dayton Valley Airpark (A34)

Last edited by Ironflight : 12-11-2011 at 07:36 PM.
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Old 12-11-2011, 07:25 PM
Danny7 Danny7 is offline
Join Date: May 2008
Location: central oregon
Posts: 1,089

wow Paul, glad to hear everything is ok. Nerve wracking to hear even on the internet
nothing special here...
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Old 12-11-2011, 07:30 PM
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comfortcat comfortcat is offline
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Southern California
Posts: 617
Default Guess #1

Mag hold down?

Congrats on successful completion of alternative event.

David Boeshaar
RV-9A - N18TD (reserved) - Fuselage.
"My greatest fear: What if the hokey pokey really IS what its all about?"
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Old 12-11-2011, 07:35 PM
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Vlad Vlad is offline
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Utah
Posts: 8,484

You put your glider rating to good use Paul. Mixture screw?
Where is N666BK?

Не имей сто рублей, а имей сто друзей.
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Old 12-11-2011, 07:37 PM
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Greg Arehart Greg Arehart is offline
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Delta, CO/Atlin, BC
Posts: 2,439

Congratulations on a safe landing in unusual circumstances. My guess is one of the screws that holds the end stops in place on the throttle or mixture.

Greg Arehart
RV-9B (Big tires) Tipup @AJZ or CYSQ
N 7965A
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Old 12-11-2011, 07:42 PM
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Louise Hose Louise Hose is offline
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Dayton, Nevada --- A34
Posts: 1,470
Default Keep guessing

We're tired and will likely score the test in the morning. But, so far you haven't figured it out.

We are curious to hear the possibilities. We tried last night to figure out if there is any other screw on the entire plane that could cause this much havoc when backed out a half turn.
Louise Hose, Editor of The Homebuilder's Portal by KITPLANES
RV3B, NX13PL "Tsamsiyu" co-builder, TMXIO-320, test platform Legacy G3X/TruTrak avionics suite
RV-6 ?Mikey? (purchased flying) ? Garmin test platform (G3X Touch, GS28 autopilot servos, GTN650 GPS/Nav/Comm,
GNC255 Nav/Com, GA240 audio panel)
RV8, N188PD "Valkyrie" (by marriage)
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Old 12-11-2011, 07:44 PM
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Casey Stewart Casey Stewart is offline
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Arlington, WA
Posts: 174
Default Wow!!!

Although I knew something like this can happen to any one and any plane, but I was still seriously surprised it did. Great job planning for EVERYTHING and we its great to hear all involved (including junior) are ok and going strong again!

Casey D. Stewart
RV-7 N957RV (right seat if I am lucky)
C-150 N4265C for the PPL
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Old 12-11-2011, 07:51 PM
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N941WR N941WR is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: SC
Posts: 12,887

Either mixture or throttle rod-end would be my guess.

You had an issue, dealt with it, put the plane down w/o making the evening news, fixed it, and flew it safely after that.


I can't wait to hear what it was so we all may learn.
Bill R.
RV-9 (Yes, it's a dragon tail)
O-360 w/ dual P-mags
Build the plane you want, not the plane others want you to build!
SC86 - Easley, SC
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Old 12-11-2011, 07:51 PM
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loopfuzz loopfuzz is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: ptown
Posts: 417

Mixture Screw? Or fuel tank selector screw?
RV4 (sold)
Maule M5
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Old 12-11-2011, 07:52 PM
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SmilingJack SmilingJack is offline
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Hilton Head Island
Posts: 1,105
Default Great Job under pressure!

My guess is the Throttle linkage.

And for the cowl or not.... You definitely earned your screen name!

Very nice job "Ironflight"!!!
John Mastro
10 years of Awesomeness!
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