After three months in England, I arrived back in Australia on 17th September,
with exactly a fortnight to go to the first display of the
The first couple of days were spent just recuperating. Then a couple of days dealing with the mail and e-mails.
Then we fitted a replacement cylinder to the Maule (cracked valve guide went
oval, making the valve seat become oval, so the valve seated badly and
Finally, to fixing the Fournier, which was under an inch of dust and bird droppings
(we have a family of swallows in the hangar, showing me how to
fly properly). It also had a total electrical failure.
Removing the instrument panel revealed the culprit, a wire had shaken loose
from the warning light test button (through which all the electrics seem to
be routed). Presumably, this was caused by the vibration of my new (but pre-loved) propeller, so I removed that and started on the process of
With less than a week to go to the display, and being more-or-less over the
jet-lag, it was time to start practicing. The first day I could only manage
a single sortie of high-level aerobatics because I started feeling sick so quickly. I also got very tired.
The second and third days I was able to endure two sorties. Gradually I could come lower and fly my full five-minute routine.
Yesterday I flew my full routine twice in succession, the first time down to
700 feet and the second time down to my 500-foot minimum. And I didn't
feel sick. Finishing in a gliding turn on to downwind as usual, I realised I was lower and further upwind than I would have liked, but should be able
to glide to the threshold without power. Abeam the mid-point I was at 300 feet and in good shape.
I loosened my shoulder straps, leaned forward and lowered the wheel.
Turning on a tight base leg, I pulled the spoilers and was comforted not tohear
the horn. Checked it by pressing the test button. It buzzed. Final
check, little locking latch forward in its detent, OK.
But now I'm unaccountably high, so I had to sideslip surprisingly hard to make the threshold.
That done, raise her nose, hold her off, and this is going to be a nice landing,
the best since I've been back. Yes, I didn't even feel the main
wheel touch. The tailwheel started rumbling and the nose came down with analmighty bang, bits of propeller spraying in all directions.
We slid to a halt in fifty metres or less. I turned everything off and got out. Still no horn, although it should be live whenever the battery's connected.
Damage: The breather tube's gone completely, smeared along the tarmac. The
runners are half worn away, the doors are both scraped (one badly) with
their hinges entirely ground off. The fibreglass side cheeks are a little scraped too.
The prop is shattered. Worse, there is a distinct two-inch deep indent in the
runway of the prop's tip end-on, so I guess it came down in the
vertical position, most likely bending the crankshaft. We'll know later today when we've done the DTI run-out check.
Then I have to find out why the horn didn't sound.
And get a new personal memory card, because the need to sideslip clearly shows I never did put that wheel down.
Now I'm Western Australia's Advanced Muppetry Champion!
The good(ish) news: My new prop is still on the balancing rig; it was the old
one I smashed. And my new, powerful engine is still waiting on its oil
drum in my hangar. Seems I'll miss that first display, but may soon be able to fly half upward vertical rolls.
Captions requested (again!)
This is Bob's relpy after I asked if I could use the the gear up landing picture on the CFI-A website.
Yes, by all means use that picture on the site, as a warning to others howeasy it is to do.
You might add that there is a failure mode of the wiring that can allow the gear horn and light to test, but not actually to work when the wheel is not down.
A wire had detached from a corroded pin in the plug ahead of the instrument
panel on the left, leaving no electrical supply to the horn and light
EXCEPT the test button. That's still no excuse for forgetting the wheel, but there was no back-up warning system.
I didn't realize this until I was stood beside the poor little thing on the runway, with the wheel up, the electrics still live and no horn.