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Thread: Most Amazing Story

  1. #1
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    Default Most Amazing Story

    This story was submitted to the Jan 2014 issue of the Short Wing Piper News by a member of the Club and a Technical Advisor, DAR.

    From a flight safety point and most of all, a very lucky outcome that I post this.

    A pilot’s Waterloo odyssey

    By Frank P. Sperandeo III SWPC Past President

    Sooner or later we will all have our own personal Waterloo experience. Napoleon had his, and I guess my time had come - in the cockpit of a PA- 20/22 Piper Pacer.
    I believe everything we do, aviation wise, has an innate psychological con- sequence of our actions - especially in flight of an aircraft where safety is paramount. Add to this recipe some latent common sense and a pinch of engineering experimentation, and a pilot can solve most maintenance problems - not in my case on a May flight to an SWPC chapter meeting in Mexico, MO. Little did I know that my aviation/mechanical skills would be tested, but also psychological mettle.
    Ratchet back to January, 2013, when I decided to catch up on some needed maintenance on Miss Pearl, who had a long fuel weeping spell that needed repair.
    This involved replacing the upper panel of the 35 gallon custom tank as the rivets were coming loose. The right wing had to be removed as the tank slid out between the spars. The aileron cables had to be removed in the process. (Keep this in mind - it gets better). The tank was repaired success- fully and the wing installed with all cables connected and secured with fas- teners.
    On a subsequent business trip to Texas, I noticed that the control yokes
    were tilted to the right in level flight. The simple fix is to adjust the two ver- tical AN turnbuckles on the control column to straighten the yokes perfect- ly horizontal. (See pix). I would accomplish this adjustment when land- ing at FYV from Texas.
    When adjusting an aircraft turn- buckle, its function is to be installed in line/middle of flight control cables to tighten, or loosen tension, and to, in this case, to adjust the control yokes. The mechanical nature of the PA-22 turnbuckle is that they have threaded cable eye/forked ends screwed into opposite ends of a brass barrel. The threads on one side of the brass barrel are a right hand thread; the other side has a left hand thread. (Now, children, put your thinking caps on!)
    With the right hand threaded assem- blies on top and the left hand threaded assembly on the bottom, they are attached to the control cables, and turning counter-clockwise, you will tighten the cable - the same for the other assembly on the control column. (Now it gets interesting).
    With the yokes turned to the right, and with the installed chain/sprocket mechanism to straighten/rotate the yoke to the left, the right turnbuckle has to be tightened counter-clockwise and the left turnbuckle unit, converse- ly, has to be loosened clockwise to keep the cables taut. (And you thought a Rubik’s Cube was tough!)
    Here is a True or False test (see Bolt and Nut pix):
    With a large nut vertically in the left hand, and a large bolt in your right hand, screw the bolt in the top of the nut. It goes in the nut clockwise - doesn’t it? OK.
    Take the bolt out and screw it in from the bottom with the nut still in the same position and screw the bolt in clockwise position. T or F?
    Note: Another confounding lack of ergonomic engineering was the sepa-
    rate hot and cold faucets on the bath- room sink. To turn ON – hot, counter- clockwise; cold,clockwise. As you have observed, these valves have been replaced with a single rotational post unit that would have pleased Harry Houdini.
    Upon adjusting my yokes statically on the ground, I decided to skip the safety wire that affixes the brass threaded barrel in place so that I can do minor adjustments while in flight.
    There is an advantage to “in situ” flight testing. That is to say, any equipment, or hardware tested upon on-board aircraft, must be tested in situ, or in place, to confirm everything functions properly as a system. Individually, each piece may work, but interference from nearby equip- ment may create unanticipated problems.
    The flight to Mexico, MO, was on a beautiful clear day, with very little turbulence, and I landed at the Zenith Aircraft Manufacturing plant which is adjacent to the FBO. On the return trip at 7,500 feet, I decided to correct the yoke problem at this point in time as it was a two plus hour trip back to FYV.
