Safety and training

Safety and training

Postby Sonex1517 » Tue Oct 21, 2014 7:54 pm

With a recent rash of attention to our make and model of aircraft, and some tragic accidents, I wanted to start a separate thread and conversation.

As echoed in separate threads, and as urged by the Sonex Builders and Pilots Foundation, the EAA Type Club Coalition, Sonex Aircraft LLC, AOPA, and a multitude of other sources, getting the correct transition training is critical.

Operating aircraft that are EAB or ELSA requires additional attention to the differences of the aircraft, engine, and systems, especially for those of us used to certified aircraft.

Flying is inherently hazardous. Reducing risks is a required strategy for all of us. I know at least two corporate jet pilots among us who can speak to the importance of good training, currency, and a deep understanding of the capabilities and limitations of any aircraft we operate.

We have an excellent overall safety record. But collectively, we need to work on keeping it that way, reducing the accident rate, and building safe aircraft.

I am starting this thread to move the conversation away from the incidents and accidents and into the general discussion of safety and training.


Robbie Culver
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Re: Safety and training

Postby Mike53 » Tue Oct 21, 2014 8:27 pm

Robbie I agree that collectively we need to work at lowering the overall accident rate in general aviation and the Sonex foundation is a great way to promote that goal but with all due respect I take exception to your opinion that 'flying is inherently hazardous' which implies we have no hope of improving our safety record.I don't think that is the picture we want to give to the uninitiated.The press already sends this message to the general public without our help.
Instead I would rather quote a WW1 officer who said ' Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.'
Your absolutely right Reducing risks is a required strategy for all of us.
Cheers.
Mike
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Re: Safety and training

Postby GordonTurner » Tue Oct 21, 2014 8:40 pm

Hear hear!!!
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Re: Safety and training

Postby fastj22 » Tue Oct 21, 2014 9:56 pm

I love that quote, "Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect."
The sea and the sky are terribly unforgiving. They have no concern of our temporary excursions into them and absolutely no interest on the outcome. That doesn't mean we shouldn't venture from the shore or the turf, but when we do, we need to exercise extra vigilance to ensure our safe return.

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Re: Safety and training

Postby MichaelFarley56 » Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:49 pm

I for one am thrilled that Robbie has started this post. I really hope that this will ultimately lead us as a community of friends, builders, and pilots into a new direction of safety oriented discussions, stories, and recommendations. I know there are a lot of people out there reading these posts with questions about building, flying, and maintaining these airplanes; if you're one of them, this is an excellent place to voice your question or story!

If you all don't mind, let me begin by offering my two cents on the subject. First off, for those of you who were at Crossville this year, you heard me talk about my one and only experience with mixing 100LL with automotive fuel which had ethanol mixed in. This led to me losing my engine in flight, but thankfully I was able to glide back to the airport. Little did I know at the time, but ethanol eats into rubber so as I departed my home airport, my SS braided fuel line was slowly deteriorating as I took off. Ultimately it took around 8-10 minutes for the ethanol to eat into my fuel line which caused small rubber chunks to block my needle valve in my AeroInjector, thus causing fuel starvation. The first thing I noticed was a spike in EGT's, and as soon as I saw that, I immediatlely began heading back to the airport. After another moment my engine began to miss, so I began looking for farm fields where I could land, just in case. As I approached my airport the engine ran worse and worse, but it kept producing power until I was turning onto Final Approach in a position where I could make a normal landing, which is what happened.
Moral of the story? First, I certainly don't recommend using automotive fuel with ethanol, but if you do, stay close to your airport when you first begin to test that fuel. This wasn't the fault of the engine or airplane; I should have never tried that fuel. Also, always remember to have suitable landing sites in mind as you're flying, just in case. When is the last time any of us practiced "Engine Out" procedures we rehearsed during training? It's probably been a while...just a thought...

