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Gr8Dane

Pilots And Racers: Idiotic Luck!

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Pilots and racers have a lot in common. But there are 'Good' pilots and there are 'Idiot' pilots out there. Some of the latter have even managed to beat the odds and are still alive. :blink:

 

  1. Pre-flight : Never allow anyone to interrupt your pre-flight/pre-race procedures. Doesn't matter if it's a race-bike, race-car or airplane.
  2. Get-there-itis: Don't rush the job. Better late than dead.
  3. If something feels, smells or sounds wrong, it is. Don't allow disbelief to over-ride common sense.

I think I am a 'Good' pilot. Yet I have found myself in violation of Rule 1. I also violated Rule 2.Then I violated rule 3. Twice. All in a matter of 20 minutes. Right then and there, I became an 'Idiot pilot'. Read on:

Refueling the Kitfox aircraft (tail dragger, high-wing/in-wing fuel tanks)requires either a step ladder or balancing your tippy toes on one of the main tires. I don't carry a stepladder. While I was balancing on the left tire, some guy came over and started chatting. I am a polite person, so I did engage in a short talk about the airplane.

 

I had just violated rule 1.

I was in a hurry, because of my destination airport did not allow night ops. I knew I could just make it. I finished refueling, bid farewell and strapped in. Got airborne.

 

I had just violated rule 2.

Noticed the aircraft was flying left wing low, (which it had never done before), so I corrected with a bit of right stick and did not give it another thought.

I had just violated rule 3. The airplane was trying to tell me something. I ignored it.

 

The Kitfox is a very simple aircraft. Each of the 2 tanks has a mechanical fuel gauge. A float linked to an arm rotates a pointer on the gauge. Pretty much fail safe.

 

Monitoring the fuel gauges on a regular basis is standard procedure. You expect fuel to be consumed at a certain rate. This thing burns 7 gallons per hour. 30 minutes after getting airborne, I checked my fuel gauges. Right wing tank read 3/4 full. Left wing tank read EMPTY

 

I concluded the left tank gauge must somehow be defective, and ignored it.

 

I had just violated rule 3 again. The airplane was still trying to tell me something. I ignored it again. At my peril.

 

Eventually I reached my destination, right at dusk. Now the right hand fuel gauge was also reading EMPTY. Funny how both gauges would malfunction almost at the same time!

 

There were a couple of aircraft in the pattern ahead of me, so I orbited while awaiting clearance to land. I requested a 'short' pattern approach, which the tower approved. Cranked the plane over into a steep left-hand, side-slip, got the plane slowed down and executed a perfect touch-down right on the numbers. D***, I AM A GOOD PILOT !

 

At that exact point the engine quit!

 

Any guesses ? Yup, I had run the plane out of fuel and didn't even know it!

 

Here's what happened: Kitfox gas caps are attached with a lanyard so you don't lose them. If you forget to put the cap back on, it rides on top of the wing, creating extra drag. I forgot to put the cap on. That's why the left wing was flying low.

When you go fly without the cap on, the fuel will get siphoned out. That's why the fuel gauge was reading empty.

 

I had made it to the airport solely on the remaining fuel in the right tank, which was, of-course, being depleted at twice the normal rate, emptying that tank in the process. Not just dumb luck, this was idiotic luck.

 

If something feels wrong, it IS!

 

FAST FORWARD:

 

Track Day at Laguna. I'm helping a buddy prep his GSXR 1000. He's an older guy, has never been to the track before. We tape up the glass, remove the turn-signals, service the engine with fresh oil and filter, bleed the brakes, put new pads in and have new tires put on.

 

'Ok', says my buddy, 'lets load the bike on the trailer.'

 

'Nope, suit up, gotta test drive it first, make sure everything is OK.'

 

Buddy says 'I'm tired, don't want to do that, it will be fine'

 

'I disagree, so if you don't want to do it, I will. Lemme borrow your leathers?'

 

So I suit up, get on the bike (which I have never ridden before) ride down the road. Get her warmed up, get the pads bedded in, brakes are fine, everything seems good to go. This is a rural area, with no cops or traffic, so I get on the gas and hit 120 or so. Suddenly there's this strange vibration from the front tire. I ease off the throttle and touch the front brake lightly at about 30 MPH. The first sensation I get is that the front tire really has great grip, because the bike slows down really quick. Then the front end goes all mushy!

 

Flat tire! Brand new, and completely flat! The front valve stem is gone! Any guesses as to what just happened?

 

To be continued....

 

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Guess #1 - You never inflated the front tyre...

 

Guess #2 - You did not bead the tyre properly when inflating...

 

Because you broke Rules 1 and 2... AGAIN!!! ;)

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You forgot to insert the valve stem after inflating the tire :D

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You forgot to insert the valve stem after inflating the tire :D

 

That's probably it!! Never changed a tyre myself, so no idea about that...

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Valve stem was old and cracked and broke off. Should have been replaced with the tyre.

 

New valve stems. Always. Try again?

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You forgot to insert the valve stem after inflating the tire :D

 

Close! But no cigar.....

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New valve stem, held in place with a thin nut. either under tightened so came undone? Or over tightened and split?

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Wow, cutting it close! blink.gif

 

Did you guys change the tire yourselves? I'm interested to hear this one... I'm not quite sure how a tire could be inflated but then completely deflate itself down the road without getting a big puncture...

 

Anyway, I think most people do make those "idiotic mistakes" or have their own close calls at some stage in their life (to varying degrees of idiocy or closeness tongue.gif ). My motto in those situations is make sure you never make the same mistake twice. A person who continually makes the same mistake - well that is when the "idiotic" label really starts to stick!

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Wow, cutting it close! blink.gif

 

Did you guys change the tire yourselves? I'm interested to hear this one... I'm not quite sure how a tire could be inflated but then completely deflate itself down the road without getting a big puncture...

 

Anyway, I think most people do make those "idiotic mistakes" or have their own close calls at some stage in their life (to varying degrees of idiocy or closeness tongue.gif ). My motto in those situations is make sure you never make the same mistake twice. A person who continually makes the same mistake - well that is when the "idiotic" label really starts to stick!

 

Tires were bought and installed by Cycle Gear. New valves. Rubber, no nuts. Valve wasn't seated correctly, centrifugal forces sucked it into the tire!

  • Haha 1

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