Crash and burn... or just crash?

jtresfon

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Following a very recent accident at our flying club I thought I'd resurrect an old but still pertinent issue... post crash fires and poor fuel tank design and/or construction. I don't want to turn this into a specific make/model bashing thread but hopefully more of a warning and/or learning tool.

20200115_121552 edit SMALL.jpg
The gyro just a few minutes after the crash. Note the stains on the ground from the fuel run-off.

Yesterday a student pilot was doing solo circuit training, and towards the end of the hour his landings started to get worse as he got progressively more tired. His instructor recognised this and told him to call it a day while he was on the downwind leg. On final approach he flared while still way too high, ran out of ideas and tried to add power with the nose pointing way up and literally fell out of the sky, with the gyro bouncing hard on the runway and rolling onto its right hand side.

20200115_121612 edit SMALL.jpg
This image shows the final resting position relative to the runway.

Luckily the student was able to walk away with relatively minor injuries. The gyro is a complete write-off. But it could have been so much worse. During the impact the mast was bent backwards and somehow tore the entire top of the 72lt fuel tank right off. As the gyro went over about 50lt of fuel poured onto both the ground and the student in seconds, who was unable to free himself as he lay there soaked in fuel. Luckily for him the gyro landed right side down with the hot turbo on the other side pointing at the sky. Had the gyro bounced onto its left side with the hot turbo under the gushing fuel tank things might have been very different. He may well have burnt
to death after surviving the crash impact.

20200115_130640 edit SMALL.jpg
The entire top of the fuel tank was ripped off as the mast bent backwards.

This particular gyro has a rigid fibreglass tank with no "give" or flexibility. Other makes have softer plastic tanks which rupture less easily. But the fact remains that post impact fires are a very real issue for us gyro pilots. Other than wearing fire resistant flight suits (which most of us don't really do, especially in very warm climates) there must be a better way to prevent this from happening. Surely the technology is out there for the bigger manufacturers to embrace. Not sure what the answer is... Bladders inside the tanks? Would be interest to know if any have solved this problem. I've got plenty of gyro hours and hardly ever give this a thought, until I witnessed this accident.

20200115_121700 edit SMALL.jpg
Another view showing the ground still soaked in fuel, especially in and around the cockpit.

Would welcome thoughts from anyone who has expertise in this area...

Regards
Jean.
 

Greg Vos

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Glad the pilot is ok, I know that in the Robbies they retrofit a bladder.
i would think it’s more of numbers or compensation game and robinson was forced to do it, with the gyro market under pressure and even ( I have been told Auto Gyro battling) there is no budget or incentive? I’m certain if it was made mandatory by some caa or Faa some clever man would develop it.
 

DavePA11

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I would recommend adding fuel bladders as used by Robinson Helicopter or with auto racing.

Add up all the fires that occur with the gyro accidents, and its very high.

This was a concern of mine when I purchased my gyro since it used grommets for fuel level line and fuel vent which would easily pop out on impact causing fuel to spray. Surprised Magni doesn't change this part of their design since its the same with the M-24.

I think the metal tanks help too.

DarDow - if the top of the tank is pulled off I don't think the DetoStop would help.

Dave
 
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DavePA11

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DarDow - I agree - anything that helps is worth adding... Can't imagine having burns or scars from it.
 

TyroGyro

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According to my statistics, about 76% of fatals involve post-crash fires.

The big question of course is how many of these would be otherwise survivable?

Very difficult to say. I am only aware of one where it was positively stated to be so, in South Africa in 2008.
 
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Gyro_Kai

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Deto-stop is good against fires inside the tank, which, I believe, is not the issue we are talking right now.
The creator of the video died in a crash, probably already by impact, but there was a fire as well.

I believe bladder tanks, like in the Trixy, would help a lot.

Kai.
 

JETLAG03

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The other question worth asking are the fires due to explosive ignition in the tank, in which case "detostop" would help, or outside the tank due to spillage in which case "detostop" would be ineffective.
 

JETLAG03

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@jm-urbani I agree with you, when I did my training for ADR dangerous goods transport it was explained fuel is not flammable, it is the gasses of the fuel which present the danger.

For my giro I will be fitting some form of anti spill breathers for the fuel tank in case of turn over, I also have a quick release 4 way harness.

phil
 

NJpilot

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Fire after a forced landing is why I wear a helmet in my enclosed Challenger 2. One needs to stay conscience in order to escape a burning aircraft. It's also why I would only buy a gyro with dual side doors instead of an overhead canopy. I'm 6'4" and overhead canopies traditionally have less head room for helmets than side doors, and of course I'd rather not have to hack my way out of an overturned burning gyro with an overhead canopy. Quick release hinges on an overhead canopy might change my mind if they could be easily used from within the gyro.
 

XXavier

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Engine and fuel tank are dangerously close in most gyros. In cars, they are relatively far apart. And fires are quite rare in car crashes...
 

hillberg

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Spray truck bed liner (Rhino Liner) on the tanks interior/exterior - makes it bullet proof. Go to Speedway motors catalog and pick up the latest vent and filler parts used in racing - You've now removed most the issues of spilled fuel.
 

Resasi

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Had a friend, 1st gyro pilot in Kenya killed in a post crash fire in a 2 seat Dom. Low turn, rotor strike, and post crash fire.

