Not a forward-opening canopy, but still...

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FastEddieB
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Not a forward-opening canopy, but still...

Postby FastEddieB » Sat Jan 16, 2010 7:47 am

There's currently a thread discussing the dangers of "forward-opening" canopies.

I thought I'd go ahead and relate this - not forward opening, but still...

Here’s the setup:

Karen’s mom lives in Maryville, TN, and Karen still has a lot of friends in Knoxville, so every week or two she likes to visit. She had driven up Thursday. Saturday was a beautiful day in the southeast once the fog lifted, so I flew up in our Sky Arrow to pick her up.

It was a letter-perfect flight up. We ran some errands and then loaded up the plane to fly home. Another perfect flight, which took us over Fields of the Wood (the big Ten Commandments). We did a circle over that, flew over Copperhill, TN airport, then directly to Blue Ridge Skyport (57GA, my home base). Flew downwind, got full flaps in on base and was set up pretty much perfectly to slip between the trees on final and end another beautiful flight.

This view is from a Cirrus, and I now offset a bit more to the left and a little lower, but this was pretty much the view:

Image

In fact, I was thinking what a pretty picture it would have made in the Sky Arrow, when at about 500’ and 55k I dropped the left wing and held some right rudder to slip down to the runway when...

...THE FREAKING CANOPY BLEW OPEN!!!

My Gander Mountain cap blew off, apparently exiting the plane. My headset, caught by the cord, ended up behind me.

I did not even consider futzing with the canopy. The relative wind was strong, but I had my glasses on and it wasn't worse than a motorcycle at about 65 mph.

Anyway, I did what I was taught to do: I flew the plane. In spite of the excitement I did a pretty darn good full-stall landing about 1/3 of the way down the 3,000’ runway.

As we taxied down the runway I looked around and saw the canopy latch was in the “OPEN” position. Here’s the latch in the proper, "CLOSED” position:

Image

We taxied back to the hangar and shut down. We exited the plane. I felt like such a doofus.

Inspecting the plane, it seems that, other than a broken restraining cable (the one that normally holds the canopy when it’s in the open position on the ground) and some composite damage under the canopy hinges, everything else is fine.

Image

Image

Image





It appears I never latched the canopy before takeoff in Knoxville. I’m amazed it gave no indication of that until it blew open.

I spent some time asking myself how, being “Mr. Checklist”, I could have missed something so important. We’re all human, but my checklist procedures are usually better than that.

In 80+ hours in the Sky Arrow I’d never forgotten the latch - I usually close and latch the canopy in one motion just prior to takeoff. But Karen remembers me closing it early in order to hear the ground controller better. Maybe that got me out of sequence somehow.

So, I got out my personalized checklist to see how I might have missed “Canopy - CLOSED AND LATCHED”, and guess what? It’s nowhere to be found.

The checklist that came with the Sky Arrow was about four pages long and contained so much extraneous stuff I streamlined it to essentials. Somehow I forgot to include the canopy check. Yikes!

Right now I can’t find the poster with the plane in the tree that talks about the unforgiving nature of flying. I’d say! A one-line omission one night in front of my computer while typing up a checklist could have cost us our lives!

I was never “scared” after the canopy blew open - I was too busy dealing with the landing. Afterwards I was mainly peeved at and disappointed in myself and trying to figure out how it happened. Only later have I been playing out all the ways it could have gone a whole lot worse.

Remember, the Sky Arrow has a pusher prop, so had the canopy departed the plane it could have taken out the prop. Not to mention the aerodynamic blanketing effect that open canopy might have had on the right aileron and flap and on the horizontal stabilizer, elevator and rudder. The Sky Arrow has a T-tail and that probably helped somewhat.

Anyway, what’s the lesson? USE YOUR CHECKLIST is obvious - forgetting the canopy latch is not something I’d want to do on a regular basis. But, equally important, CHECK YOUR CHECKLISTS, especially if you’ve modified, personalized or streamlined them in any way. Make sure ALL the important stuff is there.

And, in closing, let me just say what a trouper Karen is. She said she shouted “OMIGOD” when the canopy blew, not knowing if I had been injured or if I could control the plane. I don’t remember hearing her (but I was kinda focused on something else!). In any case she still has faith in me and is ready, willing and able to go up with me anytime.

I think I’ll keep her!*

*edited to add: I've since married her! :D
Fast Eddie B.
Sky Arrow 600 E-LSA • N467SA
CFI, CFII, CFIME
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3Dreaming
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Postby 3Dreaming » Sat Jan 16, 2010 10:43 am

Good job getting it down safe.

It is easy to miss something when you get out of sequence. I teach all my students to use the checklist from day one, and always in the order it is written. Tom

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FastEddieB
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Postby FastEddieB » Sat Jan 16, 2010 11:06 am

Thanks.

Like I said, I'm "Mr. Checklist", even in something as simple as a Cub.

In any case, to avoid this ever happening again...

1) I added "Canopy - CLOSED AND LATCHED" to my personalized checklist

2) I ALWAYS close and latch the canopy in one motion

3) I've got this final reminder on my "airspeed alive" call:

Image
Fast Eddie B.
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FastEddieB@mac.com

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FastEddieB
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Postby FastEddieB » Sat Jan 16, 2010 11:25 am

Oh, and here's the culprit checklist:

Image
Fast Eddie B.
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zaitcev
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Postby zaitcev » Sat Jan 16, 2010 3:17 pm

Fascinating!
Is there a picture of the new checklist?
-- Pete

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FastEddieB
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Postby FastEddieB » Sat Jan 16, 2010 6:19 pm

zaitcev wrote:Fascinating!
Is there a picture of the new checklist?
-- Pete


Pending.

