Saturday, October 29, 2005

Grounded by a stupid mistake

Today was forecast to be a moderate day, soaring index about 440. Early flights indicated 400-600 was happening. I got set to take off in the PW5 about 1:30. Two guys were up in the Grob, the instructor and a student were up in the Blanik for quite a while... A new student helped me push out and I got set to go. In the ship, on the runway, tow plane parked in front... I went to adjust the rudder pedals and pulled the canopy emergency release instead! Since it was in the open position (the PW5 canopy is hinged at the front), it fell immediately, landing on the runway and putting a nice 1.5" chip in the rear rim (the white part, not the transparent part).

We looked at it for a moment and realized it was not obvious how to put it back on. So we pushed the glider off to the side and looked some more... still not easy. Hmmm... all the experienced club members are in the air... Aha! Look at the manual! No, it talks about lots of things but not how to put the canopy back on its hinge. I know, wait for the instructor to get back! "No, I've never even flown that model..." After messing around for a while, I got it figured out. By then it was 3:00, the weather was so-so, and I was not in a mood to try again.

Other members tell me I'm not the first to do that. One pilot pulled it in flight, but fortunately in the closed position the two rear latches hold it on. Others have done it on the ground but I'm probably the first to have it drop and cause damage.

What contributed to the mistake? (Not making excuses, just examining the situation to see how to improve.)
  • Inexperience: I've only flown the PW5 3 times. But the canopy release is bright red, and the pedal handle is dull red and down low. Should have been obvious.
  • Distractions: Answering a student's questions while preparing for flight. I don't think this was a big part of it.
  • Rushing: The tow pilot had started her engine as soon as the previous glider took off, and I had already given her the "kill" signal once. I knew I had several steps to go to be ready: belts, pedals, positioning my GPS, water tube, radio mic. The belts were all twisted up... I know it's up to me to do all my steps regardless of the tow pilot - no one was behind me waiting - but it still annoys me when they're ready to go and I'm not.
Next time...


Anonymous said...

Don't blame yourself, blame the idiots who manufactured the glider. The JAR-22 standard specifically states that rudder adjustment controls should not be colored red for this reason.

Anonymous said...

When I saw the PW-5 cockpit for the first time, I saw the two near-identical pull-controls and thought "What idiot designed this?"

A month ago I was disrupted during pre-flight by the tow-driver and... The glider got put on the runway with the rudder-lock still engaged. I was incensed at the stupidity of that, and pushed the glider off the runway and went home for the day.

Point: We all have bad days.