Another friend who was pax managed to release his seat belt, pilot’s seat belt for some reason could not be released.

Pax managed to release pilot but getting severely burnt hands.

Pilot with extensive burns was then air ambulanced by two other friends in a Lear from Nairobi to London. He died during a fuel stop in Rome.

I have had 4 friends die in gyros,

Not a good safety record. All were competent pilots, except one who was a student.

I fly carefully, aware that rotor aerodynamics is a complex subject, and I as a longtime fixed wing pilot am vulnerable.
 

Resasi

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Its a good instrument JM but sadly rarely found on a gyro.

I have a sensible quick release on the new Explorer belt.

Have friends who have highly unsuitable releases. One can comment but this rarely changes. :confused:
 

fara

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Had a friend, 1st gyro pilot in Kenya killed in a post crash fire in a 2 seat Dom. Low turn, rotor strike, and post crash fire.

Another friend who was pax managed to release his seat belt, pilot’s seat belt for some reason could not be released.

Pax managed to release pilot but getting severely burnt hands.

Pilot with extensive burns was then air ambulanced by two other friends in a Lear from Nairobi to London. He died during a fuel stop in Rome.

I have had 4 friends die in gyros,

Not a good safety record. All were competent pilots, except one who was a student.

I fly carefully, aware that rotor aerodynamics is a complex subject, and I as a longtime fixed wing pilot am vulnerable.

Just curious, the friend who died in a 2 seater Dom with a passenger went down because of a low turn so dangerously low that rotor strike happened. Then you mentioned all 4 friends in gyroplane fatal accidents were competent pilots.
My question is would you consider this above friend a competent pilot? A good aviator? This would be news to me. It seems like in gyro community doing these kinds of maneuvers is considered a sign of competency. In trikes and fixed wings, we had moved on and realized these are dangerous show off maneuvers that are absolutely not necessary and are more an ego stroker than anything else. Not trying to be difficult and we all can make mistakes and have blond moments (I sure have and will continue to have I am sure) but till we disconnect competency from dangerous attitudes, we will have a hard time enhancing safety. I wanted to be that low, may be I will find myself buying an ATV.
To me your friend was not a competent aviator. He was performing dangerous maneuvers with a passenger. I feel bad for him, his family and his passenger. May he RIP.
In trikes, there was phase where a rich guy John McAfee (McAfee Antivirus fame) tried to popularize something called "Aerotrekking" and formed groups called Skygypsies and even established brand new hub towns/villages in the middle of the desert just for Aerotrekking. Not only did that take him down with millions in lawsuits and his eventual running away from the US for a while, it hurt trike flying because of all the fatal accidents and how famous they got. It hurt trike industry in the US for many years. There have been fatal deaths in trikes of many so called "competent" flyers flying too low including CFIs. It's time to grow out of this stuff.

 
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JETLAG03

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@jm-urbani as you mentioned in #10 the major problem is not fuel igniting/exploding in the tank but the fuel outside of the tank

@fara I must agree with you regards the difference between the trike and giro community attitude to low level flight. I come from trike background 300+hours and while I did do some low level exciting flying in my trike, I find that I am tempted to fly lower in the giro and have to control my urges. Maybe it is because the "if/when the donkey dies" I have more options in a giro than a flex, and that gives me a higher perceived level of security meaning I feel I can push the envelope further whilst remaining theoretically safe.

phil
 

XXavier

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Unfortunately, I believe that not one of the established gyro manufacturers, like Magni, ELA or Autogyro, takes special anti-fire constructive precautions when designing and building their products. That probably increases costs and doesn't boost sales...

A member of this forum told me that he had already decided to buy a certain closed-cockpit model, and then he noticed that a gyro of the same brand and model did always leave a gas puddle on the hangar floor. He was told by the owner that plugging the leak was almost impossible, because the tank was of integral construction with the body...

He changed his mind and purchased another model...
 

JETLAG03

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Resasi

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My question is would you consider this above friend a competent pilot? A good aviator? This would be news to me. It seems like in gyro community doing these kinds of maneuvers is considered a sign of competency. In trikes and fixed wings, we had moved on and realized these are dangerous show off maneuvers that are absolutely not necessary and are more an ego stroker than anything else.
My answer to you would be that the word ‘competent’ in this context should not be confused with 'good aviator’. It was used to denote that 4 of them had acceptable and satisfactory, though not outstanding knowledge, about flying autogyros. They died because they made questionable/dangerous errors that resulted in their deaths. Good aviators tend to survive because they observe safe practices and exercise good judgement at all times. Sadly this does not however prevent unforeseen circumstances beyond their control, from claiming even the best of them

It would be my estimation in over 50 years flying in a wide variety of aircraft, that the margins of safety when flying a gyro, and flying almost any fixed wing are smaller. (Note that I have not included trikes/weight shift aircraft as I have only a couple of hours in them.)

I do believe that one is not as safe in a gyro and this possibly due to the fact that rotor aerodynamics are more complex, less understood, and easier to get wrong.
 

Smack

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Unfortunately, I believe that not one of the established gyro manufacturers, like Magni, ELA or Autogyro, takes special anti-fire constructive precautions when designing and building their products.
Nicolas told me that he does think about fuel tank construction/location/protection with his Aviomania designs.
I'm not aware of any Aviomania gyroplane fires.
 
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