My wife and I are co-owners of a 1973 Beech Sport, which we use for our $100 hamburger outing at least once each month. At the time of this story, we were hangared at Conroe Regional (2E5) and had loaded up our dog Jonah after fueling and preflighting. We have made the trip numerous times to the Southern Diner in Brenham, Texas (on the field at 11R), as it had outside dining which allowed pets.
After eating and preflighting, we departed runway 34. At about 500 feet the engine did a quick hiccup. We both looked at each other and I said, “let’s stay in the pattern for a few minutes and see if the incident happens again.”
Fortunately everything operated as normal so we returned to Conroe Regional. Several weeks later we again decided to have lunch, this time in College Station, Texas, and would fly to Easterwood airport (CLL). We taxied to runway 14, announcing our intention along the way. After doing our run-up we taxied onto 14 in preparation to begin our takeoff roll.
At about 600 ft, the engine this time started to sputter and lose power. I pushed the nose over, thinking we were going to do an emergency landing, however, when the nose was pointed level the engine roared back to life. We continued to climb very slowly and made a downwind landing as the winds were almost calm, announcing we had engine problems.
We had the FBO mechanic check it over and he said it was probably water in the fuel. I said that we had sumped the tank used before leaving and also prior to departing Brenham. He said we should be good to go after draining the tank.
A few days later I decided to take the airplane up by myself to make certain everything was OK (my wife was very concerned). Again at about 300 ft, the engine started to die and I decided to use the runway that was left, rolling into the field at the end of the runway. At this point I was very upset—no damage to the airplane at least—so I hoofed it out of the field over to the FBO and made my case to the owner. They had another, more experienced A&P look it over and again said it was water in the tank. Again!
After several hundred dollars spent on both of the incidents, I was still not convinced, so I asked the A&P to accompany me around the pattern. He was also a private pilot, so as we flew around he took the controls and did some short pitch-ups and everything seemed fine.
A few weeks later we relocated to a hangar where an A&P had several aircraft. I asked if he would look over the plane, as I still had my doubts after two emergency landings. I arrived home and about 30 minutes later he called and said he had found the problem. A small amount of debris (about he size of a kernel of rice cut into six or seven pieces) was clogging the filter screen to the carb. Each time we pitched up, that debris would severely restrict fuel flow, causing the engine to almost quit running. We both decided to have him check the filter every sixty days until the screen showed no obstruction.
Fortunately after flying the aircraft for the last 20 years, we have had no fuel or engine issues to date. Engine out training is great, but the real thing (times two) can be a bit unnerving.
- Engine hiccups: third time is the charm? - March 10, 2021
I had the pleasure of flying a Sundowner in the same area based at T39/KUTS Huntsville for some years in the 80’s and 90’s. We used Coulter Field rather than CLL. Lunch at Brenham was definitely worth the fuel! Sadly my good friend and the owner died in his late 80’s and the aeroplane was sold.
Good job sticking to your guns! Great story.
The lesson learned is: “Learn enough about you airplane to be able to do at least some troubleshooting!”
If you have an airplane like mine, a 1946 Ercoupe, you Have to learn about your airplane because you generally will not find and A&P who knows enough about it. But even if you have something more common, as one A&P put it to me, “It is your butt hanging off that airplane and if you looked at something or found something I am going to believe you.”
Admittedly, I have a degree in mechanical engineering and my first job in the USAF was aircraft maintenance. I aided in mishap investigation and was a member of two formal mishap boards. But you do not have to have that kind of training and experience to be more knowledgeable about your airplane.
My first owned aircraft was a Beech Sport B-19 I bought used in 1976. I never had any engine problems but did have one radio failure which caused me to use the no radio maneuvers at my home airport which was KBDR. I also had a Cessna 172 blow over on top of the plane before the pilot could get it tied down which put it out of action for two months for repairs to the fuselage. It was a great little aircraft for a new pilot to fly.
I make it a point, during the annual, to remove the carb inlet screen and also remove the bowl drain plug and flush the carb bowl . I usually see a more than a few bit of grit that made it past the gascolator and the screen.
I had a similar incident back when I was a student training in a Cessna 150. Run up was normal but, when I was climbing out at about 300 feet, the engine would start losing power. I nosed over to land on remaining runway and the engine powered up full. I stayed in the pattern and did a touch and go and had the same result. 1 more time around and the process repeated itself so I landed and parked. I wrote it up and went home. Next day my instructor was out with another student and the engine died out in the practice area. Successful emergency landing in a field and call to the mechanic was made. Orange fuzz in gascolator. They fished around the fuel tank wit a wire and caught a half of a grease rag that must have been accidentally dropped in the tank when the wing was repaired a couple of years earlier.
I had that issue with a fuel injected 172 rental a few years ago. As a result, i now perform at least 1 or 2 touch and goes at my base airport before departing. Especially before a long distance cross country flight. They never did figure out the issue, but blamed water in the fuel.