For now, I just stuck a label as a seventh item in the "Before Takeoff" checklist.

One other thing I have to add, right after or before engine start, is "Strobes - ON"
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Postby drseti » Sat Jan 16, 2010 7:14 pm

FastEddieB wrote:One other thing I have to add, right after or before engine start, is "Strobes - ON"


Definitely before, not after. In my old Beechcraft, the strobes made such a loud audible "wheeep wheeep" that I didn't even have to yell "clear prop!"
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Postby zaitcev » Sat Jan 16, 2010 11:23 pm

FastEddieB wrote:One other thing I have to add, right after or before engine start, is "Strobes - ON"

Actually the Warning Lights item threw me off. I thought you meant strobes, but then it was too early... But the Generator Light was separated out from other warning lights _and_ there was no item for external lights other than the landing light. I thought you flew without.

-- Pete

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designrs
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Postby designrs » Sun Jan 17, 2010 12:54 am

Thanks for sharing your story.

"Latch Canopy" reminds me of 2 things all motorcyclists must remember:
Fold up the kick stand when you pick up the bike.
Fasten the strap on your helmet when you put it on your head.

Too many exceptions for opening & closing the canopy.
So Latch Canopy whenever you close it,
checklist or not.

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Postby Helen » Tue Jan 19, 2010 6:05 am

Eddie, we've had the canopy fly open a couple of times on our Sky Arrows. It is possible that you did latch it but hadn't made seasonal adjustment to the canopy pins. They expand and contract with temperature and need to be adjusted in height with time of year or else the canopy lock will not go fully down. What I find is that students shove the lock as far as it goes and then "settle" for that position quickly covering the lock with their sleeve so I can't see it from the back seat. I've gotten in the habit of showing the student before they get in what locked really looks like and making them lift their arm so I can inspect it. Since I've started do that, no nasty drafts!

Also, as an FYI, every time we have had the canopy open it has been in the landing phase. Something about the aerodynamics makes that the time for this to happen.

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FastEddieB
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Postby FastEddieB » Tue Jan 19, 2010 7:02 am

Thanks, Helen!

Glad to see I'm not the only one!!

I've always blamed myself for missing the latch - I guess it is remotely possible that I latched it, but not all the way. My latch pins seem to be adjusted that I have to push the canopy down with my left forearm to compress the pins enough to latch - and this has seemed about the same, winter or summer - but I'll check it nonetheless.

I have two suggestions for 3i:

1) A micro-switch/warning light combo for the latch lever that would illuminate a "CANOPY - UNLATCHED" warning light if the lever is not fully forward. Maybe even a horn that would sound with full throttle if the canopy was not latched.

2) A secondary latch (like on a car hood) that would catch an unlatched canopy and keep it from opening beyond a certain point without a second motion.

Neither should be necessary with proper procedures. Still, an unlatched canopy can have such serious, or even fatal, consequences that it would be nice to have some safety systems in place.
Fast Eddie B.
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Postby drseti » Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:43 am

Helen wrote:Also, as an FYI, every time we have had the canopy open it has been in the landing phase. Something about the aerodynamics makes that the time for this to happen.


Interesting. Every plane is different aerodynamically, of course. In my old Beechcraft, if the door was ever going to pop open it would always be on takeoff, just at rotation. (This happened to me about half a dozen times in 30 yrs of ownership, despite it being well latched each time! Problems with the latching mechanism.)

I was once retained as an expert witness in a lawsuit involving a fatal accident in an identical Beech. The lawyers were trying to show that the accident was caused by a mechanic not installing a "check door latch" placard required by a service bulletin. I testified that door-open procedures are routinely trained for in that aircraft, that the plane flies just fine with the door open, that the first responsibility of the pilot is to fly the plane, that trying to wrestle the door closed when close to the ground is an unwarranted distraction that can lead to a stall/spin accident (that's what happened in this case), and that they haven't invented a placard yet that can either produce lift or eliminate pilot error. After my testimony, the case was dropped! :roll:
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Postby AZPilot » Wed Jan 20, 2010 7:58 pm

That wasn't the one in PHX was it? Pilot put a Bonanza into a swimming pool rather than just accepting the noise. Can't close it anyway.

I've had it happen on both Bonanzas and Barons as the mechanicals are the same (except the P Baron of course).



drseti wrote:
Helen wrote:Also, as an FYI, every time we have had the canopy open it has been in the landing phase. Something about the aerodynamics makes that the time for this to happen.


Interesting. Every plane is different aerodynamically, of course. In my old Beechcraft, if the door was ever going to pop open it would always be on takeoff, just at rotation. (This happened to me about half a dozen times in 30 yrs of ownership, despite it being well latched each time! Problems with the latching mechanism.)

I was once retained as an expert witness in a lawsuit involving a fatal accident in an identical Beech. The lawyers were trying to show that the accident was caused by a mechanic not installing a "check door latch" placard required by a service bulletin. I testified that door-open procedures are routinely trained for in that aircraft, that the plane flies just fine with the door open, that the first responsibility of the pilot is to fly the plane, that trying to wrestle the door closed when close to the ground is an unwarranted distraction that can lead to a stall/spin accident (that's what happened in this case), and that they haven't invented a placard yet that can either produce lift or eliminate pilot error. After my testimony, the case was dropped! :roll:
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Postby drseti » Wed Jan 20, 2010 8:15 pm

AZPilot wrote:That wasn't the one in PHX was it?


No, this particular one was in South Carolina. Sadly, this same thing keeps happening from time to time -- you'd think we'd learn from other people's fatal mistakes!
The opinions posted are those of one CFI, and do not necessarily represent the FAA or its lawyers.
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