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Author Topic: My mayday  (Read 6017 times)
2thman
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« on: August 11, 2008, 02:02:51 AM »

I was flying from Ketchikan to Washington State (0S9) on July 8 and was south of Bella Bella Canada around 3 or 4 PM local.  I was on an IFR flight plan and had an engine out - so declared a mayday.  Obviously I survived the episode, but now someone suggested I see if I can find a recording of the incident.  I have been trying to do so for a few days and really can't seem to figure out how to find a specific series of radio transmissions.  This episode started with Vancouver Center on either 132.2 or 133.67 I think - most likely the former and ended with Port Hardy Radio on 122.2

Can anyone help me figure out how to find this feed?

Thanks,

2thman

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dave
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« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2008, 09:59:22 AM »

Wow...sounds like a harrowing experience.  Glad you made it OK!

I don't believe we have any Vancouver Center frequencies at the moment.

Dave
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KSYR-pjr
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« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2008, 11:24:09 AM »

Unfortunately for your quest the feeds here are on a volunteer basis, meaning that only frequencies where volunteers have stepped forward to provide time, equipment, and an always-on Internet connection are carried.  There are still many, many frequencies (especially center frequencies) that are not covered, including as Dave pointed out, that particular frequency.

All may not be lost, though.  If you have some time to locate the phone numbers, you may find that one of the facilities involved could provide you with a tape of the incident. 
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Regards, Peter
ATC Feed:  Syracuse (KSYR), NY
2thman
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« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2008, 11:14:47 PM »

 grin  hey guys -- thanks very much for your response. You're right - it was a lot of hectic work and there was much puckering going on for 20 to 30 minutes.  We're lucky to have made it.  I won't say it was worth the amazing welcome by the rescue and airport folks at Port Hardy, but those people were fabulous by any reckoning.  That includes the big hug of relief my brother and I received from the very attractive RCMP gal who we first met on exiting the aircraft. 

I will call Vancouver Center and see if they can dredge up the transcript or audio file. 

Cheers,

John
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KSYR-pjr
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« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2008, 11:27:35 PM »

grin  hey guys -- thanks very much for your response. You're right - it was a lot of hectic work and there was much puckering going on for 20 to 30 minutes.  We're lucky to have made it.  

If you have the time could you post a synopsis of the emergency here?  I would be interested in reading your story, especially the happy outcome.
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Regards, Peter
ATC Feed:  Syracuse (KSYR), NY
2thman
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« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2008, 12:38:00 AM »

Here goes;  I was flying my Beech Sierra out of  Ketchikan intending to go nonstop to Jefferson County International in WA State My home airport  I was in VMC but at 9,000 feet and an overcast layer was a few thousand feet below.  As I passed over Bella Bella, I noticed that the right tank was indicating that only some of the reserve fuel was left in that tank even though I had been switching the selector on the hour and I was about 2 hours and 30 minutes into the flight.  I told my passenger that I was concerned about this, made sure the selector was on the left tank and waited the situation out.  About 30 miles south of Bella Bella and over 6,500 foot peaks under the overcast, the engine stopped running.  ATC vectored me west to get over lower terrain and we began to discuss the choices of landing sites.  After about 15 or 20 seconds, the engine started back up again, but only for a couple of seconds and it continued to cycle like this for 10 or 15 minutes.   It would  quit for  3 to 4 seconds and then surge to life for about two, sort of like riding a bucking bronco.  Amazingly at the end of the 15 minutes or so I was still at 7,000 feet and that was encouraging.  All of a sudden the engine began to run normally and, except for the SAR helicopter crew, the amublances, fire trucks etc on the runway, the end of the flight was uneventful.  ATC thought I had ice impaction in the air intake, but I was quite certain I had either dragged debris from the empty  tank or air because of the fuel selector valve.  They suggested I go lower, but I declined, thinking as far away  as I was from a suitable field altitude was gold.  Once the engine began to run steadily I climbed back to 9,000 for the added comfort of space between me and the ground.  I found a mechanic at Port Hardy who was willing to work on my problem and within a week I got him a repair kit for the fuel selector valve and he was able to fix the problem.  Turns out, the last guy who worked on the valve (and this was within the last year) must have incorrectly placed a small ballbearing that provides a detent and also seals off the inards so that you only select one tank at a time.  The ball bearing was found in the gascolator and once it was put back the valve worked fine.  I believe the scenario that caused the entire event was as follows:  I must have been in a slight skid the first half of the flight causing the fuel to feed out of the right tank no matter what position the selector was in. I had essentially only a BOTH selection and the acceleration of the skid caused that tank to empty.  When all the usable fuel was burned out of the right tank, the engine driven fuel pump still busily sucked at whatever it could get - in this case air.  After  awhile, gravity feed from the left tank (perhaps lower nose position and a skid in the other direction may have facilitated this) filled up the selector and the engine ran for a moment but the engine driven fuel pump fired up at the  same time and sucked more air when that gravity fed fuel was emptied.  I suspect that after 15 minutes for whatever reason I had the a/c in enough of a skid the other direction to accelerate fuel from the left tank and the  engine began to run normally.  I did not figure all this out during the flight and had not developed the skid theory.  Thus any changes in fuel acceleration from right to left were purely serendipitous.

