Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

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drdehave
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Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

Postby drdehave » Sun Mar 06, 2016 6:16 pm

Going out in a fireball after inadvertently hitting a power line someplace while engaging in my favorite activity-–flying low and fast-–wouldn’t surprise. But going up in a fireball whilst driving to the airport would be an unexpected affront; yet it came close to happening to me last week.

As I reported last spring, after finishing up lengthy fuel-tank repairs to my Sting LSA, necessitated by either (the jury’s still out as to which) 1. an original composite fuel-tank manufacturing defect; or 2. the persistent use of Unleaded E (Ethanol) 10 auto-gas, which dissolved the tank, I vowed a permanent switch to unleaded, alcohol-free auto-gas, or Pure-gas as it is known. To facilitate the switch, I built the fuel-haul-trailer shown in the picture, using plans presented on the internet.

Nevertheless, the day I bought that little utility trailer at my local Lowe’s, my first thought was: “Damn that thing looks flimsy!” But, the GVWR said 2,000 lbs, the trailer itself couldn’t possibly clock in at more than about 7 hundred pounds (i.e., with the Transfer-Flow tank installed), and the 108 gallons of Pure-gas I’d be hauling would just be another 648 lbs. I should be good to go, even if relative idiots may have designed and/or built that cheap little trailer! Well, last week that flimsy line of rationalization got stomped in the dirt!

I was coming home from another 170-mile, 4-hour round-trip fuel run, sticking as I always do (to avoid “spotlights,” if you get my drift) to winding, bumpy (but paved) back-roads. And as I always do, I was stopping every 30 minutes or so to check and ensure nothing was going amiss–such as a leak someplace, a hot wheel bearing or some issue with the trailer hitch or safety-chains. At the last such stop about 10 miles from the hangar I noticed that the trailer tongue appeared to have a slight cant. “No, that tongue couldn’t possibly be bending–-or breaking–-and I’m not rolling under there, here in the dirt, to examine it,” was my "bad" rationalization.

But once the fuel trailer was safely stowed back in my hangar 20 minutes later, I did roll underneath and have a closer look. And you know what? Have you ever broken a spoon by bending it back-and-forth? Well, a key weld on the end of the trailer tongue, where it attaches to the trailer frame was just about to exhibit, in full glory, the bent-spoon effect. I’m guessing maybe another dozen or so heavy bounces on that bumpy road would have finished the job. And that in turn would have brought the 108 gallon fuel tank crashing to the pavement at 50 mph or so. Who knows what would have happened then, but I’m pretty sure that a 50-ft fireball would not have been out of the question.

Anyway, the moral of this story is: If you build one of these little fuel trailers, make sure to beef up that flimsy little Lowe’s trailer with some extra steel support structure first, before installing the fuel tank and pump–-or God-forbid, dragging 108 gallons of 92-octane gasoline down the road behind you! Just a cautionary note.
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Re: Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

Postby SportPilot » Sun Mar 06, 2016 6:29 pm

.......
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Re: Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

Postby drseti » Mon Mar 07, 2016 9:36 am

Plase, please, please drain those 108 gallons from the tank, and carefully vent away all fumes, before you start welding on that trailer!
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Re: Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

Postby 3Dreaming » Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:11 am

drseti wrote:Plase, please, please drain those 108 gallons from the tank, and carefully vent away all fumes, before you start welding on that trailer!


If you don't do that make sure your cameras are set up, so we have good documentation for the Darwin Award. :twisted:

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Re: Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

Postby Nomore767 » Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:49 am

Slightly off topic perhaps but...

This is one of the points I have alluded to in another thread, namely...looking at your 'mission' when contemplating what airplane to buy etc

Drdehave has a great Sting LSA and has been having a blast flying it and producing awesome videos.

He outlined the issues he's had fixing the fuel tank problem which grounded him for a while and he's since decided, as I do, to opt to us 'pure gas' for his airplane which entailed building a nifty trailer in order to bulk buy pure gas from a distant distributer.

When I opted to buy my RV-12 I mulled over the Rotax engine, and available maintenance, as well as what fuel I would use. I initially used 100LL with Decalin until I got the airplane home and found a hangar of sorts. I now schlep 93 non-ethanol in gas cans to my hangar. I modified the spouts with kits I got at Tractor Supply which added spout and vent and I can pour 5 gallons into the planes tank in about 30 seconds. My airfield prohibits keeping a trailer type tanker full of fuel, so I don't have the tanker option, though I can totally see why Drdehave does this.
I thought about using 93E10 which is at every pump near me and running about $2 gallon, and Vans approves E10 gas, but in the end I found a gas station 15 minutes away with 93 non-ethanol on the pump for $2.75 and I am also lucky to have a couple of airfields in the region with 93 non ethanol on the airport pump. My airfield allows me to self-fuel too. Drdehave's experience with E10 gas also gave me pause. That's not to say that there's anything majorly wrong using E10 gas but given the choice between buying it cheaper across the street, with ethanol, and driving a bit further and paying a bit more for non-ethanol 93 octane I decided to avoid E10. That's MY choice and I would use 93E10 if I had to for a short period.

