Flying Season Is Over Or The Importance Of A Proper Preflight

Cold weather has finally descended on the valley and since flying open cockpit in 39 degree temperatures doesn’t appeal to me, flying season is over.  Now, I could fly in the afternoon when temperatures are in the low 60’s and winds are come.  Yes, I could do that.  Except that I have no wing for my aircraft.

Why do I have no wing for my aircraft?  I sent it back to the manufacturer for inspection and repair.  Repair?  Why does it need to be repaired?  Because when I landed the last time I flew, the parachute drifted down and the lines got tangled in the prop while the engine was running.  What?!  Why didn’t I turn the engine off??  I tried, but the switch fell inside the panel.  Why did it do that?  Because I didn’t perform a proper preflight inspection.

I was cold, I was in a hurry, and I didn’t properly preflight the powered parachute.  A proper preflight would normally involve checking everything for tightness… including panel switches.  You see, during warm up, the engine is running at a fairly low RPM.  This causes the whole machine to vibrate.  The switches I use are attached to the panel via a hex nut behind the panel and a nut you have to turn by your fingers on the front of the panel.  The switches stayed secure for many flights.  But some time during this last flight the engine kill switch lost the nut off the front of the switch so when I went to flip the switch down to kill the engine, the switch fell into the panel.

If I’d had my wits about me I would have throttled back up to keep the wing in the air, and then reach down and turn the fuel off.  Then just drive down the runway until the engine quit on its own.  Well, lesson learned.  Two damaged propeller blades and at least one broken line on the parachute.  I’ve already replaced the two propeller blades and sent the wing back to ASAP for inspection and repair.  Might as well do a complete inspection on the machine while I’m at it.  Replace the cheap plastic fuel fittings with all metal ones.  Replace the fuel line too while I’m at it.

Happy Holidays!

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