    The yokes were still in the same position as the static adjustment didn’t fix this problem. I trimmed the Pacer and achieved a constant altitude. I then leaned forward, arm under the panel, and with my face against the instru- ments. I started to rotate the turnbuck- le barrels with my left hand and my right hand was on the right yoke to keep the plane steady and on course. During the adjustment procedure, somehow or other I was loosening instead tightening and vice versa, but the yokes were turning un-explicably clockwise. What had I done wrong? My temperament got a hold of me and my Naval verbiage came spouting out! I continued turning the turnbuckles with my head pressed against the panel with only the VSI and Attitude Gyro in view in the corner of my eye.
    At this point of time, the unthinkable happened. The left turnbuckle thread- ed end separated from the aileron con- trol cable and disappeared down into the control column boot to the bottom of the aircraft. I now had no left aileron.
    It now occurred to me some serious decisions had to be made or I was going to be driven to the bone orchard.
    The first thing that popped in my head was all of the training that vari- ous CFI’s over the years taught me and - “FLY THE AIRPLANE!” This edict came screaming out of my head.
    Secondly, after getting over the shock of this predicament, lifesaving decisions started to formulate. My psy- chological attitude at this juncture was complete anger at myself and I was determined that I’d be damned if I was going to die this way! The humiliation
    that I would die with was unacceptable and would haunt me to the grave.
    With my head still against the panel, left hand holding on to the dangling yoke chain so it wouldn’t jump the sprocket wheel, the aircraft was still level and flying stable, but not for long. As I peeked over the panel, humped over, ahead at my altitude was some serious IFR and before I real- ized, I was in it. I had to descend to 3000 feet to VFR. With 25 hrs. of instrument training, my eyes were glued to the VSI, the attitude gyro, and the CDI. A descent rate of 500 FPM, 1500 RPM, and 10 minutes later I broke out of the clouds, level, and on course.
    Now with the plane level, on course, with my mouth dry as death valley river beds, and discovering that I can let go of the left dangling yoke chain by keeping the tension on the right yoke, the chain stayed on the sprocket. The bottle of water on the seat sure did taste good as I sat back on my seat reflecting how in the hell did I get myself in this predicament.
    Not surprising, another situation was developing. I was approaching Springfield, MO, Class C airspace dead on, with a 5300 MSL, 2500 MSL bottom tier. I had to turn Pearl to go around this controlled airspace. Calling Springfield Approach, and declaring an emergency, was out of the question. I knew Pearl could turn, with rudders only, as it had been done when eating a sandwich or performing a relief function. I also realized a coordi- nated turn with right aileron could be performed, but I opted for the rudders only, rather than have the chain com- ing off the sprockets. It paid off, and I was clear of the Class C and on course to FYV.
    I was practicing gentle turns with rudders only while maintaining rota- tional pressure on the right yoke. I was
    100
    30 miles out of FYV, and unfortunate- ly, to my shocking surprise, the chain came off the right sprocket and both yokes did a 180 upside down with the two chains dangling happily with each other. With no aileron function at all, it was pucker time. I now knew that there was no way this PIC was going to become a statistic at FYV with fire engines, the press, the police and the FAA. I was now madder than hell and the adrenalin was coming out of my pores with the thought, “I am going to land this S*#!B.”
    Still practicing gentle inputs on the rudders, a call was placed to the FYV tower notifying that N3383A was on a 10 mile final. With nonfunctional yokes in the upright position, the tech- nique of “leading in a turn” was applied. This is like turning a rudder of a ship to a predetermined heading, but stopping before you reach the heading due to the continuation of the ship’s mass. One could say it’s a “meander- ing yaw.”
    A call to ATIS and I heard that the wind was 160 at 5 - right down the runway. The tower greeted me:
    “Cleared to land 16.” “How you doin’ Franco?” “Just fine.” With a standard approach of full
    flaps, 500 fpm, 1200 rpm, 75 mph, with very light inputs on the rudders, Pearl squeaked on the runway. I don’t remember taxiing to my hangar as I was in quiet meditation thanking the good Lord for being my copilot.
    Godspeed, Franco