My second story is actually on a non-Sonex path, but there's still a lesson to learn. In my "day" job as a corporate pilot, I normally fly our airplanes to and from maintenance events. There's a common joke among corporate flight departments; If you want your airplane to break on you, take it in for an inspection! The first time I flew our Hawker jet in for a phase inspection, I did a post-inspection test flight and it all seemed to go well until we landed. After landing, I did a walk around check only to find the entire aft fuselage and tail was covered with hydraulic fluid! It turns out the maintenance staff over tightened a hydraulic line on a thrust reverser and cracked a steel fitting, leading to a big hydraulic leak.
Just yesterday I was test flying a KingAir 350 and as I was climbing out around 9000' in IFR and icing conditions, I had one engine roll back to 'flight idle', which is a fancy way of saying idle power. After returning to the engine shop it turns out the mechanics forgot to tighten and safety wire a pressure control line to the engine's fuel control unit, and when the nut backed off the line I lost throttle control due to this pneumatic leak.
Moral of this story? It's always a good idea to have an extra set of eyes to check things over during inspections. Be cautious and check your airplane over with a fine-tooth comb after a Condition Inspection, because you never know. Consider enlisting the help of an A&P to check things over, or if you use an A&P for your Condition Inspections, don't be nervous to check things over yourself. The more sets of eyes that look at things, the less the chance that something will get missed.

Does anyone else have any stories or questions? I hope this is a conversation that will continue! I have plenty of stories but I'd rather hear what you all say...
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Re: Safety and training

Postby Sonex541 » Wed Oct 22, 2014 12:27 am

Had the same issue with ethanol ate the inside of my braided fuel line idled perfect would not take full throttle , and was starving for fuel pulled the line off and it was shrunk down to the size of the inside lead of a pencil .never again will I ever use auto gas , never ever ,
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Re: Safety and training

Postby daleandee » Wed Oct 22, 2014 12:44 am

MichaelFarley56 wrote:Does anyone else have any stories or questions?


I almost hate to get into this conversation as I always seem to be the guy that says the wrong thing. I told a story at Crossville to reiterate my point. It had to do with my wife talking to the doctor after having just delivered our second child and her being sure that we wanted no more. The doctor was asking her to reconsider whether she wanted to have a tubal ligation at such a young age. She turned to me and said, "honey, if you get fixed then I can't get pregnant" to which I replied, "that's not true." I still get some gas for that one now and again. :lol:

Still my point is that sometimes telling the painful truth is well ... painful. So to that point I have a question. If I understood correctly at Crossville (and I may not have) the Sonex Builders and Pilots Foundation had an opportunity to become part of the crash investigation team but declined to do so. If I heard correctly, that made no sense to me at all. I would think that that would be a very fundamental part of the safety factor that the foundation was set up to promote.

But if true I certainly can understand that there would be many reasons why such an undertaking would be a monumental task as far as manpower, funding, record keeping, etc. Still we must find a way to get through all of the "talk of safety" and get down to what is the actual root cause of these crashes. I know I'm not qualified to be on such a team but we do have among us individuals that are extremely talented in the construction and operation of these aircraft. I'm certain that Sonex themselves would want to be a part of any investigative team that is sent out to find out why a plane went down.

We will never stop some people from doing stupid things. I learned today of the reason a Corvair powered aircraft crashed last year about 2 miles short of the runway. It concerned me because I fly Corvair power. But the cause would bring down any Sonex in that he ran it out of fuel and remarked, "I almost made it!"

So all I ask is that we keep it honest and don't varnish over the hard truth if ever we find out what it is.

Thanks for all you do!

Dale Williams
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Safety and training

Postby Sonex1517 » Wed Oct 22, 2014 6:37 am

Dale asks an excellent question - and is entirely correct. The Foundation decided not to even attempt to become involved in the investigative side of the NTSB investigations as some type clubs have done.

There are many reasons why.

The first is the most basic. We have no resources. Not one person currently involved in the active day to day activities of running the foundation (which amounts on any given day to 4 or 5 people) has time or resources, mush less experience, to commit to this. It would involve being ready to drop everything at a moments notice and go to the investigation. At their own cost.

