September is here already – my kids are back in school and it feels like a new year is rolling out in front of us. The same is true for our Flying Club. We have a pig roast to look forward to later this month and next month is our Annual General meeting where we get to partake of a sumptuous feast. Autumn is, indeed, a time of harvest and reflection. What better place to reflect on the year than here, in this column? But first, I must start with a message of thanks and appreciation to all the membership: I thank you for the trust that you have placed in me and I hope that I have lived up to your expectations.
We had a very good turnout for Airshow this year: I’m proud of our volunteers and I’d like to say thanks to each of you for the time and effort that you have invested in our club and in making the Airshow work. There are too many people to name here, but I’m hoping that some pictures get out showing the various activities that went on at Airshow. I’d like to express a special thank-you to the Airshow captains! Without your leadership, events like the General Aviation display, the fly-in camping, the Broken Prop and the Campground would not happen. Thanks also to Ruth Wiebe: she did an excellent job marshalling the Captains. Ruthie skillfully coordinated the efforts of each group and was an effective liaison with the Airshow. We’ll be hearing their reports at our September general meeting.
During the Airshow I managed to take time away from my duties in the campground to circulate around the various events. I was delighted to find members working, having fun and enjoying each other’s company. I relished taking part or even just observing those little moments of camaraderie and shared goodwill – it’s the kind of thing that keeps our club vibrant and attractive.
Year in Review
It’s only appropriate to start a reflection of the year with a big “thank you” to those who served on the Board. I am in awe of the talent, skill and energy of the people I’m serving alongside. I am honoured that they are part of this journey and I am grateful for their service. Special thanks to Augie Rinz – great job as Secretary, Aug! Without your organizational skills, experience, knowledge, thoughtfulness and tact, I’d be lost.
Our successes are largely due to the talent and perseverance of the people on our Board and other volunteers who have helped out. It’s only proper that a reflection on our success should start with them. Here are some of the highlights:
Membership: our number of members is back in a healthier range where it should be. Amarvir Sundher – or as I know him, “the man with the plan” has done a great job in attracting new members and retaining our current members. He built a strong membership committee and has been using social media effectively to raise the profile of our club. Most tellingly, reasons for leaving the club have shifted from “I’m tired of Club ‘stuff’” (where stuff means “something which has first passed through the digestive tract of a bull”) – to more life-related reasons like having to move out of town.
Financial Health: The Abbotsford Flying Club is fiscally healthy again thanks to the skill and a massive effort from our Treasurer, Kevin Mickelby. We scraped pretty close to getting into the red this year because of the position the board inherited, but through careful management of our assets we stayed out of trouble. Most importantly, the money that was re-directed last year from the aircraft engine reserve has been restored – our aircraft are secure once again.
The Stuff No One Notices … Until They Do: Brian Appaswamy and Warren LeGrice, along with Duncan Poynton, Andy Halychuk and Ton DuCroq have kept the aircraft and the building running smoothly – while making tough choices to help us from running out of funds. The clubhouse and the aircraft are fundamental parts of our club operations and without them, we wouldn’t have a club. Thanks guys!
Aviation: the great experiment with GSBS has gotten off the ground. The team here was amazing – Tom Timm ran a committee to give us assurance on viability, Bevan put in tons of work hours getting the aircraft ready, Warren put on effective ground school training, Dustin made arrangements for people to “qualifly” and Bob Leroux found some critical items to ensure legality. Thanks to you all. Personally, I was delighted to get to know Ken McKeen over the course of the GSBS saga – in addition to providing his expertise and work hours, his calmly applied logic and thoughtful approach made sure that everything went smoothly. Ken McKeen, I am honoured that you have joined our club and I look forward to getting to know you better!
Although the hangar corporation is a separate entity from the club I would like to acknowledge their team, which was led by Steve Stewart. There were many operational challenges which were well handled, such as windstorms etc. But most of all, I am awed by the demonstration of skills you exercised to deliver the roof replacements and the paving. These things wouldn’t have happened without the leadership, vision and perseverance of Steve and Kevin Mickelby who secured the funds, negotiated the project and oversaw its completion.
Club culture: we’ve had to recover from a couple of years where meetings consisted of what I call the “Cycle of Indignation”. A lot of our members avoided meetings for this reason alone. This year, after changing the meeting format, we’ve managed to calm some of the strife of the past by focusing more on the presentations and saving club business for after. I’d like to thank all our Board members for their efforts to model behaviours that allow for the club to be a place of welcome, fairness and fun.
