Silence is golden - A Tiger Moth story (long...

…and quite possibly very boring.)

At Mooney252’s request from this thread.

The company I used to work for conducted aerobatic and scenic joy flights in various aircraft including a Pitts Special, a couple of Tiger Moths, a T6 and a P51. The bulk of our work was in the Pitts and the Tiger, and those are the two that I flew.

At one stage our Pitts was out of the air for a while and we decided to continue doing aerobatic rides using the Tiger Moths. We didn’t normally use the Tigers for this, they were strictly for scenic flights, but the owners of the aircraft didn’t mind, and they’re certainly certified for it.

It occurred to me that I’d never done so much as a loop in a Tiger Moth and perhaps I’d better go and do some practice before subjecting any passengers to my efforts.

So, out comes the Tiger, I dutifully stow any loose items, and straps etc in the front cockpit, chock the wheels (no brakes), turn the fuel on, set the throttle, open the cowl, start jiggling a little button on the carb to get it flooded, close the cowl, make sure the mags are off, wind the prop through by hand 4 times, switch the mags on, check again that the throttle is set, and start swinging on the prop (no starter motor). Generally by about the 3rd or 4th swing, it would burst into life. Such was the method for starting that Tiger Moth.

Some people with other Tigers have different methods and if you ever have to start one for someone you need to do it just how they want:

“How do you normally start this thing?”

“Ok, after priming, you open the throttle, mags off, turn the prop backwards 12 times, forwards 10, then back another 2, go have a cup of tea to let the fuel settle, come back turn it forwards twice, then backwards once, set the throttle, mags on, swing the prop and if it doesn’t start by the 6th turn repeat the above procedure but double the numbers and make a coffee instead.”

“Righto, maybe you should do it the first time eh, I’ll go make the cup of tea.”

Anyway, so now I had the Tiger going, I threw on a sheepskin jacket closed the throttle, stowed the chocks and jumped in.

Not long after, I’m up at 4000’. I try a loop. Nose down, throttle back to avoid redlining the engine, 120Mph, pull back, full power, look back for the horizon, going over the top ease up on the stick, throttle back on the way down. No worries. I try a barrel roll, no worries there either. Cuban eight, could be better but good enough. Getting into it now, loop, wingover, roll, wingover, half cuban eight, stall turn.

All well and good except the stall turn wasn’t very graceful. It seemed to try and roll wings level going over the top. I tried another, that went ok. Tried another one, same problem wings rolling level over the top, this time we go a little weightless because we’re pitching down as well and the engine gives a little cough. It picks up though, no drama.

I should say at this point, that it is normal to have to hold opposite aileron during a stall turn because the outside wing is going faster and tends to want to roll you over on to your back. This was the opposite. I was having to hold aileron in the same direction as rudder to stop it from rolling upright.

Well, I try a few more stall turns and seem to be able to do them ok now. So I figure I’ve had enough, and I’ll do some aerobatics over the runway down to circuit height and then land. I start at around 3000’ intending to come down to 1000’.

Away we go, dive for speed, 120mph, Loop, cuban eight (wa-hey this is fun!), wing over, roll, wing over, loop, down to 1500’, 120mph pulling back to the vertical for a stall turn, looking left to check the vertical, speed back to 50, full left rudder, uh oh wings are rolling level, can’t correct, nose pitching down and we get slightly negative, engine coughs, engine dies, prop stops completely.

“Fuck!” said I.
“whhhhhhooooooo” said the wind.
" " said the engine
The prop just stood and stared.

Well I’m getting down to 1000’ I don’t know how fast I need to go to get the prop windmilling and I don’t want to use up all my height trying to do that when I’ve got a perfectly good runway below me, so a dead stick landing seems to be the best option.

I kept a nice close downwind and a curving base. Made sure I was always fairly high. Occasionally the prop would turn through a compression but mostly it just sat their obstructing my view. Worse than useless once it’s stopped turning.

From a high final I bled of the excess height with a sideslip and with a little help from some adrenalin and my naturally heightened senses I did one of my nicest landings ever.

It was apparent that I still hadn’t quite mastered the stall turns, so I jumped out, chocked the wheels swung the prop, jumped back in, and headed up for some more practice. Turns out I was doing the stall turns the wrong way. The Tiger’s engine turns the opposite way from the Pitts and doing a stall turn to the left, the torque was working against the manoeuvre. Once I tried a few to the right I never had the same problem again.

Thus ends a post with probably more writing in it than my past 380 combined.

Anyone else with some hairy aviation stories?

Love the way you write.

You have the start method for English Iron down quite well IMO.

The Kinner 5 cyl. radial, as is on a Ryan PT-22 has a similar dance it likes you to do.

I need to try top get one of my adventures written up. Back later…

I look forward to it

Coming back from central Kansas after finishing an aerial mapping flight my camera man climbed up front with an expectant look on his face.

We were flying a 1970 C-310Q Turbo aerial mapping bird. Now Paul had at the time an SEL rating and was the best student I had ever worked with. He really loved flying and was eager to learn.