  2. #2
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    After reading that story, I was speechless. I have to say that as someone who has been around planes for the majority of my life, and made my career as a mechanic and pilot, that I was shocked, embarrassed, and just downright pissed off. The bravado that the author conveyed in telling this tale, and the lack of understanding and concern for the potential mortal danger for others who may have shared the sky with him that fateful night is chilling!
    Mark Ohlau
    1950 PA-20 N7744K
    KJAQ

  3. #3
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    Careless and reckless
    IFR without a clearance
    IFR with out a rating
    And the list goes on...
    Ex-Vice President

    63' Colt

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kurts View Post
    Careless and reckless
    IFR without a clearance
    IFR with out a rating
    And the list goes on...
    By my count....

    1. 91.213 Inoperative Equipment
    2. 91.155 Basic WX Minimums
    3. 91.13a Careless or reckless Operation
    4. 91.407 Operation after maintenance, preventive maintenance,......
    5. 43.13a&b Performance rules (Maintenance)
    6. 830.5 Notification of Accident, or Incident (I am sure that Frank did not report his loss of flight controls)

    This guy should be shunned from our midst. Can you imagine the fallout if his luck would have runout prior to arriving at his hangar?
    Mark Ohlau
    1950 PA-20 N7744K
    KJAQ

  5. #5
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    That's incredible. Incredibly stupid. I've never even considered jacking with the mechanical operation of my flight controls anywhere except in the hangar and that was with my IA standing right beside me. If that was a "scared straight" story it was one I didn't need. The only thing I got out of that was to confirm my pre-planning notions of what I would do if I lost aileron/directional control. Thank goodness for rudders and I guess a rudder interconnect might help some in that scenario?

    I'm doubting very seriously it was reported. The Aviation Database should reflect it if it was properly reported. My search reveals only a "loss of directional control" event 9/1/2000. I can't find any SDR's on it but don't know that one was required. I'm guessing disconnecting your own flight controls during flight would be something you would be hesitant to report to the FAA.

    Well, that being said, it's not like I've never done something stupid. That just hasn't made the list yet . . .and for those of you holding your breath for when I MIGHT do it, I'd go ahead and breathe before you pass out.

  6. #6
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    With 25 hrs. of instrument training, my eyes were glued to the VSI, the attitude gyro, and the CDI. A descent rate of 500 FPM, 1500 RPM, and 10 minutes later I broke out of the clouds, level, and on course.

    10 minutes @ 120 MPH (2 mi/min) takes him 20 miles in IMC..no clearance, not even an advisory to ATC that he was in the clouds, and in possible conflict with IFR traffic!
    Mark Ohlau
    1950 PA-20 N7744K
    KJAQ

  7. #7
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    One of the main reason's that I posted this story is CRM, "Cockpit Resource Management". CRM skills are developed from your own experiences and from others. It's that voice in the background that says, "does this seem right", "is there another way to complete this mission".

    CRM skills are used by everyone, from driving cars to flying planes. In the Airline and Corporate/Charter flying CRM is huge, its the skills that we learn to manage conflict resolution and avoid traps whether be latent or active. Plus, the interaction of co-workers, "get their input, ask them what they think". Each crew member (or non-crew members), have valuable information to offer and as a group this information will develop a positive outcome.

    Case in point, last year this time I had an engine shutdown as a result of severe damage of the turbine blades while flying the CRJ-900 and the only warning we had was of the engine instruments shutting down. Plus, we had a EICAS message "R ENGINE FLAMEOUT". This normally would indicate a simple restart, (if the FADEC did not restart for us), however, we did discuss what happened with the F/A's and they mentioned the along with some vibrations, they heard a popping noise. We elected to return to ATL, (which we just departed from, 25 miles behind us), and returned for a safe landing on one engine.

    What I saying here is learn from this incident "what would you do?", fly into cloud without an IFR clearance, perform maintenance in flight, not seek help, declare an emergency? Perhaps the writer thought that what he was doing was normal for his level of experience, I don't know.

    Just use your CRM skills and hopefully you will avoid latent traps.

    Peter
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails IMG_1203..jpg   IMG_1204..jpg   IMG_1205..jpg  

  8. #8
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    Good point Peter and I appreciate your example of CRM. You are spot on that we learn from other's mistakes, including our own, and I've made more than a few of my own. I'm also sure that we have all violated a FAR or two in our years of flying. Just my humble opinion, but I think what made this story so outrageous to most folks was that he violated not one or two FAR's, but a myriad of violations and just bad decision making.

    I can understand trying to repair something that was broken but actually disconnecting it yourself, even if accidentally, goes against any and all aeronautical decision making. I don't know the writer and am certainly not in a position to make a personal judgment of him as a person, but I'm not sure he should be flying an airplane in the same airspace with any of us. I'm not sure what he was trying to get across or accomplish with that story and had he started it out with, "let me tell you the dumbest thing I ever did that I won't ever do again" then I would have been okay with it.

    Your reminder of CRM brings the story back to center.