On a personal note, I can tell you that the journey I’m taking as your President has been one of learning and growing. I’d like to thank you all for your support, your ideas and your constructive feedback. My focus this year has been to repair the damage that was done over the last couple of years – I can acknowledge that this hasn’t been a complete success; though we have certainly taken some steps in the right direction. My overall approach is to focus on the positive and find lessons in the negative. I believe that a club our size should be run using data based decisions rather than emotional reactions; this is why you see me presenting metrics on flying hours and membership, defining the scope for committees and clarifying roles and responsibilities. I also believe in accountability which, in simple terms, is to treat people like adults. For example, when it comes to remaining a member in good standing, each member has the obligation to pay their dues on time and attend two thirds of the general meetings. Nothing short of paying on time will satisfy the former requirement, but an attestation from you that you have attended the required amount of meetings is sufficient to meet the latter. Communication has certainly been an area of growth for me this year! I have been working to run better meetings, say things in a way that gets the point across clearly without raising ire, and write coherent columns for the newsletter. I thank you for your patience in this and welcome any help you may offer!
There is still good work left to do – Warren LeGrice’s has an excellent initiative for implementing a Safety Management System, I want to establish an Asset Management program to guide us in our decision making for our assets (aircraft, buildings and property) and I also want to “build our bench”. It is my belief that mentoring and nurturing talents in people works better to build future leaders than harangues and disparagements.
Our election is coming in October, please remember: come to the AGM and vote!
A mid-air collision is probably a pilot’s worst nightmare, and is the main reason that air traffic
control exists. Mid-airs are the result of a loss of situational awareness on the part of one, or both of the pilots involved. These accidents are often preceded by either a breakdown in
communication or a total absence of it.
I will relate two of my own near-miss experiences, in this article, and discuss two fatal
accidents in which I knew the pilots involved.
The first close call that I experienced, was at Penticton in the spring of 1969. I was flying a Champion Tri-Traveller with my younger brother as my back seat passenger. We had just landed CF-XNE on runway 34. I needed to taxi back to the Penticton Flying Club hangar where the airplane was tied down, so we moved over to the left side of the runway and I did a 180 degree turn to taxi back towards the runway threshold.
Now in 1969 there was no such thing as a MF (Mandatory Frequency). That would come as a result of the PWA crash at Cranbrook 1989. Pentiction Aeradio, where I worked at the time, provided an airport advisory service on 122.2 mhz. I had called in and announced my intentions and received the airport advisory, I did not hear any other aircraft on the frequency. We at the Aeradio Station, were well aware of a mid-air collision that had occurred in April of 1963, when eight people were killed in a mid-air between an Aero Commander Twin, and a Cessna 140 over Skaha Lake, while both aircraft were on approach to runway 34.
As I taxied towards the threshold of runway 34, I noticed a Stinson Voyager about a mile final, and above him and slightly behind, was a Cherokee, which was owned by the same flying school as the airplane I was flying. I said to my brother “look at those guys on final”. As the Stinson was starting to round out for its landing, the Cherokee’s right gear leg contacted the Stinson’s starboard wing, and I noticed bits of fabric being torn off and the Stinson contacted the pavement quite firmly. The Stinson pilot was able to maintain control of his machine and continued to taxi straight ahead. The Cherokee pilot, who as it turned out, was a student pilot on his first solo, then turned to the left and added power in order to do a go around. This action took him on a heading towards our airplane. I turned right towards the VASIS lights located on the grass, left of the runway, to avoid being hit.
The student pilot then banked right and climbed away and did another successful circuit and landed with a bent right undercarriage. The Stinson had major damage to the right wing and the pilot luckily was not injured. It was a classic high-wing, low-wing situation, compounded by the fact that nether pilot was aware of the other aircraft, as there was no radio communication. I believe the student pilot never came back for any more lessons, both aircraft would be written off in later years and the flying school crashed themselves out of business within two years.
Incident # 2
Approximately ten years later, I was now a Terminal Controller at the VR ACC. I was flying my Arrow CF-UKE, the aircraft I mentioned in a previous article. I was giving instrument dual to my friend Rick Quiring, who had been my OJI ( On Job Instructor) in Terminal. We had filed IFR and were going to Victoria to do and ILS on runway 26 ( the movement of the magnetic north pole, would necessitate renumbering the runway several years later), then a missed approach back to Vancouver, where we kept the machine. It was a summer evening and the weather at Victoria was about 1800 feet broken and 20 miles visibility, very stable air and no precipitation.