If someone is willing to take on that role, and has the experience and resources to commit, we are willing to discuss it. But right now we simply do not have the resources for this.

Second, the type clubs that have done this are typically involved because there is no factory presence in the investigation. Not all EAB kit manufacturers offer the experience and longevity Sonex Aircraft LLC does.

And finally, the factory does get involved. We do not feel it is our role at this time to even attempt to replace that function.

I would like to add that regardless of the words chosen, I am really glad to see the discussion. We need to continue it.


Robbie Culver
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Re: Safety and training

Postby kmacht » Wed Oct 22, 2014 8:19 am

I would like to get back to the fuel line / ethanol thing for a minute. For those of you who have had problems with the fuel line when running ethanol could you let the rest of us know what brand and/or part number you were using? The aerovee and aerocarb is supposed to be ethanol compliant so the only failure mode from using mogas would be the fuel line itself. If you are using the braided line that sonex recomends for the oil lines (JEGS P/N 799-632060) for your fuel line it is supposed to be ethanol compatable. If that is what is being used it leaves me wondering why people are having it swell up on them.

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Re: Safety and training

Postby kmacht » Wed Oct 22, 2014 9:18 am

Since I am an engineer and like to deal with numbers I did some digging in the NTSB safety database to see if I could find any trends. I have a spreadsheet but can't get it to look right when I copy it into the forum. Here is what I have found:

Total Sonex/Waiex/Xenos Flying - 497
Total NTSB Accidents - 24 (4.8%)
Total Non Fatal Accidents - (3.2%)
Total Fatal Accidents - 8 (1.6%)
Number of Accidents with Aerovee - 12
Number of Accidents with Jabiru - 9
Number of Accidents with other or unknown engines - 3

So when taken in perspective the Sonex and the Aerovee are pretty safe airplanes. That doesn't help much if you are one of the 3.2% or even worse one of the 1.6% so the more we can do to get those numbers down the better. I did dig a little deeper into the causes and things get a but less clear there.

The cause with the highest number of incidents was a loss of engine power for unknown reasons. Those totaled 8 but only 3 were fatal. A number of them were for unknown reasons because the aircraft was destroyed but there were also a few where nothing was able to be found wrong during inspection of the engine.

There were 7 instances of builder error or component failure that caused accidents. One was a fatal accident from someone using sealant inside the fuel tank that came loose and clogged the filter. Another was for not torquing the rocker arms properly, the third was for an electrical short that shut down a fuel injection system, the fourth was a ECU failure on a UL engine, the fifth was for an unsupported throttle cable that caused it to stick. The sixth and seventh were for prop hub failures. One of those was on a great plains engine and the other was on an aerovee. The aerovee failure was due to improperly disassembling the crank hub after forgetting to install the bearing before pressing it on.

There were also 7 instances of what I would call stupid pilot tricks. Three of them werer for running out of fuel. Two of those three were fatal. Two were for loosing control on takeoff, one was for coming up short on the landing, and one was for loosing control while flying drunk.

That leaves two more on the list. One is the accident down in florida that is being talked about on another thread. They just found the wreckage so it is too early to speculalate a cause. The other was back in 2005 when a piper taxied into the back of a sonex. Not on the list is the one out in California that just happened. The NTSB hasn't published a preliminary on it yet.

The builder error and component failure accidents can be reduced by following the plans and sticking with known systems that work. Stupid pilot tricks are seen all across general avaiation and aren't specific to the Sonex. Only you can make sure you have enough fuel for the flight and that you are properly trained to fly your airplane in the conditons you are attempting.

What worries me the most is the engine failures for unknown reasons. Without knowing why the engines failed it is hard to come up with a solution to the problem if there even is one common problem. The best we can do is make sure that for those of us flying make sure we report any near misses or issues found to not only Sonex but also to this list so other people can learn what to look for or what not to do. It would be great if this thread because a collector of all that knowledge.

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