  9. #9
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    I'm absolutely speechless. Peter, thanks for your story and professionalism.
    N7743D 1957 PA-22/20-150 "Super Pacer" based 1H0

    SWPC 15480

  10. #10
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    Here is the way I see it. The level of complacency is directly proportional to the amount of expienence and comfort one feels in any endeavor. Yes, what the writer did wasn't very smart and I bet he would be the first to say it and he probably had to clean out his shorts afterwards. How far he was willing to go to fix his problem was based on his past experience and it bit him in the shorts but he had balls enough to tell the world. Everyone that has commented on this article I am sure has done something stupid but did you keep quiet in fear of someone saying how stupid it was or did you tell the world so others could learn from your mistake? Takes a man to admit to a stupid mistake so other can learn from it. I made stupid mistakes in combat because of complacency and I came back and admitted to my peers so they could maybe learn from my mistakes. Were they stupid mistakes and did I know better? Yes, but did my peers bad mouth me? No, because each could not throw stones. So what are the positive things you can take away from this person admitting his mistake? No matter who you are, sometime in life you are going to make a stupid mistake based on complacency. (Look at how many people text and drive). This article reinforced my habit of asking myself when I walk out to my bird or get into my truck, "Is today the day I am going to die?" You try it maybe it will help you from making that stupid mistake. Does it work? I believe it was instrumental in saving my life when was shot down in Laos. What else? I also learned I can fly the aircraft without ailerons and have the opportunity to safely land the aircraft. Dave Hedditch

  11. #11
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    If Frank has the "balls" that you profess, then why doesn't he get on this forum and discuss it? Out of the 6 members that have commented in this thread, 4 earn a living for their families as pilots. If Frank truly has "balls" let him sit down with those who will ask the tough questions.
    Posting such an account, and then retreating to the darkness until it hopefully blows over is not "balls", it is better termed "braggadocio".
    Dave, your account of complacency while in combat, is a good example of what I am speaking of. You "screwed up", and you came back to your peers, and admitted what you had done! That my friend is balls! You did not hide out until you were sure that you could not be held accountable, then publish your tale in Good Housekeeping.
    If Frank Sperandeo wants to screw himself into a smoking hole in the ground, he can do it privately. What I take serious umbrage with is that he made the same decision for others who might have been sharing the same airspace with him that fateful night. What about the husband, wife, and kids flying IFR in the family Bonanza in the same airspace as Frank was trying to find his way out of? What about the same family that might have been sitting at the departure end of the runway waiting to depart as Frank approached in an aircraft with a complete loss of a primary flight control?
    I too have made some serious errors in my career. I too shared them with my peers, and took the tough questions. Big difference!
    Mark Ohlau
    1950 PA-20 N7744K
    KJAQ

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Hedditch View Post
    This article reinforced my habit of asking myself when I walk out to my bird or get into my truck, "Is today the day I am going to die?" You try it maybe it will help you from making that stupid mistake. Does it work? I believe it was instrumental in saving my life when was shot down in Laos. What else? I also learned I can fly the aircraft without ailerons and have the opportunity to safely land the aircraft. Dave Hedditch
    Dave, first off I would like say that I'm very happy that you are posting on this forum. Welcome.

    Second, my intent when I posted Frank's article was for one reason: CRM skills, "is what he did normal procedures?, Is this aerial adjustment something that inexperienced members should be learning to do?"

    Frank has a Pa-22/20 that, like-it-or-not, the aviation network thinks is a very nice Short Wing. And should anything negative happen to his Pa-22/20 would have a negative effect on our class of plane.

    Bottomline, Frank with being a AMP, Private Pilot, DAR, builder of aircraft parts........knows better. And hopefully Other owners of aircraft will learn from this.

    Yes, we have to learn from our/others mistakes.

    As you mentioned "negative statements" does not help the Club, and I agree. However, you and I cann't control what others write, hopefully they will be positive.

    I also hold you in very high regard for your service to the U.S.A. For the past century it was and still is people like you that have fought for the freedom that we now have. Many Canadians and American's are still paying the ultimate price in the name of freedom.

    Thankyou

    Peter Lubig
    Past President (maybe next??)

  13. #13
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    http://genebenson.com/why-3/

    FAA Loss of control webinar.
    Ex-Vice President

    63' Colt

  14. #14
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    Someone we know putting this on? A little first hand experience maybe.

