WHAT LESSONS CAN
BE LEARNED FROM THIS STORY?
EVER GET THAT SINKING FEELING THAT SOMETHING WASN'T RIGHT?"
The fun of flying low over the river
It's good to have three fuel tanks
What is the purpose of a good pre-flight?
|NTSB - Bensen B8M Crash
Accident occurred Weekend of
Bensen B8M, Injuries: 1 Uninjured.
The pilot stated a pre-flight inspection and no anomalies were
noted and the gyrocopter had about 5 gallons of fuel on board.
The pilot departed and flew to an area located Southeast of the
airport at 500 feet AGL*, and conducted some performance checks
of the gyrocopter.
Once the checks were completed, the pilot continued his flight
above the river.
While in cruise flight the engine quit. The pilot turned on the
fuel boost pump and attempted an engine restart. The engine started
and quit again. The pilot switched fuel tanks, attempted another
engine restart with negative results, and initiated an emergency
descent to the river.
The gyrocopter rolled over on its left side and started to sink.
The pilot waited until the gyrocopter was submerged in the water,
and the rotor blades had stopped turning, before he unbuckled
his seat belt and exited the gyrocopter. The pilot came to the
surface, swam over to the marsh area, and exited the water.
A witness, who is also a helicopter pilot, stated that: "I
heard an aircraft approaching my location and observed the gyrocopter
in straight and level flight above the river travelling toward
the ocean between 75 to 100 feet AGL. I heard a change in engine
noise as if the gyrocopter had run out of fuel, or had water in
the fuel tank. The engine quit, started, and quit again. The gyrocopter
entered a descent and made a forced landing to the river."
The Sheriff's Department arrived at the witness' home and used
her boat-lift to recover the gyrocopter from the river onto her
No smell of fuel was present nor was any fuel observed draining
from the gyrocopter during the recovery. Examination of the gyrocopter
fuel system revealed that the seat fuel tank, and that the left
and right auxiliary fuel tanks were not ruptured and no water
was present. All three fuel filler caps were intact with a tight
zeal. No fuel was present in the seat fuel tank. The left auxiliary
fuel tank had one eighth of an inch of fuel in the fuel tank,
and the right auxiliary fuel tank had one and one-quarter inch
of fuel in the fuel tank.
The fuel line type fuel filter was removed and no fuel or water
was present. The fuel selector was in the seat fuel tank position.
The fuel selector was moved to the "side" position and about one
ounce of fuel was collected, and no water was present.
The carburettor bowl was removed and less than one ounce of water
The ignition system was examined. The distributor cap was crushed
during recovery. The ignition harness was not damaged. The propeller
was reinstalled and turned by hand. Valve and drive train continuity
was observed, and compression and suction was obtained on all
cylinders. The engine oil plug was removed, oil and water were
drained from the oil sump, and other than the water, no contaminants
were present. The oil filter was removed and no contaminants were
present. The air filter was removed and no anomalies were noted.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines
the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows: The pilots
improper pre-flight planning and decision resulting in a total
loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion.
Wrong? What could have been the outcome?
- Flying too low for too long
- Not having an emergency landing area always in view
- Not knowing range of aircraft
- Not knowing fuel status
|Further design modifications to existing
fuel storage systems on gyroplanes could see the replacement of
large tanks to store fuel with multiple units. Large single tanks
have a nasty habit of becoming vapour containers. In a crash situation,
on land, they catch fire easily. The solution seems to be in using
multiple linked, 2 litre containers with bladders. Spread out over
the frame, the bladders shrink inside the containers as the fuel
is consumed. Air fills the area between container and bladder.
Should gyroplane seats be fuel tanks? Although convenient for distributing
weight, this puts the pilot right over the fuel in a crash situation.
I have a friend and gyroplane pilot, whom I've never met face
to face. We corresponded a lot for a while. He was an airline
pilot who wanted to fly a gyroplane on his farm at a time when
there was no testing available to get a licence. That wasn't too
many years ago. He told me he had to beg the licensing agent to
stop off during a trip to watch him solo in his gyroplane. He
got his licence. My friend had two things against him, for flying
a gyroplane. He had the reflexes of an airline pilot, he had no
one to train him. He has flown it, as far as I know, for over
ten years, until he could no longer pass the medical requirements.
Many years later, in the same model aircraft, configured the same
way, another man with the same qualifications, rolled his into
the ground on take off. The aircraft was repaired and he repeated
the roll over again and was killed on take off. Luck? Bad luck?