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Your biggest ever mistake

Doing my pre-take-off checks after taxi-ing for a VFR departure, in good VMC, Tower asked if I could accept a FIS. for training purposes, instead of an ATC service. I said “Affirm G-WF”. Tower, in angry voice, demanded a read back. As I did so, I turned the fuel to “Off”, not “Front Tank”. Tower then cleared me for take-off. I checked “electric fuel pump on” before checking “fuel on”, as I noticed a change in engine note. Fortunately the runway was long enough. I had just passed my 1900th hour in the almost 2 hour trip to that airport – which was not busy. I don’t change tanks at the hold now.

EGPE, United Kingdom

Shortly after getting my IMCR, I took off into IMC with no NAV1 / ILS, just Garmin 496 and nav 2. Heading over the Pennines, I knew it would be IMC, but forecast only from about 3000ft (from memory) but it turned out to be lashing rain, getting bounced around, IMC to ground level, G496 getting very sporadic signals. Speaking to Warton, they were great and realised I needed “help”, talked me through the crossing over the Pennines. They asked me if I wanted vectors to the ILS at Warton, but I didn’t have the balls to tell them I didn’t have an ILS so said that I would press on a little further as it seemed to be clearing. Fortunately it did only about a couple of minutes later. i think they must have warned me about the Antenna north of the Reebok Stadium at least 3 or 4 times. Lessons learned!

A sloppy pre flight check by me missed the fuel vents being taped over by the line guy for prior washing.

Took off luckily with full tanks on a relatively short flight, wondering what the noise was coming from the wings as the tanks buckled under the vacuum.

Diverted, horrified to discover the problem upon landing and the thoughts of what could have happened on a longer flight, or emptier tanks…

The tanks popped back, so thankfully no lasting damage other than the trauma seared in my memory…..


Lovin' it

The quite a few times I’ve flown in borderline IFR conditions VFR. I even have some of them on tape that will never see the light of day until I no longer fly. Good thing is I now know what I don’t like to fly in…

That night when I had worked all day, was tired, but had to be in Inyokern desert by next morning and flew out because I had to. After Palmdale there were no more visual cues – it was all blackness and mountains out there. One nav error and I’d be planting it in the side of a Sierra Nevada peak. On final to airport I was squeezed by the mountains and rising terrain on one side and the biggest military restricted area on the other. And way too high – had to go around. As I start my turn, I can see the airport lights time out in the reflection under my nacelles. I’ve never seen such darkness. Mountains all around. Thankfully I’d had some instrument training, so I just steeled myself and fought the desire to climb, climb, climb to get away from earth. Second time around wasn’t much prettier, but I got down despite the vertigo those approach lights in this sea of blackness gave me. Night flying VFR outside of populated areas is IFR as far as I’m concerned. I learned that lesson that night.

Or that time when I landed when the gear light didn’t work, but I had a “hunch” they were locked and it was just the microswitch that had come out of alignment. I was right. Kind of. There was a crack in the structure and the front wheel wasn’t in the right spot – it later collapsed on the ground at my mechanics 2 days later…

Or the numerous times I forgot enrich the mixture on takeoff so that the engines started sputtering as you rotated…

At least I’ve never run low on fuel. I’m good that way…

Last Edited by AdamFrisch at 24 Mar 16:21

I was in flight training and we were doing a cross country flight in a Morane. The left tank indicator was defect, but we started with full fuel (5 hours plus reserve) and decided to fly on the left tank first. At our first stop, the ATCO got me confused and was quite unfriendly (Giving the ground frequency on short final can confuse a student, even if he has a couple of hundred hours spent in gliders). We then went to our next stop and there I did some solo circuits. There was a C340 Crew doing touch and goes at that time. Was quite funny how they nearly did two circuits, while I was flying one. However, variable gusting winds got me on my fourth landing and I encountered nose wheel flutter with an intensity, I haven’t seen since. The canopy jumped open and I was sure, I totaled the prop and the engine. Of course I aborted flying patterns and taxied to the apron where my instructor was waiting for me. We inspected the plane as thorough as we could ( FI is certifying staff, so he knows a bit about the planes) and found the rim had marks and the tyre moved something between 90 and 130 degrees, putting quite a lot of stress on the valve. But no cracks in the welding or such, and prop and engine were okay, too. We then decided to do a short field take off and fly her home.