I found a Rotax trained and qualified sport mechanic 30 mins flying time away who will fly to me if necessary.

For these reasons I felt much more comfortable choosing an LSA with a Rotax. This is what I urge prospective LSA pilots and owners to consider as part of defining their 'mission' and deciding how they'll proceed.

It has been a more laborious process for me and I did my homework before plunking a deposit down. When I was at Sebring doing demos and talking to sales reps nobody ever brought these topics up and instead focussed more on the brochure, the specs and options. All very fine but when you get back to your home field it can be lonely without someone who gets sport flying and the Rotax etc. and can help with answers about servicing and maintenance.

Or...I could have bought a nice 172 and enjoyed a maintenance shop 30 yards from my hangar along with a 100LL fuel pump, and made my flying a whole lot easier...from that perspective.

Just offering this as points to ponder and to provoke thought for prospective sport pilots and LSA owners.

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Re: Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

Postby drdehave » Mon Mar 07, 2016 11:40 am

Welding near that tank? No, that's one decision I have "well-grounded," in better judgement.

Right now, a bottle jack is under the trailer at the tongue-break, supporting it. But once the tank is empty, it is coming completely off and going to another corner of the hangar, before the trailer is flipped over to initiate repairs.

If I had to do this whole drill over again, knowing what I know now, I would have never sunk $2,500 into that trailer! I would just drive over to my source and have them use the fork-lift to load 55-gallon barrels into my pick-up--just like all their race-car customers do! They just return the empty barrels next time. No leaks, no spills, and no time-bomb being dragged along behind me. And since those barrels are not vented until you open one of the bungs, the gas does not volatilize and potentially diminish the octane rating.

PS: Good idea though about having the cameras running, if I did weld w/ the tank ON!
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Re: Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

Postby dstclair » Mon Mar 07, 2016 12:13 pm

At the risk of starting a Rotax religious debate......

I own a Sting as well and have now moved away from E10 as 'suggested' by a manufacturer Notice. I also was aware of 3 (out of 100) cases where expensive fuel tank repairs were required, potentially due to E10. My airport does not allow the storing of fuel in the hangars and I have no access to E0 within a reasonable distance so I'm now on a steady diet of 100LL and Decalin. This got me to thinking -- what's the big deal? Yes, I know Rotax recommends Mogas and all the evils of leaded gas leading to increased service. But this increased service is really not that big of deal -- decreased interval for oil change/oil filter, decreased interval for plugs, decreased interval for the gear box service and increase cost for fuel. Given I'm already conservative and go with the lower time on oil changes and plugs, my only real hit is the gear box and fuel. I pay about $1.30 more for 100LL than 93 Octane E10 so this doesn't add up fast at my 70-80 hrs/year and the gear box service probably means I'll have 2 more over the life of the engine. The amortized cost really won't be significant.

I know of several local LSA that have run nothing but 100LL going on 8+ years and haven't had any issues. Paul's flight school is on 100LL as well and we haven't heard him complain. Right, Paul?

My point -- I don't think sweating the fuel is that big of a deal.

Now, people who know Rotax WAY better than me will rain on my parade :mrgreen:
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Re: Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

Postby drdehave » Mon Mar 07, 2016 12:28 pm

Good points about 100LL, Dave. My friend Mark Seward here with the new Sting S4 is running only that--and changing his oil every 25 hours. I notice there is far less lead in the bottom of the oil tank than if it's run to 50 hours (what the guy I bought MY Sting from 5.5 years ago was doing!). Point is: proper mitigation likely does greatly reduce known bad effects of leaded gas and one is probably assured of getting a cleaner, more consistently good & safe product (in the 100LL). So if California ever makes the Pure-gas I'm now using go completely away (not unlikely), I won't sweat switching to 100LL.
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Re: Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

Postby Nomore767 » Mon Mar 07, 2016 12:41 pm

Dave,

I don't sweat the fuel options either but I did look into it all in more detail because I was considering a Rotax powered LSA than say if I was buying a Skycatcher or 172. I use 93 Non ethanol autos simply because I can and its available locally here in SC. I can get 93E10 across the street and the airfield has 100LL and I carry Decalin in the RV for longer cross countries when autogas isn't available.

The point I was trying to underscore was for a potential LSA buyer to at least look further than the brochure and options when buying a Rotax powered LSA.. to include servicing and Rotax maintenance availability.

For example, most newcomers to Rotax may know that the engine can run on either 100LL or togas but they may not know that using a lead scavenger like Decalin can mitigate the effects of lead in the engine and it's components.
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Re: Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

Postby 3Dreaming » Mon Mar 07, 2016 1:16 pm

dstclair wrote:At the risk of starting a Rotax religious debate......

