Why We Test (Bulldozer Out Of Service Again)

jcarleto

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Taylorsville, GA
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Beech Bonanza G-35 N4638D/"The Bulldozer" 2-Place Gyroplane N575EE
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Several
To say that I am remarkably disappointed is perhaps the understatement of all understatements. The long and short of it is that I am back in rebuild mode, due to a critical failure in today's test flight. Before we get started, let me say that I am quite fine and no persons nor property were damaged in any way as a result of my unscheduled off-airport landing.

Those who follow my exploits know that I just put the Bulldozer back into service after a lengthy rebuild due to a keel crack caused by taxiing into a hole. In addition to replacing the keel, I replaced both masts, changing from collapsible 2-pice to solid 1 piece masts and made various adjustments to systems for either weight reduction or improved operation or performance (for example: changing from cable to hydraulic brakes).

I had already planned to do an extended test period of not less than 20 hours to accommodate the changes. Up to today, I had been pleased to find only a few minor adjustments and changes to trim to make things settle down. The overall performance was significantly improved over the original iteration and it looked like smooth sailing.

Lewis Gulley joined me at the airport this morning, as I was finalizing the SWR setting for the new antenna. I also had a loose ground wire in the strobe that I had to straighten out. Afterward, we both looked the machine over and virtually ran out of things to check. At this point, I had about 12 runway circuits and about 10 landings behind me for 2 hours of flight time. I'd fly off some more test time after lunch.

There was a nice 8-10 knot direct crosswind after lunch, so I decided to fly circuits with low passes. I flew two normal patterns. Everything was fine. Speeds were consistent, engine instruments were exactly as before. I decided to fly an extended pattern. The runway is surrounded by a wall of thick trees, so we generally fly a tight pattern just past the runway apron above the edge of the trees. By extended, I mean more like a FW pattern...about 1/4 mile past the end of the runway, then left about a 1/4 mile and so on. This puts one at "the other side" of the trees.

I started getting the idea there was something wrong as I climbed out past the end of the runway. I had throttled back to 4500 RPM, and it now showed 4400. I added a bit of throttle, thinking that the quadrant had vibrated back. It eased back to 4500. A moment or three later, it was back at 4400. I added throttle again, noticing that my quadrant was further forward than it should be. I said, "Back to the airport." I was over the trees.

Then my decision was made for me. There was a loud crack and some vibration. My power was gone, but the engine was running. I also had some stick shake. I never get stick shake. First things, first. I picked my landing target. Then I took inventory. I looked back at my prop. It was smaller than it should be and shook a lot if I added any power. OK, something went through the prop. I killed the engine. Rotor and rudder control was good...so...I'm landing in someone's front yard. I wonder if they have any tea.

It was tight, but I made a pretty good landing. They didn't have any tea, but were kind enough to let me sit on the porch and wait until Lewis got there with a trailer. Judging by the number of cameras, there are no doubt some pictures all over the web of my machine sitting in this guy's yard. His first question was, "Why did you land here?" I told him I didn't have a lot of choice and thanked him for not having more trees than he did.

So, what happened. Apparently, and further inspection is necessary to be certain, the starter bracked failed. It is a bracket integral to the Bob Kopp redrive, that holds the starter in position to contact the flywheel. The loud crack was the starter coming loose and contacting the prop. I may have a 4 blade PowerFin hub for sale, without blades, if it passes a dye check. My rotors are suspect. There are some suspicious dents on the bottom. Given that I experienced rotor shake in flight, some prop pieces may have gone through. I may have gotten a slight tail support strike on landing, though I didn't think the landing was hard. I did bend my nose-wheel bracket. I suspect my nose-wheel may have been turned sideways by the grass, as it is free-castoring wth a very light spring and I let the machine roll a moment on touchdown before I stopped it.

So...I have 3 knowns and an unknown. I know I will have to get a new prop..and am seriously considering a Tennessee prop. I am pretty sure the rotors will have to be replaced, though that is not absolutely certain yet and I must replace the nose-wheel bracket. The unknown is back at the starter. I won't know more until I get it apart.

A lot of people have advised me not to post. I understand that. I suppose there is more risk in going public with one's issues than with one's triumphs. However, in this instance I believe I did everything as properly as I could have done and caused no harm (other than to my wallet).

