Re: We can do better! S. Wilson
Your advice is exhaustive...But it is a Gold Standard plan. The problem for us Americans is that our standard is much looser than the European one... and we like it, we like it a lot. It reminds me of my experience as a Respiratory Therapist. I could counsel smokers about their future 30-40 smoking years down the road but on rare occasion a 70 year old who still smoked like a bad diesel truck would turn up with no lung disease. That encouraged a large numer to think they would be that one in a ...????. All I know is that if you shortcut your preparation you quite likely will be spending those hours and dollars repairing/rebuilding at best. Thanks for setting your thoughts down here.toggle quoted messageShow quoted text
From: Simon Wilson <quickieq2uk@...>
To: Q-LIST <Q-LIST@...>
Sent: Sun, Oct 9, 2011 12:16 pm
Subject: Re: [Q-LIST] We can do better!
First of all I would like to say what terrible loss this is and wish to extend my condolences to Jerry’s family even though I did not know him. I also would not wish to speculate on the cause of the accident as that is the job of the NTSB to determine. The following is not making judgement on the cause of Jerry’s accident. However, I would like to pick up some points that Jerry Marstal has made and take them a bit further if I may, especially those pertaining to pilot skill. I suspect there is an underlying issue here when it comes to owner/builders carrying out initial test flights in their own aircraft, particularly high performance taildraggers, not just Quickies.
The following text is my opinion and based on personal experience of this subject and is in no way meant to be taken as you must do as I say, although it may come across as such to some. There are many ways to skin the cat when it comes to flying, and I strongly believe that if you dogmatically stick to one way of doing something without being open minded about other ways of doing them, then you are a fool.
The following is just one way I propose that first flights on high performance aircraft be carried out and is certainly not a panacea to what can be a complicated and sensitive subject. It is however based on my own experience flying a wide variety of aircraft types and to give you a feel of where I’m coming from here I will give a brief summary of my flying experience for those of you that don’t know me. I am serving military pilot with 2300+ hours and have flown 70+ different aircraft types ranging from Helicopters to Fast Jets, 20+ of these types have been taildraggers ranging from Ultralights up to Warbirds and everything in between. I am also a Class Rating Instructor (CRI) and carry out tailwheel conversions and differences training. I am not what I consider to be an experienced pilot, considering some of the company I keep and I am not an experienced Quickie pilot with only 20 hours on type however, what follows should be applicable to any
high performance tailwheel aircraft including Quickies.
Here in the United Kingdom the Light Aircraft Association (LAA) is given delegated responsibility by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for airworthiness of homebuilt aeroplanes. When a builder submits his paperwork for initial test flying, he has to submit where the test flying will take place and who it will be performed by. This is to ensure that the site is suitable and the pilot is suitably qualified to carry out initial test flights. Very rarely in the UK will a builder be permitted to carry out the test flights on their own aeroplane unless they have proven track record of carrying out these flights or extensive experience on type. Normally a test pilot will be recommended by the LAA and will either be fully qualified professional test pilots or pilots who are very experienced on type (such as Gary McKirdy for Quickies) and have flown a number of different examples of the type so they can understand if the particular example they are flying is
representative or not. Now we have an awful lot of restrictions and red tape when it comes to flying in the UK and we could learn a lot from the EAAA, however I believe this is one area where have got it right. If you’re not suitably experienced or qualified you won’t be doing the test flight, period.
A lot of you may disagree with the following statement and that is fine as this is based purely my own opinion and experience. I believe that a builder really has no place carrying out the initial test flights on their own aeroplane. The reasons for this are as follows;
1. An initial test flight is not the place to be learning to fly your aircraft if you don’t have experience on type! There are a lot of things that can go wrong on a first flight either with the engine or the airframe or both and may require advanced handling techniques to recover the situation safely. If the pilot hasn’t got the experience or the mental capacity to fly the aircraft in normal flight modes at this stage, how can he expect to handle a serious malfunction in what can be a challenging aircraft to fly in normal circumstances?
2. Builders can occasionally be too emotionally involved in their aircraft to stand back and really be objective about it. Another pilot who is coming to test the aircraft independently will have a strong sense of self preservation, (not that the owner won’t) but he’ll be objective and generally cast a fresh pair of eyes over the machine. They are probably less likely to feel pressured into flying it if it’s not quite right. I certainly know from my own experience that it can be difficult to pick up errors in your own work. Sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees and an independent second pair of eyes will often pick up stuff you have missed. It is also very easy to pressure yourself into flying because you know how long it has taken you to complete and you want to see it in the air as soon as you can. I know, I’ve bought and worn that T-Shirt too and I am sure if we are all brutally honest with ourselves we have all done
something similar at some stage in our flying career.