I own a Sting as well and have now moved away from E10 as 'suggested' by a manufacturer Notice. I also was aware of 3 (out of 100) cases where expensive fuel tank repairs were required, potentially due to E10. My airport does not allow the storing of fuel in the hangars and I have no access to E0 within a reasonable distance so I'm now on a steady diet of 100LL and Decalin. This got me to thinking -- what's the big deal? Yes, I know Rotax recommends Mogas and all the evils of leaded gas leading to increased service. But this increased service is really not that big of deal -- decreased interval for oil change/oil filter, decreased interval for plugs, decreased interval for the gear box service and increase cost for fuel. Given I'm already conservative and go with the lower time on oil changes and plugs, my only real hit is the gear box and fuel. I pay about $1.30 more for 100LL than 93 Octane E10 so this doesn't add up fast at my 70-80 hrs/year and the gear box service probably means I'll have 2 more over the life of the engine. The amortized cost really won't be significant.

I know of several local LSA that have run nothing but 100LL going on 8+ years and haven't had any issues. Paul's flight school is on 100LL as well and we haven't heard him complain. Right, Paul?

My point -- I don't think sweating the fuel is that big of a deal.

Now, people who know Rotax WAY better than me will rain on my parade :mrgreen:


Paul has mentioned having to replace exhaust components from being coated with lead deposits. I recently pulled the heads on a 912 to clean the exhaust valves after a suspected stuck valve caused an aborted take off.

The point is 100LL causes more problems than just shortening the time intervals of the oil changes, sparkplugs, and gearbox.

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Re: Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

Postby Nomore767 » Mon Mar 07, 2016 1:30 pm

"Paul has mentioned having to replace exhaust components from being coated with lead deposits. I recently pulled the heads on a 912 to clean the exhaust valves after a suspected stuck valve caused an aborted take off.

The point is 100LL causes more problems than just shortening the time intervals of the oil changes, sparkplugs, and gearbox."


Can you tell, when you work on a Rotax, if there's any noticeable difference with an engine that's run solely on 100LL versus one thats run on 100LL with Decalin added?

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Re: Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

Postby 3Dreaming » Mon Mar 07, 2016 4:00 pm

I'm not always privy to whether or not someone is using Delcalin. When I am working on the airplane I can certainly tell the difference between 100LL and automotive fuel. The airplanes with 100LL tend to have more sludge in the bottom of the oil tank, and it is grey in color. I figure it is a lead byproduct. One can also figure if it has settled out of the oil in the tank it will settle out in other places throughout the engine. I can also tell you that there were significant lead deposits on the valves, pistons, and heads on the engine I mentioned earlier.

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Re: Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

Postby drseti » Mon Mar 07, 2016 5:25 pm

3Dreaming wrote:

Paul has mentioned having to replace exhaust components from being coated with lead deposits.


Yes, but only when tri-cresyl phospate was used (that vaporizes the lead, which then blows out the exhaust valve, condensing on the cold tin of the exhaust system). When you don't use the additive, the lead just stays in the oil, which is why you should double up on oil changes and clean the sludge out of the oil tank when using 100LL.

The point is 100LL causes more problems than just shortening the time intervals of the oil changes, sparkplugs, and gearbox.


True, but if ethanol-free mogas is not available, the lead problems can be much less (depending on the airframe) than the damage done by ethanol. I think Rich's experience underscores this.

The gearbox with a slipper clutch needs to be pulled and examined at 1000 hours when using mogas. With 100LL, that interval becomes 600 hours. So, you end up doing two gearbox pulls witin the life of the engine, as opposed to one. I replace plugs at 100 hours instead of 200, which means ten extra sets of plugs over the life of the engine (but a set of eight plugs costs only $25). All on all, including gearbox checks, plugs, oil, and filters (but not including the extra cost of the fuel), 100 LL adds $1.60 per flight hour to my operating costs.
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Re: Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

Postby 3Dreaming » Mon Mar 07, 2016 9:35 pm

drseti wrote:
3Dreaming wrote:
The gearbox with a slipper clutch needs to be pulled and examined at 1000 hours when using mogas. With 100LL, that interval becomes 600 hours. So, you end up doing two gearbox pulls witin the life of the engine, as opposed to one.


Paul, using 100LL changes the gearbox inspections from 1 to 3. The inspections would be at 600, 1200, and 1800 hours, if you can make it to the 2000 hour TBO.

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Re: Musings on Nearly Going Up in a 50-Ft Fireball!

Postby drseti » Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:07 pm

You're right, Tom (although at 2000 TBO, I would opt to do those gearbox checks at 500, 1000, and 1500 hours). This raises the 100LL maintenance penalty from $1.60 to $1.80 per flight hour.
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