If anyone has questions, feel free to ask.  Incidentally I flew to Prince Rupert last week and I spent some sleepless nights worrying about that leg from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy.  I had been thinking that going back  was the best thing - like getting back on the  horse (getting tired of this analogy?) and I was really surprised to find how much anxiety I went through before and  during this flight.

Regards,
John Barrett

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KSYR-pjr
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« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2008, 08:52:44 AM »

Wow, John, quite a story given where you were.   Thank you for taking the time to post it and nice job in handling the emergency.

As far as theories as to what may have drained the right tank, I am assuming you visually inspected the fuel level prior to takeoff (rather than rely strictly on the fuel gauge readings - especially these days of fuel theft) so the only other ideas I have would be:

1)  Ran the engine way too rich for the altitude, either by accident of not setting the mixture properly after takeoff or perhaps a problem with the mixture valve itself.

2)  Leaky fuel bladder/cell - Do Sierras have the rubber fuel bladder/cell like the Bonanzas or is it a wet wing?   I learned at my last annual this past May that the left fuel cell sprung a leak and needed to be replaced.  Apparently these rubber bladders only last about 20 years.

3)  Temporarily leaking fuel sump valve - I had this happen in the Bonanza once where, after sump the fuel, some foreign matter (perhaps a chunk of rubber from the failing fuel cell) got stuck in the fuel sump valve and it did not close off entirely.  Thus, fuel began dripping out at a steady rate.  Opening the sump valve and letting a 1/2-to-one gallon or so of fuel run through it eventually flushed the foreign matter out and the valve once again closed tightly.

4)  Bad seal between the fuel cap and the wing, either from an improperly tightened cap or bad o-rings on the cap, which resulted in fuel being siphoned out the top during flight due to the pressure difference above the wing.


In any regard, I hope that you are able to get back in the air and let this experience strengthen you as a pilot, not end it.  Best of luck.
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Regards, Peter
ATC Feed:  Syracuse (KSYR), NY
2thman
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« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2008, 10:06:36 AM »

Peter,

Thanks for the review and your encouragement.  There was no unusual usage of fuel - the correct amount for the total flight had been used, but I did find that when the incident occurred your questions went through my mind -- was a fuel cap not tightened down and fuel siphoned out the top of the wing?  etc etc etc.  all engine settings were normal and monitored throughout -- by the way I've owned this airplane since 1987 so I know it pretty well.

No rubber bladders but I did have to repair a leaking tank a year and a half ago. (left not right) This actually started the chain of events that led to this.  That repair showed that the Selector Valve was full of crud so the mech disassembled cleaned and reassembled.  He did so again about 6 mo ago because you couldn't turn the fuel off.  It still didn't work right.  I think he reassembled wrong both times.  also I know what you mean about leaking sump drains.  Have had that also and of course when you're flying for five hours in an airplane that has a 6 hour endurance you make damn sure you've poked as much fuel in that thing as you possibly can.  Fuel guages in the Sierra (mine at least) are very unreliable until you get into the reserve.  I don't trust them at all until they get into the red.  I know I can count on the engine quitting after 15 minutes or so once they indicate that low.  I actually experimented with that years ago by running one tank out at altitude to make sure the guage was at least useful for that.

We conclusively determined that the selector valve was the culprit. 

Best regards,
John
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