We had flown the transition from the Victoria VOR over to the Victoria NDB which was at that time located on Sidney Island, about 4 miles on final for RWY 26. We received our approach clearance from Vancouver Terminal. Just prior to procedure turn, we were changed over to YJ tower, and on initial contact with the Tower there was no mention made of any other aircraft. As we were intercepting the localizer inbound, we broke out at the bottom of cloud base. The next thing I saw were three bright lights climbing up towards us.
I took the controls from Rick said “ I have control” and we did a right descending turn. Once we got sorted out again and back the ILS, I told the Tower we had just passed a jet going the opposite direction. The tower had departed the aircraft on runway 08, unbelievable! The reply I got was “ Oh, he is VFR going for an approach”. I replied that the aircraft which turned out to be a British Midlands 737 couldn’t have been VFR as we were IMC during procedure turn. Very dangerous behaviour on the part of the tower controller and of the pilot of the 737. You cannot make this kind of stuff up!
Had we not broken clear of cloud when we did, we would have collided for sure. Now days that type of incident would have resulted in a TSB investigation and action by Transport Canada. There were three of us on board that evening, as we also had another VR Terminal controller with us, so had the 737 got us, it would have taken out about 15% of the VR Terminal staff in one fell swoop.
Incident # 3
The mid-air collision which occurred on November 20, 1999, in CYA125(T) is well documented as report # A99P0168 by the TSB. The mid-air involved a C152 operated by Pacific Flying Club and a privately owned Aircoupe owned and flown by one of my two friends Alvin and Stan out of Langley. Alvin was an instructor at BCIT in Burnaby, and Stan was a retired CP Air engineer. The C152 had a young instructor on board and a 15 year student pilot who was working on his recreational license.
CYA125(T) was a Class F special use airspace, located over Surrey, and the north portion of that airspace infringed on the localizer for runway 26 at Vancouver. It was capped at 2000 feet, which meant as terminal controllers we couldn’t come below 2500 feet with light and medium weight IFR aircraft, and 3000 feet for heavy jets. This certainly affected operations when Rwy 26 was active at Vancouver. The airspace was a bit of a nuisance from an IFR perspective, and we used to comment on the number of aircraft, that we observed, jammed into that airspace on a good VFR day. It really was an accident waiting to happen.
I remember the day of the accident well. It occurred late in afternoon on a November weekend. It was the first day of reasonable weather, following a dismal week, of almost constant rain. The weather improvement created an opportunity for many pilots to finally go flying. Transport Canada was aware of the elevated risk, that CYA125 posed to VFR aircraft. Numerous flying training aircraft, were squeezed into only really 1500 feet of vertical airspace. Following the accident, in which all four persons were killed, Transport Canada eliminated the special use airspace, and PFC installed flashing landing lights on all their aircraft.
Incident # 4
The last accident occurred over Nairn Falls Provincial Park, four miles SW of the Pemberton Airport on June 29, 2013. The aircraft involved were a Stemme S10 motor glider and a C150. The motor glider was being flown by a friend of mine Rudy, who was my one of my instructors, when I was flying gliders at Pemberton, a number of years ago. Rudy was operating his motor glider operating scenic flights on the day of the accident. Rudy was an experienced glider and powered aircraft pilot, with over 3,000 hrs of flight time.
Weather permitting, the scenic flights involved taking passengers, one at a time, out west of the airport and over the Ipsoot Glacier, to an altitude of 8400 feet, a really spectacular flight. The engine would be shut down at altitude and the propeller stowed and the aircraft would become a sailplane for the descent and landing.
Rudy’s business, Pemberton Soaring, was a real grass roots operation, he slowly built up his glider fleet from one Blanik L33 and a Bellanca Scout towplane, into several sailplanes. Over the few years, rental pilots and one of his own tow pilots wrote-off most of his aircraft, to the point where he was only operating the Stemme motor glider.
A sailplane requires rising air, in order that the flight become anything other than a sled ride. In the Pemberton area, that would require flying relatively close to terrain, in search of rising boundary layer air. Rudy would likely have been using that method on his descent to the airport. As he rounded the mountain side above the Nairn Falls Park, he encountered opposite direction traffic.
The Cessna 150 which was on a VFR flight plan, from Lillooet to Nanaimo had on board a man, his wife and their dog. The pilot had a Private License and 127 hours of flight time. There is an ATF frequency at Pemberton on 123.2 mhz. Rudy had made a radio call inbound to the field, which was heard by witness, but the witness did not recall hearing the Cessna pilot make any transmissions.