We had been running the aux tanks and they were very near empty when he crawled fwd. When the aux tanks are selected there are two orange lights that come on to remind you that you are using those thanks. They are adjustable for brightness and as it was daylight I had them on full bright. They are just under the control column on the co-pilot side of the cockpit.

Well, Paul always knew that he was in a learning situation when we were together but he seldom got to fly the 310. He forgot to check the cockpit… he he he

I gave him control and sat on my hands as normal. I have to do that to keep myself from reaching to fix things. :wink: Well Paul was in heaven for about 60 seconds when the left engine surged once and then totally lost power. With a fast glance at me to see if he should give control back to me, I said, “Just don’t forget to fly the airplane.” Now that was his clue that it was up to him and before he could look around, the right engine gave it up without whimper. It was very quiet relatively speaking.

The yaw from the left engine quitting had caused the right engine to lose what little fuel was left on that side too.

Since I was not doing anything but sitting there saying, “Fly the airplane Paul.” He knew it was his job to find the problem. The bright orange lights, the fuel gages on “E” finally got his attention but not before he had a fine mist of sweat on his brow. And we had come down from 8000 to about 6000 feet. Tulsa was looking a long ways away. :wink:

He did good then. Closed the cowl flaps, retarded the throttles, pulled the mixtures and only then did he select the main fuel tanks. He then used the correct restart drill to cause the least problems to the engines. As the engines came back he nursed them up nicely and went about getting things all squared away.

“Never trust the last guy that was flying.” , I said. He gave me a dirty look. I deserved it. :wink: We were not back to Tulsa yet and his lesson was not over.

I can be an evil bastard…

The continuing story of getting Paul to Tulsa.
Paul had us up in the top of the green and in a shallow decent for Tulsa. About 30 miles out he contacted Tulsa Approach East and gave them the particulars and requested landing.

Approach came back with the squawk code and Paul claimed knowledge of ATIS so we were good to go. The voice I heard was new to me and since I knew all the regular folks at Tulsa and I knew who usually did the OJT part of the training and I knew we were in for some, “Everybody gets to learn today.”

Sure nuff, we were given an heading and cleared on down to 4000 with no comment about speed or landing sequence. Paul was a grinnin and a flyin. :: sigh :::

So, here we are on a down wind, 2500 feet above the proper altitude for a downwind (671’ for the airport and 800’ for the downwind + /- ) doing a sprightly 180 MPH indicated, gear up and flaps up. The controller comes back in a panicky voice and asks if we could, “Ah make it down okay from that point?” Paul gins at me and responds in the affirmative. ( “Wheeeeee” I think.) He sure is having fun with this twin today. It was kind of sad that things were starting to snowball on him. My friend came on freq. and requested that we contact the tower and mumbled. “Have fun Gus.” As she released her mic. I knew her student was in for a talk. Paul was so used to the little personal stuff that happened to me he let it go right past him. Being the fearless type that day, he sucked her around to base leg and pulled some power and kept on coming down. He forgot that coming down and slowing down were hard to do quickly in a clean airplane

The tower cleared us to land with a barely suppressed snicker and Paul rolled out on final at the right height and was looking good and all smiles when he reached for the gear switch. I had to put my hand out to stop him and he glanced at me and I just started tapping the airspeed indicator. He took a good look at that and the whole thing became clear to him all at once. Such a look of utter dejection and remorse you have never seen.

I radioed the tower that we would like to come around for an second attempt and talked Paul though it and he did fine if a bit jerky.

There was total silence for some of the ride back to the office and then he said. Thanks, that is another thing that will never happen again. And it hasn’t.

Love those who listen and learn.

Paul and I had many flights together and learned a lot from each other.

Another heart attack moment in the Tiger Moth.

This happened some time after what I call the f----d-up-stall-turn incident. The company had had a change of management and the Tigers were now used for mild aerobatics on request from the passenger. We still used the Pitts for the majority of the aerobatic flights but some people just wanted the romantic thing as well as the aerobatic thrill and the Pitts was thought of as a bit aggressive for some people.

I had a rather large American customer who wanted an open cockpit scenic flight with some aerobatics at the end. The flight went very well up until we started doing the aerobatics. Every time we pulled some Gs my passenger would sink a little lower in the seat (the passenger sits in the front). When the Gs eased up he would stay sunken down.

Needless to say, by the time we’d finished the aerobatics, he’d disappeared completely. I wasn’t too concerned about him wallowing around down there as the controls still felt free. I was a little worried that he was feeling sick though, so I reached forward into the cockpit and tapped him on the shoulder and he gave me the thumbs up (the intercom was ok but I preferred to use hand signals). No worries thinks I.

But worries there were.

At this time he decided to pull himself up into the seat properly. As he did this, the engine inexplicably died. No coughing, no spluttering, no last gasps. Just an eerie silence that one normally associates with flying kites or romantic walks down the beach.

The onset of controlled panic was more rapid and severe than in the tale of the f----d-up-stall-turn as I didn’t have any airfields within gliding distance. Luckily the panic was also short lived, looking into the cockpit I noted something was out of place, and reaching forward, I turn the fuel back on. The prop had continued windmilling during this time and the engine politely started chattering away again.

