Distractions, don't let them distract you

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Distractions, don't let them distract you

Postby hilltop170 » Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:15 am

Accidents are seldom the result of one event, but a chain of events that lead to the accident, we are told. I demonstrated that to myself yesterday.

My intention was to gas up at the self service fuel pump at Grand Prairie, TX Municipal Airport, KGPM, then fly non-stop to Gillespie Co. Airport, T82, at Fredericksburg, TX. The weather was better than it looked and was not a factor in the flight, 3000' overcast with unlimited visibility and a 10-15k headwind. I had 19 gallons on board and it would take about 17 to fly to T82 so that left no reserve, hence the decision to fill up at KGPM.

It had been very cold for Texas the last couple of days with temps down in the teens in the DFW area. My 170 had been parked in my hangar at KGPM for two weeks while I was in Alaska and was thoroughly cold-soaked. So I had gone out the night before departure and hung two 100w drop lights off the lower motor mount to pre-heat with a padded moving blanket over the cowl to hold in the heat. The drop lights had increased the engine oil temp and CHT from 30°F to 50°F overnight and the engine started right up.

I taxied to the self service pump, ran my credit card thru the reader, reset and turned on the pump, then set up the hose and ladder like I always do. The system is always ready to pump by the time I get everything ready so, Mistake #1, I climbed the ladder and took off the right gas cap (before I knew the pump was running) but no gas came out of the nozzle. So, Mistake #2, I climbed down without replacing the gas cap and went over to the card reader which showed the transaction did not go thru. I ran the card again and the same message came up again.

Since I had just returned from Alaska after two weeks I thought the credit card fraud-detection had kicked-in again as it sometimes does when it detects charges in Alaska then charges in Texas. A quick call to the credit card company indicated the card was good and should work so I went into the airport office and told them the gas was not working. The attendant admitted the same problem had happened in the last few days and obviously was not fixed yet. I suggested he put a sign on the pump so others would not waste 20 minutes discovering the same thing.

I walked back to the plane and rolled up the hose then, Mistake #3, put up the ladder without replacing the gas cap. Since I had already done a pre-flight at the hangar and drained gas sumps there, Mistake #4 I did not do another pre-flight which would have detected the gas cap being left off. Mistake #5 was not realizing I had been distracted.

Since I wasn't in any hurry, I decided I could fly toward Fredericksburg and stop along the way for fuel at one of the many airports along the way before I ran short of fuel. So I departed KGPM and headed to T82. Right after takeoff the left tank showed 1/2 full and the right tank showed 1/4 full.

About 20 minutes into the flight I checked the gauges again and to my amazement, I was shocked to see the left tank showed almost empty and the right tank showed over 1/2 full. 8O That did not make sense so I quickly started thinking about what might be causing it. It didn't take long to realize I had left the right gas cap was off which then made sense. The open filler neck was creating lower pressure in the right tank which was drawing fuel from the left tank into the right tank. The engine was still running fine and the cap was not banging on the wing so there was no indication of a problem other than the gas gauge issue.

There was no fuel flowing off the trailing edge of the right wing so I felt a little better but I knew I needed to land and take care of the problem. Mistake #6 would have been if I had not checked the fuel gauges again but I knew I needed to stop somewhere and I regularly check the tanks anyway to see how they are feeding. This is the first time I had an unusual gauge indication in all the years I have flown the plane. I still had lots of gas so it was not critical to land immediately but I was only a few miles from the Cleburne Municipal Airport, KCPT, which had self service gas so I turned toward Cleburne. Landing was uneventful and nobody noticed the cap was off. :oops: The pump worked like it should and I topped off both tanks. Cleburne has a very nice terminal and there was lots of activity inside, good to see at a small airport these days.

To my amazement, there was no evidence of fuel being sucked out of the open filler neck on the right tank. I filled the right tank first to see how much was left in it. It took 6 gallons. The left tank took 13 gallons and the fuel flow computer said I had 16 gallons left in the tanks so with 19 gallons in the tanks at departure, running the numbers agreed no fuel had gone overboard.

It was surprising to me even though the fuel transferred between tanks, none had gone overboard. Thinking about it, it makes sense because the levels were half or below. Had both tanks been full, no telling how much would have siphoned out but as it was, nothing happened.

I continued the flight to the southwest and flew over member Bob Jolly's ranch but his motor home was gone so I suspect he and Pat were out on the road somewhere. I flew another 12 miles and landed at another friend's ranch strip northwest of Lampassas for a short visit. Rusty videoed my landing and I taxied to the downwind end of the 2000' strip in preparation to leave in an hour or so. Everything was fine when I left the plane but after an hour it was getting late and was time to go before dark. Rusty took me back to the plane and I couldn't believe it but the left tire was flat! Murphy was still hard at work. We rounded up some tools and a hi-lift jack was used with a piece of pipe over the jack column and positioned at the wing tie down ring. The wheel was off and taken apart by dark.