I believe testing is vital and that examples such as this should be made public to underscore just how vital it is to do significant testing. I truly wish that more people posted for issues with machines that we never hear about unless there is an injury or worse. But, as I said, I understand why they do not. It is difficult not to feel personal failure in a situation like this and that is an embarrassment.

I'll close with a sincere thank you to Rick Abercrombie, Steve McGowan and Lewis Gulley for all their knowledge and information and for instilling in me the need to constantly practice emergency procedures. By the way, lots of others have been singers of the same song and I do not mean to short-change anyone for the help and guidance I have received along the way...the list of people who preach practice of technique and emergency procedures is simply too long to list here.
 

choppergabor

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Wow Jon I am so glad you are alright!!! First I commend you for posting this for us to learn from it. You are an example how a cool head and the self discipline can turn a bad situation into an acceptable outcome. I feel really bad about the damage and the fact that you were already flying her and now you have to get back into getting your hands dirty mode.... Sorry :( I hate to see it happen to you my friend. Let's get to work we have stuff to do damn it! :)
 

BEN S

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YUMA,AZ
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Jon..

Jon..

You have nothing to be ashamed of. You did a fine job of proving once again why gyros are the safest. You walked away.
When I totaled my rig, it was strictly because of a stupid mistake I made and a real lack of jugement, but I don't see that in your case. Mech stuff happens and you dealt with it real well.
Sorry about the pocketbook factor, I'm sure you will be back in the air in no time.
Thanks for posting and thanks for the reminder.
Ben S
 

Resasi

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It is difficult not to feel personal failure in a situation like this and that is an embarrassment.
First off congratulations Jon with the professional way you approached the whole affair from the beginning, to dealing with the emergency. Delighted you emerged without any injury. Sorry about the dented wallet and of course the hours of work ahead. Of little consequence in relation to what might have happened

It is something that could have happened to any of us, though perhaps not all might have dealt with the emergency as well.

Looks like we might have another build/mend thread to follow.

To post as you have does us all a service by showing how things like this should be treated. Your openness is to be commended.
 

billygyro

Parsons 2 (AirHog)
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Clarksville Tennessee
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Parsons 2 Lycoming 0320 powerd
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Jon, Congrats on a good landing,I'm sorry about the machine but it can be redone, Good practice and safe flying is a must and we all can learn from post like this. Let me know what you find in the break down and please keep us posted (pics please).

Also as a request, see if you can get some of the pics that was taking right after asking for some tea..Maybe that might be possible, tell them you will be giving rides right after its flying again,,LOL.
 

Timchick

Tim Chick
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Glad you're OK and glad you had a good landing. On the bright side, at least you can be flying GyRonimo while you rebuild.
 

dabkb2

Dave Bacon
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Sorry to hear this Jon, but glad your ok.
 

Gyro_Kai

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So sorry to hear this after the extensive re-build. Glad you are ok and the damage seems still contained. Good luck for the next re-build.

Kai.
 

RotoPlane

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Shoot! I'm sorry this happened Jon….I see nothing in your post that points to anything you did wrong and your corrective actions allowed you to thankfully still be with us. Hopefully the dents in your rotor-blades aren't critical….the unbalanced prop may have fed vibrations into your controls and caused the stick shake. Thank you for this report….I think this is the responsible path to take.
 

PW_Plack

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Jon, so sorry to hear about the latest ding to your build/fly ratio!

...the starter bracked failed. It is a bracket integral to the Bob Kopp redrive...
Are there any other original pieces left on this machine? I'm starting to feel as if I understand why the company's website never shows them more that a few feet above the runway!
 

scottessex

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central, ga
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Dang! Glad you are OK Jon, Yes training is cheap when it comes to being able to handle emergency's safely. :(
 

StanFoster

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Jon- Sorry to hear this, but you handled It very well. Thanks for sharing and. Stan
 

Penguin

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Glad you landed safely.
But what do you think caused the initial RPM drops?
 