When we then took off, the 340 just turned into final and did a t&g, flying beneath us during departure – and exactly at that time, in approx. 600-700 ft AGL, the engine went silent. Over the distraction from the first ATCO and then the flutter, I completely forgot to switch the mains and thus, I ran one tank dry. My FI assumed, I did switch tanks, as it is an item on the check list. Anyhow, we both knew that is was fuel starvation, rather than fuel exhaustion, and where to find the rest of the fuel. Lost about 300 ft in this manoeuvre – with a 340 climbing up beneath us.

There were many lessons learned that day and me and my instructor have a very own attitude to fuel since then.

Inside the sky.
EDXE, EDXF, Germany

Landing with just enough fuel to taxi in (and only just) due to a string of errors from various people proceeding the flight.

Time spent thinking about what could have been was increased due to ATC asking us if we wanted them to try to get a direct routing OCAS instead of flying the STAR (which would be a further ~40-50 track miles) and coming back to us saying it had been approved.

Flying over the Sierra Nevadas in an aircraft whose engine couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding while trying to beat the weather…

Flying a Cessna 140 with a C85 engine and a cruise prop in the mountains is something I probably did too often to be honest (in other words, more than once). It usually involved at some stage either thermalling the aircraft in the climb or tucking up against an upwind ridge and ridge soaring to climb. This time it just took about 100NM of climbing to get sufficient altitude. I had stopped in Sacramento, and noted the next day the bad weather was coming in a bit earlier than forecast so I rushed out to the airfield to get going as soon as possible on my way to SLC, not wanting to be stuck in Sacramento for a week. I could see the weather behind me as I climbed.

Unfortunately the wind really started to get up just as I started to cross the mountains. It was very very cold, and there were huge jagged snow covered peaks that would have otherwise been quite beautiful. I pulled the heater on, then thought about what would happen if there was a CO leak when at 12000 feet, so turned it off again deciding being frozen for the next hour was less risky. I was also having to go much further south to avoid IMC, and the turbulence was starting to get severe (it was like the angry hand of God was slapping the plane around, my bag was regularly floating off the seat). As carefully as I could I picked my way around the ridges, being careful not to get downwind of anything, and picturing myself going whomp into the 20 feet deep snow.

After what seemed like a decade I finally got to the other side and it smoothed out and the weather further on my course looked brighter albeit with an overcast. The trouble is I also now desperately needed the loo, and I realised if I stopped at the next airfield, the weather would probably catch up and I’d get stuck, so I had to go in a bottle (which is quite hard in the confines of a Cessna 140).

Andreas IOM

Departing from a nice grass airstrip in a C210, 6 pob. My wife, our very good friends with their two children on board.
Airstrip 900 m long, slightly rising terrain with trees at the departure end, but no problem with 285 HP and well below MTOM.
At the usual lift-off speed, I raised the nose, but the main wheels kept rolling firmly on the ground. I then realized I had left the flaps up and immediately set the pre-select switch to 10 degrees, which is the take-off setting. Then we lifted off. My wife remarked about the trees being close and also noted that my smile was a little stiff when I just nodded. I remember not sleeping well the following night.

There has been a couple of flaps-up departure disasters with big jet aircraft, and I always thing back to my C210 experience when I hear about them. There is absolutely no warning that anything is wrong during the the take-off run.

I did use a checklist, but as I recall, I was slightly distracted during pre-departure checks, maybe talking to the passengers.

It is about 15 years ago. Either I haven’t done anything as bad since, or it is still repressed in my memory until at a safer distance in time.

Last Edited by huv at 25 Mar 11:10
EKRK, Denmark

I think what has prevented me doing loads of potentially fatal mistakes was buying a high performance aircraft at the beginning. I have done a number of takeoffs with the takeoff flap forgotten, but it delays the rotation by something like 2 seconds and it is only just noticeable at the rotation point that there is “something different”.

There is actually a technique for max perf takeoffs from smooth runways which involves not using flaps till Vr. That way you get the best acceleration. It does create an extra opportunity for screwing up though – as well as removing the opportunity for a pre-takeoff visual check of the takeoff flap so creating an opportunity for an assymetric flap deployment which at the low obstacle clearance involved at that point probably will kill you…

Last Edited by Peter at 25 Mar 11:10
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I then realized I had left the flaps up and immediately set the pre-select switch to 10 degrees, which is the take-off setting.

I set flaps before taxi to try to avoid this. Easy to get distracted at the hold.

EGTK Oxford
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