The sailplane when viewed head on, would have presented a very small profile to the C150 pilot. The long nose of the sailplane, combined with the view from the semi reclining seats in the sailplane, would have made it difficult to see the Cessna below. Both pilots likely thought they had the sky to themselves. The collision resulted in both aircraft shedding a wing each and the wreckage spiralling down amongst people in the campsite below. None of the four people in the two aircraft, survived the accident.
Back at the airport, the other two members of the family of the young boy, who was the passenger in the motor glider, were waiting for their turn at a scenic flight.
Rudy left a wife and two teenage sons. There is plaque located in the picnic grounds on the Pemberton Airport, which was placed in honour of Rudy.
Mid-air collisions remain a very threat, however we can mitigate risk by a number of means.
Effective communication is essential, ensuring you are on the correct frequency, particularly at uncontrolled airports.
When flying cross country, get into the ATC system as soon as possible, you can do so by requesting flight following, and getting the benefit of radar traffic.
Keep your eyes outside as much as possible in VMC, and don’t get distracted by Ipads and such. Avoid non-essential conversations. Sterile cockpits exist for a reason.
Just because you don’t hear other traffic on the frequency and don’t see anyone, doesn’t mean you are all alone out there. Be aware of special use airspace.
Contaminated fuel on the ground can lead to a serious problem in the air
Pulled from a 2017 NASA ASRS Report, the following events occurred when a student pilot and instructor experienced an engine failure on rotation during takeoff…
During a “long cross country” training flight to meet the experience requirements for a Private Pilot Certificate an engine failure occurred at the moment of rotation. Our takeoff was aborted and the aircraft was safely taxied off the runway using remaining energy. After examination of the aircraft, a large amount of water was removed from the gascolator. Both fuel tank sumps produced no water at all.
During the previous 4 weeks, it had been raining unusually in the area. The incident aircraft had been parked in a steeply inclined parking space (nose down) for the previous 4 days without being flown. Two weeks prior to this incident, I was conducting an initial flight lesson for a new student in a C152. While sumping the gascolator, the sample did not have the blue color of 100LL fuel, and the fuel smell was slightly less than usual. It was only after a very careful inspection which lasted more than 20 seconds (and by sumping an additional sample from a known-good fuel tank) that it was determined the sample cup initially contained only water.
According to a secondary report, “while it was initially determined that the student pilot and instructor failed to notice the water contamination and the lack of blue dye in the sample cup, hours later it was realized that the samples were taken while the aircraft was parked nose-down on a steep incline. It is highly possible that the water was located in the forward portion of the fuel tanks and did not enter the fuel system until the aircraft was moved to level ground.”
What Happens When Fuel Mixes With Water?
According to Dror Artzi, an experienced 40-year aeronautical engineer, aircraft engines will tolerate a small amount of free water (read his entire presentation published by AOPA here). When water concentration is 30ppm, that’s 30 grams per 1000 Kg. This is usually considered to be the maximum an engine can handle.
Your engine may not fail right away when running on contaminated fuel. The first indications will likely be sputtering and a generally rough-running engine. Once enough water is mixed with fuel, combustion is no longer possible. Water is the most common contaminant in aviation fuel. Because water it’s denser than 100LL, you’ll find water settling to the lowest part of the tank. Here’s what it may look like in your sump cup…
How Can Water Get Into Your Fuel Tanks?
There are a few common reasons you may notice water in your fuel system. Here are the top causes:
Contaminated Fuel Source: The tanks where avgas, or 100LL, are stored are susceptible to water contamination. Poor storage in fuel farms, trucks, or self-serve tanks could lead to water appearing in your fuel.
Condensation: Over a period of time with temperature fluctuations, condensation inside your fuel tanks will develop water droplets. With enough time and the right conditions, you could end up with substantial amounts of water in your tanks.
Improper Fuel Tank Seals: When the filler neck of a fuel tank isn’t sealed properly by a fuel cap, water can seep in quite quickly. After heavy rain, you could find literally gallons of water in your tanks if you have bad
What You Can Do.
If you find water contamination in your fuel, keep sumping the tanks until the fuel is the correct color and water-free. Try gently rocking the wings or raising/lowering the tail to move excess water to the drain points. And when you do your engine run-up, take extra time to make sure your engine is running smoothly.
Never skip sumping your fuel tanks during preflight. If your plane sits on a steep slope, move the aircraft to level ground, wait around 10 minutes, and re-sump the fuel. If you notice excessive contamination, it might be time to get a certified mechanic involved.