3. Builders may not have been keeping in good flying practice whilst building the machine and doing a few hours in another type before you test fly doesn’t really cut it. As it is unlikely you will fly enough hours over a wide enough range of conditions to make the experience worthwhile. Experience takes time to acquire and can’t bought by doing 5 hours in a Citabria or a Cub a couple of weeks before your first flight on type! Hours mean nothing if you haven’t made the most of them.
As previously stated I have flown a wide number of different aircraft and on a number of occasions I have flown tailwheel aircraft that are either single seat or have no dual controls. Each time I have done this I have carried rigorous preparation flying in other aircraft gradually working myself up to it. As I have already stated doing 5 hours in a Cub a few weeks before you fly a high performance taildragger, especially a Quickie doesn’t really cut the mustard.
Ideally you should be keeping in current flying practice all the time, however I realise this is very difficult for the majority of pilots due to the expense of it all. What I would say is work it up in stages. Get yourself checked out with an instructor in the last aircraft type you were current in and go through the full range of general handling exercises and circuit work until you are up to speed and he is happy that you are safe. Next go and fly with an instructor in a high performance type such as Pitts or RV so that you get used to the high approach and threshold speeds along with twitchy handling. Again you need to go through all the aspects of general handling and circuit work until you are safe in high performance aeroplanes. You should really aim to get 20-30 hours over a period of a few months in different aircraft types and different environmental conditions to build experience and capacity before your first flight. Finally try and get a
ride with a pilot who owns the same type of aircraft as you. You might not get to land or take off but the experience, sights, sounds and smells will reduce the unfamiliar sensations when you come to fly your own and will help give you the capacity you will need for your first flight. Get him to show you any handling quirks with the aircraft so as they don’t come as surprise and also prove that it is normal for the particular type. Get him to show you a few circuits so you can build a picture of what a circuit looks like, also get him to show you a practice forced landing pattern so that you get a feel for its glide characteristics should the engine quit. This way you might be some way prepared for the first flight in your aircraft. As stated earlier, get your test flying done by another pilot who is more qualified and experienced on type. The above procedure is aimed at a first flight on type after the test flying is complete, as the last thing you
need to be worrying about is checking performance figures or handling any potential malfunction.
However, if you do end up doing the test flying whether it is as an owner/builder or experienced pilot on type doing it for somebody else, here are a few considerations to think about. Hopefully it is common sense and I am teaching you to suck eggs as hopefully you already know it. They are not in any particular order, other than which they came into my head. It is by no means exhaustive!
1. For the first test flight keep it short. Absolutely no more than 15-20 minutes maximum. Don’t bother with recording any figures. Climb straight into the overhead and remain within gliding distance of the into wind runway at all times. It should be a shakedown flight and nothing more. Purely proving serviceability of the aircraft and finding anything that does not work as advertised to be rectified before the next flight.
2. Pick an airfield that is large enough to be able to put it back on the runway or land on another runway should something go wrong. Make sure it has a clear undershoot and overshoot if possible.
3. Always give yourself a pre-take off emergencies brief. This preconditions your brain to the actions you will take in the conditions of the day should something go wrong with the aircraft during take off and climb.
4. Do it when the airfield is quiet and not many aircraft in the circuit, so as not to get in their way and vice versa.
5. Make sure the wind conditions are suitable and there is no turbulence in the air as wind and turbulence make the task more difficult than it needs to be and may even mask some issues with the aircraft. The last hour before sunset is usually best and also means density altitude should be lower giving you better performance. Don’t do it just before sunset or the half hour of light after sunset as just before the light may be in the wrong place especially if landing on a westerly runway and blind you and just after although still light enough to fly, is too dark for a test flight and you lose depth perception with the lower light levels.
6. Don’t do short hops down the runway. By all means do taxy tests and gradually build up speed, but hops down the runway increase the risk of losing control for an unnecessary length of time. Instead get airborne, get into the overhead and get a feel for the aircraft’s slow flight characteristics. Carry out some dummy circuits at height to get a feel for the handling of the aeroplane at circuit speeds.
7. Don’t land off your first approach unless it is perfect! The chances are it won’t be! Go around and do a couple of low approaches if necessary before committing to a landing.
8. Finally don’t relax until the engine has stopped and the brakes are on. It is easy to switch off after you have landed thinking you’ve finished, only to do something dumb like run into a taxiway marker and damage the aeroplane because you switched off!
9. For the remainder of the test flights ensure you have a specific programme of tests to be carried out to prove and record performance, reliability and rectify any issues prior to further flights.
10. Once satisfied with the performance and reliability take the owner up as an observer to help record any further data as required by the test schedule and give them exposure to the operating environment of their aeroplane.