  15. #15
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    Hey! Nothing like having a published author as your expert!
    Mark Ohlau
    1950 PA-20 N7744K
    KJAQ

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gilbert Pierce View Post
    Someone we know putting this on? A little first hand experience maybe.
    in the automotive world, I believe they referr to it as 'community service'

  17. #17
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    I find this story frightening---- not so much from an aerodynamic sense--- but from the point of view that this guy is a mechanic
    AND a DAR------- he is the guy the FAA has selected to wisely and expertly tell us if our aircraft are airworthy.
    He mentions "in flight adjustments" as though that's something that is an accepted "43-13" thing...…

    This makes about as much sense as adjusting the door latch mechanism of a jetliner at 45,000 feet.
    (believe it or not I know someone who did something like that--- the door was never seen again-- fortunately it was at low altitude) The door went away-- the man did not ----

    Another incident here where a CFI at a BIG TIME part 143 school..... goes to the maintenance hanger --- get a plane key out
    of a lock box---- takes the plane out WITH A STUDENT IN IT...… and the plane only has 1 aerolon present. Where the
    other one was supposed to be was only the rod end hanging out. He lost his job later that day. Lucky de lived.

    I cant really understand how a mechanic and a DAR----- could NOT understand the intent and purpose of the little wire
    on the turnbuckle. And-- a finer point---- how did he expect to safely adjust a turnbuckle when he could not see the witness hole ? and I guess he wasn't going to worry about flying it without the safety wire if it had not come apart right then ?
    And his main premise for doing this whole thing ? --- that somehow he could not do this adjustment on the ground-- that the
    aircraft had to be in flight to achieve the desired result...…. I just want to bury my head in my hands when I consider this is the guy who oversees the work of A+P's and IA's …….. I guess this is a tribute to the all seeing eye of big government....

    Just to not be completely negative---- I think its a great idea for everyone to get some practice
    flying with any one of the control surfaces inop. Like have you practiced doing an landing approach with no elevator--- using only throttle and flaps---- or trim tab and throttle----
    or an approach with no aerolons by leaning your body and shifting the CG ?
    T

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by fairchild1934 View Post
    I find this story frightening---- not so much from an aerodynamic sense--- but from the point of view that this guy is a mechanic
    AND a DAR------- he is the guy the FAA has selected to wisely and expertly tell us if our aircraft are airworthy.
    He mentions "in flight adjustments" as though that's something that is an accepted "43-13" thing...…

    This makes about as much sense as adjusting the door latch mechanism of a jetliner at 45,000 feet.
    (believe it or not I know someone who did something like that--- the door was never seen again-- fortunately it was at low altitude) The door went away-- the man did not ----

    Another incident here where a CFI at a BIG TIME part 143 school..... goes to the maintenance hanger --- get a plane key out
    of a lock box---- takes the plane out WITH A STUDENT IN IT...… and the plane only has 1 aerolon present. Where the
    other one was supposed to be was only the rod end hanging out. He lost his job later that day. Lucky de lived.

    I cant really understand how a mechanic and a DAR----- could NOT understand the intent and purpose of the little wire
    on the turnbuckle. And-- a finer point---- how did he expect to safely adjust a turnbuckle when he could not see the witness hole ? and I guess he wasn't going to worry about flying it without the safety wire if it had not come apart right then ?
    And his main premise for doing this whole thing ? --- that somehow he could not do this adjustment on the ground-- that the
    aircraft had to be in flight to achieve the desired result...…. I just want to bury my head in my hands when I consider this is the guy who oversees the work of A+P's and IA's …….. I guess this is a tribute to the all seeing eye of big government....

    Just to not be completely negative---- I think its a great idea for everyone to get some practice
    flying with any one of the control surfaces inop. Like have you practiced doing an landing approach with no elevator--- using only throttle and flaps---- or trim tab and throttle----
    or an approach with no aerolons by leaning your body and shifting the CG ?
    T
    He is also a technical advisor for the Short Wing Piper Club.

  19. #19
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    I know that as I get older - I understand that what I dont know is a jupiter sized planet compared to the grain of sand that i do know--- but I just dont know what to say about this storey. Thankfull that it didnt end up with a tragic loss of life and an investigation that could not find any cause. I guess every kind of training can have un-noticed cracks that we as humans can
    manufacture a problem that happens to match the crack and fall through. I think the best we can hope for is that when it does happen--- that its not a whopper--- but just part of a "what if" senario road that we dont want to go down.
    Sometimes we think we are smarter than our fathers and grandfathers and fail to learn from their wisdom. Cant help but wonder if that near death experience forever changed his point of view ? :-)
    T

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