Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thorough Preflight Important!

By Scott Joseph Garrett
Pastor, Holy Rosary Mission Alaska

When flying in the winter it takes hours to prepare an airplane for flight, especially since our Cherokee Warrior II is parked outside on a gravel parking lot.

First the weather must be flyable. I normally call around 5:00 A.M. for the first check, then I visit the Flight Service Station just before I plan on leaving to ensure there are no “surprises,” i.e. sudden fog that moves in, snow squalls, severe wind, or icing.

Second, the aircraft must be prepared. Preparation includes possible snow shoveling; breaking ice off the airplane (trying to get the doors open, they are normally frozen shut); removing wing, horizontal stabilizer, and engine covers; unplugging cock pit and engine heaters; untying the airplane; doing a thorough preflight.

On January 5, just before getting ready to jump in the Cherokee and fire her up, I caught something on the preflight inspection. As I was taking off the engine blanket some liquid poured out after I un-hooked it. I smelled fuel.

The following picture shows where the fuel drain was sticking out of the engine cowling. Dave (our mechanic) re-positioned it so it would not keep hanging up on the engine blanket in severe wind.

I then noticed that the engine fuel drain (you push it in and a stream of gas comes out) used to drain the fuel of water, was pushed in more than usual and a bit loose. The severe winds we had must have caused the engine blanket to snag on the fuel drain and loosen it up. Sure enough I opened the engine cowling, pushed on the fuel drain from the outside, and fuel started flowing out the top of this fuel cup. After all the preparation I was devastated that I might have to cancel my flight.

Fuel was gushing out of that round silver piece at the bottom right of the picture when I would jiggle the fuel drain.

I walked 30 yards to my neighbor, Tucker Aviation, and asked the mechanic, Dave, to come take a look. He sized up the situation, removed a “fuel cup,” resealed it with some kind of elephant glue, tightened it down, and safety wired everything back together. Instead of having the fuel drain stick out the hole in the cowling, where the engine cover kept catching on it when the wind blew, I had him turn the drain around so I have to open the engine cowling cover to drain it. I finally took-off about noon, only two hours late.

Here is a video after I finally got into the air. I was flying from New Stuyahok to Manokotak.

You can also watch the video if you

Fly safe out here!

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