I know the above seems like a gold plated solution in ideal world and most of it is. However you really should strive to do most of the things listed above as possible as it will really reduce the risk you are carrying after all the hard work and expense expended on your shiny new aeroplane. I know some of it may seem extra expense when you have completed your plane at considerable expense but what is a couple of thousand bucks compared to the loss of your aeroplane or even your life? In my view doing this is better than any insurance policy. Personally I think that a loss rate of 3 out of 4 first flights this year is totally unacceptable and as a group of experienced Q-builders and fliers we should maybe take ownership of this issue before we lose another one of our friends in the Q community. I think we should probably come up with some sort of training package and mentoring scheme that will help prepare new builders and owners for their first flight
on type. There a number of experienced guys out there with the knowledge and whilst they have been willing to share it, it is clear that perhaps the message isn’t getting through to everyone and we as a group need to communicate the do’s and don’ts of first flights to people as clearly as we can.
I apologise if this comes across as holier than thou, believe me it’s not meant to and I am certainly no angel. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in the past and I have written this so that others may glean at least one nugget of information from my flying experience that they may not have thought about.
I know have certainly picked up plenty of useful information already from the experienced Q fliers who post on here and they have helped me tremendously so far in my scant 20 hours flying Quickies!
Standing by for incoming!
From: jnmarstall <jnmarstall@...>
To: "Q-LIST@..." <Q-LIST@...>
Sent: Sunday, 9 October 2011, 0:05
Subject: [Q-LIST] We can do better!
I have been mulling the loss of Jerry. While I only met him once and
that was at Marion. I can't help but think that everyone who met him
felt his genuineness and knew they had just made a friend. If you will
forgive me, I am go to subject you to a tirade. I will try to be brief.
There is something basically wrong when three of our last four Q
completions ended as they did. In most cases, the results were not
the fault of the plane, but us. We can do better. We must do better.
There are several planes in the incubator, waiting to hatch and take to
the air. Before the next first flight, we need to develop a program,
process, etc, whatever you want to call it to better insure our brothers
I agree with Jim M. regarding his comment, " . . . we can never give
another pilot is judgement and pilot skill." to a point. If judgement
and skill are enhanced by instruction and practice, then we can do
something about it.
Yes, we give pilots rides before their initial flight. They see what
the Q can do and let them try their hand at it at altitude. Since few
of us have dual controls, and for other justifiable reasons, few of the
newbies get a chance at landing it. I was most fortunate that Earnest
Martin was brave enough and confident enough in my abilities to provide
me this priceless experience. I am forever grateful for that.
While real landing practice is ideal, there are good reasons, personal
and legal that we don't typically do it. The end result is that the
rides don't really contribute to preparing the pilot for his first
flight. They just get the adrenalin running faster.
I challenge each of us to contribute ideas to making our first flights
successful. What would you have liked to have done before the first
series of flights? (excluding the landings I mentioned above). How
could your experience have been made safer, etc?
My suggestion. At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all (those who
know me can vouch for the fact that I am on the other end of that
spectrum), I offer the following suggestion: This suggestion is the
result of my one and only experience at checking someone out in the
Tri-Q before his first flight.
This suggestion is simply - before a pilot takes his first flight, he
gets a Q pilot who flys the same make and model of Q he has built. Be
it a Tri-Q2, Q2, TriQ200, Q200, etc. Someone who knows the
characteristics of the type of plane the newbie is about to fly. The
newbie takes the experienced Q guy for a ride in whatever plane he is
current in at the time, doesn't matter make/model. What the Q guy is
looking for is does the newbie have the skill set required to fly the
Q. Are the fundamentals good? Does he demonstrate good judgement?
Total flying time doesn't mean squat. As we know there are just as many
multi-thousand hour guys that bust their butts and >100 hrs.
This idea never occurred to me before I began to check out this fellow.
( it has only occurred to me while thinking about Jerry) I discovered
his lack of certain skills while we were in my Q. I have dual controls,
so he was doing all the flying with me on the other stick. It quickly
became apparent that his skills weren't where they needed to be to fly
the Q. I stopped the checkout process. My instruction to him was to go
back home and get dual time in whatever he flies. I specified what he I
thought he should concentrate on. Several months later he came back and
we tried it again. He then possessed the basic skills necessary. After
a few laps around the pattern, he was putting it safely on the ground.
He went on to successfully test fly his and had many happy hours of
flying his TriQ2.
Also, his judgement was much better because his skill set was at a much
I could have more easily and more safely discovered his basic flying
skills by riding with him in a plane he was familiar with than learn
about them in the Q in which he had no proficiency.
This is not a panacea, only a stimulus to see if we can't come up with
some way of saving our brothers and Q-craft from tragedy. I don't have
a lot of friends, therefore I can't afford to lose any more.
I would happily be the clearing house for the collection of these ideas
or pass along any of my other brain farts to whomever.
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