Nothing wrong could be found with the tire or inner tube, no cuts, stickers, or nails, except, the valve stem was missing! 8O We looked at the video Rusty had taken from final approach all the way to where I shut down and both tires were inflated the whole time, yet the valve stem was missing and could not be found and the tire was flat an hour later. Go figure!

Once taken apart, the inner tube revealed it was actually the wrong size tube. Instead of a 6.00-6 tube it was a G15-6.00-6 tube which is for a smaller tire. I don't know how much that had to do with the flat but it was a noticeably smaller tube than the replacement 6.00-6. The wheels, tires, and inner tubes had been installed new in Alaska in 2006 by the shop that did much of the restoration work and they have never been taken apart since then. So I don't know what happened but I'll be talking to the shop about it. Now I have to take the right wheel apart and see if it has the correct tube.

All in all, things worked out well after all the mistakes made and problem with the inner tube. Had the tube blown while in the air, I would have landed not knowing it was flat and no telling how that would have turned out.

Bottom line is don't let distractions get in the way. When distracted, start over whatever you were doing and go thru it again without the distraction, they can bite you.
Last edited by hilltop170 on Sun Jan 21, 2018 6:24 am, edited 5 times in total.
Richard Pulley
2014-2016 TIC170A Past President
1951 170A, N1715D, s/n 20158, O-300D
Owned from 1973 to 1984.
Bought again in 2006 after 22 years.
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Re: Distractions, don't let them distract you

Postby DaveF » Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:33 am

BTDT. I flew from Longmont to Boulder, did one landing, and on takeoff the glider guys called me on Unicom to say one of my fuel caps was off. They said they could see a plume coming from the open tank. But like you, I found no fuel staining and I had lost almost no fuel. Sure was embarrassing, though.
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Re: Distractions, don't let them distract you

Postby Ryan Smith » Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:37 am

Almost 12 years on a set of tires? Jeez! How many hours and approximately how many landings?
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Re: Distractions, don't let them distract you

Postby hilltop170 » Sat Jan 20, 2018 6:15 am

392 hours, at least that many landings but it spent several years in restoration. I don't do many touch and goes.

I turned the tire around so the worn side is inside, should last another 5 years, it's always hangared.
Richard Pulley
2014-2016 TIC170A Past President
1951 170A, N1715D, s/n 20158, O-300D
Owned from 1973 to 1984.
Bought again in 2006 after 22 years.
It's not for sale!
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Re: Distractions, don't let them distract you

Postby counsellj » Sat Jan 20, 2018 12:33 pm

Thanks for sharing. As you know you aren't the first and won't be the last. Been there and done that as well. As someone I know always says. Sounds like a great article.

Jughead
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Re: Distractions, don't let them distract you

Postby Deere1450 » Sat Jan 20, 2018 1:40 pm

Glad there is a forum where we can have "true confessions" and learn from them. Good reminder for myself to slow down and take my time. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Distractions, don't let them distract you

Postby gfeher » Sat Jan 20, 2018 2:32 pm

Also happened to me two years ago. First time ever. I noticed it when returning my plane to the hanger after a short refueling hop. Like others, no fuel streaking and no noticable fuel loss. What was also surprising to me was that there was no banging, knocking or rattling of the cap against the wing. So no damage, except to my ego. It was very embarrassing. To this day I can't figure out how it happened. Unlike your experience, Richard, I can't point to any distractions that I remember, which is more troubling to me. So now, I'm doubly carefully when refueling, and I double and triple check the caps - just in case.
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'52 170B N2315D s/n 20467 C-145-2
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Re: Distractions, don't let them distract you

Postby edbooth » Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:11 pm

Good story Richard. Make sure you double check your oil cap whenever you add oil. That can really make a mess.....somebody told me that :D
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Re: Distractions, don't let them distract you

Postby gahorn » Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:14 pm

Great Article for the News... (just hope Bruce doesn't include all the responses....because....) Twenty years ago I had a politician friend who need to go somewhere and my Baron was in the shop and his was also.... so I rented a 182 from the local flight school.

