Desert Center Emergency Landing - Part 2

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Effect #2:

We had been on our way to Phoenix - Deer Valley Airport (KDVT) to visit Frank and Rachel Hoffmann and Bill and Marilyn Seibold for the weekend.  I called Rachel to let her know that we would NOT be arriving as planned.  I talked to Bill, who offered to fly his COZY III out to take us somewhere if needed.  I said that we'd push the plane down to the lone hangar, 4000 ft. down the taxiway, and give them a call after we figured out our situation.

I then gave the plane a once over.  Since I suspected that the prop was gone, I headed for the engine.  My suspicion was correct - everything aft of the prop extension had decided to vacation in the southeast section of Joshua Tree National Park without us. No spinner, no crush plate, no prop blades, no prop hub - nada, zip, zilch, zero, nothing.  All six prop bolts had broken at the base of the threaded portion deep within the extension bushings.  The threads were all still in place in the bushings.  One bushing was substantially deformed as the bolt tore out - it must have been the last bolt to go.  A cursory view inside the cowl didn't indicate any major damage - a tiny tear in the top cowl, a small dent in the crankcase breather line, and some baffling out of place below the alternator.

As I was marvelling at this - the forces required to tear prop bolt completely off, I happened to look down the wing at the right winglet. I was greeted by the view of a missing lower winglet, as well as a chunk torn off the trailing edge of the wing (and a tiny corner of the aileron).  As the prop departed, it apparently took the right lower winglet (80% of it, anyway) with it. The blade had torn off the trailing edge of the wing JUST behind the rudder cable conduit - 1/2" further forward and I wouldn't have had a working rudder on the right side.  It had, in fact, torn out the EXTRA rudder conduit I had installed 10 years ago in anticipation of eventually installing hidden belhorns - if I had ever done so, the rudder would not have worked (maybe that would have mattered in the landing, maybe not).  The rudder itself was completely untouched and working perfectly.

We then spent the next 45 minutes pushing the plane over to the single hangar at L64.  There was a building nearby as well, but the last time it had been used, Roosevelt was still president.  The first one, I think.  The hangar had a sign on it stating that it was US government property, NO TRESPASSING.  No phone #'s, no people, no nothing.  We called Bill and asked if he could fly his COZY III out and take us somewhere - probably back to Tehachapi.  He agreed and headed out to KDVT to come over.

We spent the next two hours tying the plane down, getting our stuff out, eating and drinking a bit, wandering around the airport, and talking.  I took the top cowl off to look around - as far as I could tell, there was essentially no damage.  Nothing shook loose, nothing cracked, nothing moved.  I spent some time evaluating the wingtip damage as well - we had flown for 13 minutes like that, and I had no inkling from the aircraft's performance or behavior that anything was wrong.  The structural layups tying the winglet to the wing were essentially fine, although there was a small cut in the lower layup where a prop tip had embedded itself.  This had cut about 5% - 10% of the lower reinforcing layups, but the rest were completely intact. There was no excessive movement between the winglet and the wing, and no cracks in the upper or lower winglet attach layups anywhere other than where the prop tip had hit.  I then put everything back together and put the cover on the plane.

Just around sunset Bill arrived.  We took a quick look at the plane, then loaded up (Deanie was buried with our crap in the single back seat, but she fit) and headed out for Tehachapi.  I was actually a bit surprised that Deanie was willing to get into a plane at that point, but I certainly wasn't going to ask about it.  With a 30 kt. headwind, it took about 1/5 hours to get back to the Antelope Valley.  I had called the Tehachapi AWOS prior to takeoff, and although they were reporting 2 miles visibility and 500 ft. ceiling, we figured that we'd head to the ridge between Mojave and Tehachapi, and if we could see the runway, land there, and if we couldn't, land at Mojave (KMHV).

The flight was a bit bumpy but and uneventful night flight.  As we passed Lancaster and couldn't see into the Tehachapi valley, I told Bill to divert to Mojave (KMHV) - he could fuel up there and guarantee a departure back to Phoenix.  It felt good to touch down close to home. I filled up Bill's tanks, he taxied over to Scaled, we unloaded, and Bill departed for Phoenix after some BIG thanks.

We called a friend in Tehachapi (co-worker, as well) and he headed down to pick us up and bring us home.  He brought us to the airport, where got our car and went out to eat at the Thai restaurant in town - I hadn't eaten anything but a banana since breakfast, and it was 8 PM.

We were home and safe.

To be continued in Part 3.

 


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Copyright 2006, All Rights Reserved, Marc J. Zeitlin
e-mail: marc_zeitlin@alum.mit.edu

Last updated: February 17, 2007