The fuel control in both cockpits is connected mechanically, and my passenger had quite happily made use of the conveniently placed handle to pull himself back into the seat properly. He had been strapped in as well, but the straps in the Tiger did not have a centre crotch strap. He’d basically been very relaxed and had allowed himself to slide forwards under the straps.

After landing he was happy as Larry. Said it was great. He never mentioned the few seconds of “quiet time” we’d had together towards the end and neither did I.

Passengers can be a laugh sometimes. One Pitts passenger I had was around 10-11 years old and on landing, after the most extreme aerobatic routine I could muster, he pronounced:

“Wow, that’s the best thing I’ve done with my clothes on!”

Back in my Pipeline Patrol days there we what I considered three types of oil field gathering systems that I had to patrol. There is all kinds of patrolling from border patrol to highway patrol to power line patrol to main trunk lines to gathering systems, off shore systems and many more. Today I’ll tell you about one day in an oil field gathering system.
Of the three types of systems by my way of thinking, there blah ones, the fun ones you can dance with your plane in and the nasty ones that are dangerous and no fun to fly for various reasons.

Any way, the one I hated most was called the Ripley and was in North Central Oklahoma. The first part of it is really what I want to relate to you about as it involved me in one of my worst adventures.
To start with, you began down wind and down hill for about a mile and a half and then you had to make an 130 degree cut back to the left. For some reason I always had a mental block on the turn and was always surprised when it came up and so it would take full rudder and aileron deflection to make the corner without covering the line with the wing which would have caused me to made a 360 turn to come back and cover that ground… We were not paid to fly but to look at the ground and we were not supposed to miss one foot. That reminds me of another story but that will be another day.

Now before I had left Tulsa that day I had run my bird to maintenance to have the transponder worked on. They removed it and taped the antenna lead up under the panel out of the way. (My mistakes started here as I did not double check the lead with the idea of what a patrol plane goes through on a routine day.) Off to work I go and in the afternoon, it is time for the Ripley.

Yepper, I forgot the turn as usual and I made the cut as usual with full everything. Then the world went to slow motion and I thought I was going to see myself die.!!
I had made the turn and as I tried to roll back level, the ailerons were jammed full left. The nose was up and the rudders were working and I was trying with all my strength to twist the controls. I was by then high side with the rudder to try to keep from rolling inverted. It was not working. I had never done any acrobatic flying at that time and had only talked to pilots about what you did in this and that kind of circumstances and such. I knew I was going in so I held the nose up a fraction more, stomped the left rudder and as she went over the top I pushed a bit on the elevators and low and behold I had missed the ground with the wings and was coming back upright. The ailerons still were not moving, my airspeed was too scary to look at again and I knew I would not get away with that again so I braced my self and MADE the control move. I am a big guy, 6’4” in a Cessna 150, can you say ‘tight’? I thought you could. I put all my strength and adrenaline into it and something felt like it ripped in the wings but they moved and I was not going inverted. The controls felt very rough and draggy and I really thought I had ripped a pulley lose in the wings somewhere.

I did not have time to worry too much as I was out of altitude, airspeed and time. 20 feet off the ground maybe, 48 MPH on the airspeed, the engine had been at full power since the start of the turn and the trees were right there and higher than I was. I was sitting there in a bit of a cross controlled condition and had to slowly ease off the rudder and ailerons so as to not cause a stall by any sudden movements of the controls. Went between two tall trees and cut some leaves from the center ones but was nursing every knot of speed and every foot of altitude that I could. It took 3 –4 YEARS to get enough altitude to breathe again. The work was forgotten and I was trying to turn the aircraft with mostly rudder and work my way to Tulsa.
I called the company on the FM and cancelled the rest of the day and asked that they call the hanger and advise them of what was going down and gave a description of what was happening so they would have clues to look for if I did not make it. We had lost a pilot a bit before in unusual circumstances but it turned out to be an heart attack.

I called approach and just requested a normal entry and that was their clue that something was wrong but that I didn’t feel the need for the crash truck by that time. Pipeline Patrol does not normally do a normal pattern. LOL

Anywho, all went well, I was actually getting kind of comfortable with using only rudder to fly with.

The landing was uneventful. I taxied up to the hanger and my chief pilot came out, told me to get a coke while he looked at the plane. Not 60 seconds later he came in and said to follow him.

On a Cessna 150, there is a small lever that looks like a teeter totter at the top of the vertical control column under the instrument panel. When the controls are fully deflected to left aileron there is just enough room for the antenna lead connector to fit straight in the opening. So, after a morning of bouncing around, and the effects of heavy turns all day had loosened up the coiled and taped antenna lead and in the max effort turn had some how flung the lead up in such a way as it got into that space and lock up the ailerons. When I had really gotten some leverage on it I had crushed the connector with the teeter totter lever and that was what I was feeling the whole way back that felt like I had pulled something out of the wing.

It was my fault because I did not check the work of the mechanic with my special knowledge of what patrol flying was like. :smack:

One more lesson learned.