jcarleto

Aluminum Supporter
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Jun 5, 2007
Messages
3,571
Location
Taylorsville, GA
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Beech Bonanza G-35 N4638D/"The Bulldozer" 2-Place Gyroplane N575EE
Total Flight Time
Several
Thank you all for the kind words. Yes, in retrospect, an acceptable outcome. Wallet stuff I can fix. I felt I had to post. If all the roll-overs and bumps were published, it would perhaps lead us to some interesting conclusions or perhaps some design corrections. Who knows.
ChopperGabor: Indeed...stuff to do. Now you'll have to keep me entertained with YOUR flying videos while I get this back together.
Passin' Thru: Yes..heartbreaking...and a bit depressing, but I'll get over that. It may have to sit in the hangar for a little while before I look at it again, though.
Ben S: I'm not so much ashamed for the incident as disappointed I didn't find it in the pre-flight. I can see how people who do not post might be embarrassed. I am doing a lot of re-think on prevention for next time. I'm not really sure how it could have been avoided. Two very good sets of eyes were on the machine before the flight.
Resasi: Yes, I consider this an internal part and hidden flaw. Those kinds of things are difficult to spot and could happen to anyone. Still, as they say, "It sucks to be me right now." :)
BillyGyro: Thanks. I don't know about getting any of the pictures with offers of rides. They saw the shredded prop and clearly understood I made an unscheduled landing. I'm fairly sure that was not a confidence builder.
Timchick: Alas, GyRonimo is up in Tennessee for a while and the Bonanza is in for annual. I am currently a wingless biped. It makes me feel like I need to molt or something.
Dabkb2: Thanks. I'll be fine when I get it back together.
Gyro_Kai: Yes, isn't that vacuous? All that work and "ka-blooie" in an instant. A bit frustrating. I suppose I'll have to start a re-rebuild thread.
RotoPlane: I know both Lewis and I have gone over and over this in our heads looking for something we should have caught. After two uneventful pattern circuits, it seemed reasonable to do an extended circuit. I try to move in "baby-steps" in testing and not to push too much. Each flight has goals and repetition of previous completed steps. Again, this is why we test.
PW_Plack: Not many items remain from the original kit. Certainly, none that I have not rebuilt or corrected. The rear seat is from the original kit. The cheek plates are too, and the rotors, rotor-head and prop. But the prop was PowerFin and the rotorhead and rotors were RFD. The tail is somewhat original, but I took it apart in changed it some for strength. I'll be removing it in favor of a fixed tail with rudder this time around. It was something I just didn't get around to in the "previous rebuild."

This is why I am especially concerned about the issue with the starter bracket. I rebuilt the Kopp re-drive and have adjusted the starter bracket in the past. It will be interesting to see what actually caused the problem. For now, I am guessing that the starter was binding on the flywheel for some reason, causing the RPM drop. Disassembly will tell.
ScottEssex: Yep. It is nice not to flounder and second-guess at times like that. All that goes to training. I credit my original FW instructors too, for a lot of that mindset. I do recall that you can relate.
StanFoster: Thanks...hey..anytime I can be of service. :)
Penguin: Right now I have to think the starter was binding against the flywheel some way to cause the RPM loss. I hope to know more once I open it up and take the re-drive off.
MrGrey: Actually, I was really liking the way it flew right up to the moment all the unusual noises occurred. I am not a huge fan of drop-keel design for situations exactly like this. That is not to say I am not a fan of CLT, but that many CLT machines trade safe flight characteristics for stable ground handling. I would much rather land in a harsh ground environment in a low-slung machine than a drop-keel. I think there is less chance of roll-over or landing-gear failure. Since I managed to bend a my super-beefy, short and stubby nose-gear (more or less a non-issue with a "low-rider"), I can only suppose I would have had a severe bend in most drop keel nose-gear and probably would have rolled over. Speculation, to be sure, but that is what I believe presently with the current level of information I have at hand.
GyroMike: Thanks! Though I think I could have done a little better job if there weren't so many trees in NW Georgia.
 

GyroRon

Former Gyro know it all
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My machine would have fared well..... it is all in how you land it, and practice makes perfect!

Let us know what happened with it Jon as you get time to tear into it
 

barnstorm2

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Cincinnati, Ohio
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Good to hear you are OK and congratulations on a successful engine out landing!

I am sorry to hear of your mechanical issues.

.
 

Chuck Roberg

Gyro's are more fun
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Jon, glad to hear your training kicked in. Sounds like you handled it well.

I'm really glad your OK. Sorry about the damage to your wallet though.
 
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