The Chief Instructor was a near-retirement TIA MD80 driver (an original Trans-Texas-Airways DC-3 pilot... so we had lots of mutual friends to remind each other over....and that was the major conversaton during the preflight inspection.) He was a highly regarded and well-loved guy at the old Austin Mueller airport, and the flight-school insurance required a check-out which involved 3 bounces around the field. The fuel truck refueled us as I/we performed the preflight and when the truck pulled away we got in and cranked 'er up.
The two of us highly/over-qualified 182 pilots taxied out .... very likely with a rather casual air of confidence in this "formality" check-out... and during initial climb-out of RWY 13-L ...Mueller Tower advised us "Closed Left Traffic Approved.... and by the way... it appears there's a 'plume" of something coming off both wings..." 8O
We both looked at each other.... :oops: :oops: .... made CLOSE left traffic and shut down on the flight-school ramp. Neither of us said a word about the fuel caps but the Chief Instructor said , "Well.... I guess that's all we need today... Have a safe flight." :cry:

One of the best pilots I ever worked with was pre-flighting a C-402 when we both worked at the State of Texas flight dept and our BOSS... (a man we all despised for his lack of professionalism and low-qualification) interrupted him while he was closing the nose-baggage compartment (where the brake-fluid level is checked)... only to tell him that "your passengers are here". (What value that info was is difficult to imagine since they were not ALL here yet and departure time was still 45 minutes in the future.)
Yep... on initial rotation during take-off, the relative wind opened the baggage-door and most of the spare equipment (Tow bar, Box of cleaning fluids and rags, small vacuum cleaner, etc) all went out the baggage door and into the left prop. The baggage door latch had never been properly closed/latched.
The BOSS, of course, true to his nature and form... placed all blame on the pilot and suspended him. :evil:

Over-confidence, distraction, non-pertinent conversations... are ALL good reasons to slow-down and RE-do/RE-think what you're doing. If a pax interrupts... ask them for "forebearance" while you do that important job, and if anything interrupts your usual routine... let it raise a Warning-Flag to START OVER.
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Re: Distractions, don't let them distract you

Postby hilltop170 » Sat Jan 20, 2018 5:55 pm

The same thing goes for folks who want to help with the pre-flight. They mean well but unless you are instructing them on how to DO a pre-flight, they will almost always distract you in some way.

I had a guy that just would not stop interrupting me on a pre-flight even after explaining I needed to do it ALL myself including untying the tie downs . After I re-started the pre-flight the third time he finally got the message.

I did not follow my usual hard and fast rule the other day and I left the gas cap off. It was a good refresher lesson that did not cost anything, thank goodness.

I'll forward a copy of the initial post to Jan so she can include it in a publication.
Richard Pulley
2014-2016 TIC170A Past President
1951 170A, N1715D, s/n 20158, O-300D
Owned from 1973 to 1984.
Bought again in 2006 after 22 years.
It's not for sale!
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Re: Distractions, don't let them distract you

Postby Pdogace » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:18 am

Great topic Richard! I have great respect for distraction. It’s a huge factor in my job as a professional pilot. I like to say “speed kills, slow down to go faster”. Translations is hurrying to get things done ends up bad. Leaving 5 min late is not a big deal in the big picture. We use our 170 as the family hauler so instead of driving, when at all possible, we fly the 170. Having two little “helpers” to preflight the 170 is a BAD IDEA. So to mitigate this HUGE risk my wife and I drive two different cars to the airport. I show up and preflight and load the 170 and then they show up to load the kids after the Critical things are done. DISTRACTION free. When we return this also allows them to leave as I do my post flight DISTRACTION free. This may seem to some as over Kill but I know from experience that distraction is a KILLER. If you look up Distraction in the dictionary I am sure you will see toddlers and new passengers are the definition of distraction.
Preston
1954 C170B "Sweet Caroline"
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Re: Distractions, don't let them distract you

Postby hilltop170 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 6:20 am

edbooth wrote:Good story Richard. Make sure you double check your oil cap whenever you add oil. That can really make a mess.....somebody told me that :D



Thanks Ed, will do.

Since I take my oil cap off after every flight to let the crankcase breath, it is very important to not skip any step in the pre-flight. I also leave my cowl door unlatched as another reminder to look inside the engine compartment, check the oil, and put the oil cap back on.
Richard Pulley
2014-2016 TIC170A Past President
1951 170A, N1715D, s/n 20158, O-300D
Owned from 1973 to 1984.
Bought again in 2006 after 22 years.
It's not for sale!
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Re: Distractions, don't let them distract you

Postby cfzxo » Sun Jan 21, 2018 7:21 am

Richard, I have a gas cap in my hanger that my Brother found when hunting up on the Stewart Cassiar . Still had the key in it with the flag that says remove before flight. I have had a lot of pilots look at it and am unable to figure out what type of aircraft it was from. It had been under the forest canopy for many years , as I had to work at it with penetrating oil to remove the key. 8O
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Re: Distractions, don't let them distract you

Postby hilltop170 » Tue Jan 23, 2018 3:02 am

Maybe a Javelin tank?
Richard Pulley
2014-2016 TIC170A Past President
1951 170A, N1715D, s/n 20158, O-300D
Owned from 1973 to 1984.
Bought again in 2006 after 22 years.
It's not for sale!
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