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The value of carefully inspecting aircraft before flight.

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  • The value of carefully inspecting aircraft before flight.

    Sometimes people want me to teach them to fly in a gyroplane they already own.

    I have a firm policy that it needs to have a current annual condition inspection done by an A&P mechanic that I know.

    I have seen too many sloppy annual condition inspections to assume a stranger has done a good job.

    I am not a professional mechanic and do not want to rely on my mechanical skills for our safety.

    The client had trailered his gyroplane from out of state and the first thing we found was a problem with the steering stem. We felt it was bent beyond our ability to make a field repair. We found another part and she is now back on her wheels. I suspect if we had flown her things would not have gone well. I like to think I would have noticed during ground operations but I am not certain.

    As we were assembling the rotor blades and hub bar the A&P mechanic noticed the rotor blade retention bolts had marks on them he could catch his fingernail on indicating that the blades had been moving in flight. They only had about 15 hours of flight time.

    As I torqued them down to 44 foot pounds they just didnít feel right to me.

    On further inspection I found the bolts were just a little too long or the washers too thin and the nuts bottomed out on the base of the threads reducing the clamping force. I used three thinner hardened washers to get the correct length. The difference in how they feel when they are torqued down is significant. It is not unusual to find this with aircraft hardware because they are trying to keep the threads out of the hole. There are actually several different thickness of AN washers available for this very reason.

    I ordered a castle nut for the teeter bolt because I did not feel comfortable with the elastic stop nut in that application per FAA AC 43.13-2B.

    The A&P also found a stainless braded line trying to saw through a radiator hose. The hose was new.

    The last bit of potential trouble was an on-off valve on the fuel tank breather that was sort of hidden behind the seatbelts. I donít know what would have happened if I had left it closed. I suspect we would have run out of gas. It was mentioned in passing in a call to the previous owner over something unrelated. It was not on the preflight check list.

    I take preflight and conditions inspections very seriously and this is not the first time it has mitigated a potential hazard.

    This aircraft had some of the best log books I have seen. The person who owned this gyroplane previously is a first rate mechanic and had flown her recently; yet these problems were present when the aircraft reached Santa Maria, California.

    I am working with the client on a more comprehensive pre and post flight check list. He is a high time Vietnam era helicopter pilot with over ten thousand hours in Rotorcraft and he believes in the rigorous use of check lists. I am proud to work with him.

    Please, this is about condition inspections and pre-flight inspections and what we found. It is not about a particular brand of anything. If you have a negative opinion about a particular brand pleas keep it to yourself as it diminishes the focus of the post. I fly all gyroplanes and love them all. I have yet to have a condition inspection done on any brand of gyroplane that didnít find something amiss.
    The damaged steering stem. An example of how tidy the turbocharger installation is. The radiator hose in contact with the stainless braded hose.
    Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI

  • #2
    Vance i think one of the challenges is that most A&Ps are used to working on certificated aircraft they are familiar with;, Cessna, Beech, etc that come with very detailed inspection protocol. Many are not familiar with Rotax, rotors, pre-rotators, experimental aircraft, etc. I know my A&P has increased his expertise over the 10 years he has been doing my Xenon and also his knowledge of Rotax engines has increased as more and more of them come to reside at our airport.

    I think you are wise to have an A&P you know look at client owned aircraft before you put your life on the line.

    Rob Dubin