Bill’s loss of power accident was apparently caused by the failure to replace a fuel cap after refueling at Chandler. See the write up below.
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Because so many of you are asking me questions, because there really are safety issues involved I am trying to compile this list of events and a few photos
For your reading and viewing pleasure. If any other questions arise please address them to ME. Do not let other people tell stories that are not true.
On July 5, 2007 while returning home from San Antonio Texas. I made a stop in Santa Teresa ( Dona Anna County ) south eastern New Mexico. The identifier is 5T6 if you are interested. I stopped there to pick up my hangar partner, Gai Cadwell, who had been visiting his brother. The story really starts here. A customer of mine at Chandler Municipal Air Park, in the Phoenix area, had been having a few problems with the powered nose lift that he had purchased from me. I had parts in my airplane
( the STILETTO 4 place) and agreed to stop at Chandler and drop them off.
We found the temperature at Chandler to be very hot and dry. We called for a truck to fuel the tanks to the top. While the truck was fueling the plane I was distracted inside my customer’s hangar. Mr. Cadwell paid for the fuel and when I boarded the airplane to leave I found the fuel cap on the left strake to be in place and locked down. I did not perform a complete walk around and assumed the right cap to be in place as well. I now believe that the cap was never installed in the tank and is probably on the ground somewhere around Chandler Municipal.
About 40 minutes into the flight at an altitude of 10,500 feet , the engine faltered. I turned on the electric fuel pump and got marginal results. The engine continued to falter and then lost power all together. A check of the fuel pressure revealed a 4 PSI reading. ( Normal is 26 PSI as this engine is fuel injected) We were about 5 miles south of interstate 10 and roughly parallel to it cruising at 180 knots GPS speed. I punched up NEAREST on the GPS and was presented with a nearest location of 45 nautical miles.( this is supposed to get you to the nearest airport) I knew we could not glide that far, so I headed for interstate 10 in hopes of making a safe landing between vehicles. We still had good altitude upon reaching the interstate and a visual indication of an intersection with another road. I tried to land as close to that intersection as possible. I flew over a bridge and lined up on the west bound lanes. I had seen one truck in front of us, but lost sight as I began to slow for landing. Just as it looked like we were in good shape to land the top of the truck and trailer came into view right under our nose. I then tried to take the left of the two westbound lanes and was successful in getting on the road bed, but still too fast for the truck. Our right winglet struck some part of the box trailer and we careened of the highway into the median between east and west bound lanes. ( This median is quite wide and allowed us plenty of room to be clear of traffic ) Our forward progress was never detoured and we went straight as an arrow through some pucker bush and ground to a halt after about 200 feet. There were people all around us in about one minute. There was no fire and no other problem to speak of. I shut everything electrical down and we deployed from the craft having only one abraded elbow between us for injuries. The intersection we landed near proved to be a turn off to Vicksburg. That put us about 20 miles east of a place called Quartzsite. All of the landing gear had failed in the fracas, This craft had Infinity Aerospace Retractable gear. That gear failed aft ripping out the face of the center spar as it left. The nose gear tire assembly was stripped off and the strut ground down about a third. Both main gear wheels were ripped from the oleo struts.
We had two sheriff’s vehicles on scene in minutes but had to wait about an hour in the heat for the Highway Patrol to appear. That individual was cordial, but not much help in providing information about where we could store the plane and how we could get home ourselves. Right about this time two young men arrived on scene in a 1 1/2 ton truck with a boom and a large flatbed trailer. Their business is transporting ( guess what) damaged airplanes. They were headed home to Phoenix after delivering an airplane to Oceanside , Ca. After much ado they agreed to help take the wings off our plane and transport it and us to CNO airport that very night.
WHAT LUCK !!! We were back home and the airplane in it’s own hangar by midnight. This incident took place about 3:30 PM.
Here are some thoughts:
1.) Stiletto’s fuel system employs no valves. The two strake tanks feed a sump that then feeds the engine directly. The strakes feed fuel by gravity, but not at an equal rate. ( ALA VARY EZE ) And inspection at the scene of the incident revealed that the only missing component was the right fuel cap. We vented 35 gallons of fuel overboard in 40 minutes of flight. The whole fuel system accommodates 42 gallons. I will install a fuel valve and replumb the system so that the two tanks are not drained together any longer.
2.) If the craft had the original landing gear installed ( Not the retracts that mount in the spar ) there would be no spar damage and no strake damage and repair would be easier. We have proven in flight with another Cozy IV that the retracts do not offer much in relation to performance when compared to a nicely fared fixed gear. In fact the Cozy IV is a little faster. I will now install fixed gear.
3) The MT Constant Speed propeller on this craft has been seriously abused since it has first flown in our stable. Average repair for one blade has been $7000 .
It has been proven that a fixed pitch propeller on this plane actually out performs the constant speed in cruise. We will not re-install the MT Propeller .
4.) A good walk around prior to flight would have prevented this incident. The fact that we had just flown 300 miles to get there gave us a feeling of unwarranted comfort. Always check out your craft before every flight and especially if it has just been refueled. Do not assume that your partner or anyone else has done this
5.) When any one is fueling your craft do not allow yourself to be sidetracked away from the plane until the fueling operation is complete and all fuel caps are secured.
Posted By: Brett FerrellThursday July 5th, 2007 at 9:52 PM