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.
Kenton “Skip” Curtis has now been flying for over 22 years and enjoys flying his 1974 Beech Sport, which he purchased in 1998. He has about 800 hours to date and flies about every ten days from his base in Brenham, Texas (11R). Skip’s father, uncle, and brother were also pilots so flying is definitely in the family. His dad and uncle flew biplanes from the pastures of the family farm in the late 20s and early 30s in upstate New York. He usually takes his dog Jonah (he does wear his Mutt Muffs) with him on most trips, except during the very hot summers in the Lone Star state.