Just thought I'd share a story about an engine problem I had over the weekend when flying from Bankstown (YSBK) in Sydney. I posted it to my blog
today. Jason - thanks for the podcast #22 that I have listened to about 10 times over the past year so that I have it drilled into my brain. A good takeoff safety brief is essential - however in this case it didn't cover my exact situation but I didn't panic and got through it.
Here's the story
On Saturday I’d booked in for a 1 hour flight in MXZ for a standard Northern Beaches run with some aeros thrown in as usual over Palm Beach. I had one of the guys from work who wanted to come along for a ride. Apart from an unusually long wait for a spot to do the runup everything else was normal about the pre flight and pre departure briefings, I did my pre-takeoff brief (engine failure below 200 land straight ahead, below 400ft right into the bus depot, below 700 on the golf course, above 1000 turn back) and taxied to the holding point. Line up and take off normal until at 200ft the engine started vibrating and RPM reduced to 2050 RPM. The dash also started shaking as I thought to myself this isn’t normal. I checked engine gauges, all looked OK as I ran out of runway and climbed through 300ft. I quickly decided on a course of action. I called the tower MXZ: Tower MXZ I have a engine vibration and I’m going to fly a circuit and come back Tower:MXZ roger. By this stage I was on crosswind and watching the airport moving away behind me hoping that the engine didn’t quit entirely. I informed my pax that we were going back to land and to stay quiet and turned downwind. The tower asked a few inbounds to orbit and cleared me as #1. He then asked if I wanted the equipment rolled, to which I thought about for a few seconds (is this really happening to me) and replied negative. Aircraft performance was deteriorating and I only managed to get her up to 900ft and left the power where it was and flew an abbreviated circuit and landed normally, taxied off, breathed a large sigh of relief and taxied back to parking. I called ground, asked him to thank the tower for his assistance in getting me back quick. Those controllers at Bankstown have one hell of a job sometimes on the weekend.
I then informed my pax just what had happened. Not sure if he really understood the gravity of what had been going on. I then went back in to Red Baron and relayed my events to them. I subsequently got DXY allocated and then conducted a fairly normal 1 hour Nthn Beaches flight, couple of loops, rolls, wing overs etc. I was thinking during that flight that I was damn lucky but did not know what had exactly happened to MXZ.
Fast forward to Monday, ring Red Baron to find out what the problem was - MXZ threw a cylinder so I guess I am damn lucky that she kept flying at all, let alone continued on for the whole circuit/taxi.
Still, now I’ve had a real engine issue. I’ll make certain that takeoff safety brief to myself is taken more seriously in future. Make sure it is part of your pre flight checks, Jason Miller has a great Podcast (#22) that I’ve listened to a number of times that I credit with some of the components that I make part of my safety brief as well as what Doug from Red Baron
drilled into me. It may save your life and that of your pax.