Pilots say they’re being blamed for plane crashes that aren’t their fault

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N804RV

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Mount Vernon, WA
Ever wonder why there are so many "low point" drains on a 172S?

I think the older 172 is the worst. But, any wet wing aircraft that gets parked outside, or is infrequently flown probably has trapped water somewhere. Fly to a low enough fuel state and start yanking and banking, you just might find it.
 

Pops

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I have owned 3 straight tail C-172's The fuel valve is in the belly down between the front seats and is the lowest point in the fuel lines. The fuel valve has a 1/8" pipe plug in the bottom. On each 172, I removed the plug and installed a short length of pipe and cut a round hole in the outer skin and a quick drain. So on the pre-flight inspection, there are 4 quick drains to check.
 

Wanttaja

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I have owned 3 straight tail C-172's The fuel valve is in the belly down between the front seats and is the lowest point in the fuel lines. The fuel valve has a 1/8" pipe plug in the bottom. On each 172, I removed the plug and installed a short length of pipe and cut a round hole in the outer skin and a quick drain. So on the pre-flight inspection, there are 4 quick drains to check.
After the fuel-contamination-induced engine failure of my 150, the A&P added such a drain to the airplane....

Ron Wanttaja
 

Chris.r.Ingram

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Nov 13, 2021
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Then who’s fault is it?
If you’ve got enough water in the fuel system to down the plane, is it your responsibility to check as PIC? Or is there a group of pixies and fairies that’s supposed to sign off for the blame later?
 

rv7charlie

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We obviously have a tremendous level of responsibility, but the FAA, and to an even greater extent, the NTSB, put virtually every single 'event' at the feet of the pilot. I'll bet that if you spent an hour in the NTSB database, you could find 'pilot's failure to maintain control after losing a wing in still air. Loss of the wing contributed to the accident.'

Fly your own Citation for your high profile high dollar job? Pay your maintenance dept big bucks to make sure there's nothing wrong with it? What if they miss something, either through negligence or even on purpose? As PIC, you're responsible for their actions or inactions, even if you paid them for the work.

And is there a 337 for that Cessna fuel drain mod? If not, guess who won't pay if there's an accident, even if it's unrelated to fuel. Not saying it's a bad idea; it (probably) just isn't a legal one.
 

Bigshu

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KCMO, midwestern USA
I have owned 3 straight tail C-172's The fuel valve is in the belly down between the front seats and is the lowest point in the fuel lines. The fuel valve has a 1/8" pipe plug in the bottom. On each 172, I removed the plug and installed a short length of pipe and cut a round hole in the outer skin and a quick drain. So on the pre-flight inspection, there are 4 quick drains to check.
Very cool. Is that modification just a logbook entry, or does it need more paperwork?
 
Joined
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Madera, California U.S.A.
Some dumb * go for bottom drain first sucking water into system from upper drains, seen em' do it.
Had Taylorcraft with 2 wing tanks. Evening before accident topped off both wing tanks and next morning flew approximately 1 hour and started to dump left wing tank in to nose tank and before long every thing became quiet. According to Oklahoma City I had a very high ratio of water - according to them no water separator on fuel truck. A new fuel truck was put on line the day before I received my report.
 
Joined
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Madera, California U.S.A.
Had Taylorcraft with 2 wing tanks. Evening before accident topped off both wing tanks and next morning flew approximately 1 hour and started to dump left wing tank in to nose tank and before long every thing became quiet. According to Oklahoma City I had a very high ratio of water - according to them no water separator on fuel truck. A new fuel truck was put on line the day before I received my report.
Of course I did not need 337 or log book entry!
 

Wanttaja

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After the fuel-contamination-induced engine failure of my 150, the A&P added such a drain to the airplane....
Then who’s fault is it?
If you’ve got enough water in the fuel system to down the plane, is it your responsibility to check as PIC? Or is there a group of pixies and fairies that’s supposed to sign off for the blame later?
Well, it was an interesting case. So interesting, in fact, that I wrote it up and got it published in Flying magazine.

Took a short lunchtime hop to a local airport to buy gas. Checked the gas after filling...and there were a bunch of tiny bubbles in the sample. They didn't rise or fall, they just hung there.

Took the sample inside to talk to the manager of the FBO...and the CFI who had recently administered my BFR. Neither knew what it was. Both said it *couldn't* be water, since the pump had a system that shut off flow if water was detected.

I mounted up, started, and took off for the short flight home (~5 miles). About two miles out, the engine started to skip. I rammed the throttle all the way to gain height. Engine finally gave up about a mile from my home runway, but I had about 1500 feet in altitude. Made a successful deadstick landing with the prop stopped.

Rolled off the runway, got my fuel sampler out, and re-checked. 100% water. Pelted for a phone (pre-cell era) to call the other airport, and warn them to check their fuel.

In the meantime, I started draining my tanks. Using the normal sampler was too slow, grabbed a glass jar. Drained and drained and drained until I started seeing red again. Estimated that each 12-gallon tank had contained at least two gallons of water.

What had happened? The fill point for the FBO's gas tank was recessed, and had filled with water. The cap seal was bad, and let the water in. The fuel pump had apparently mixed the water with the fuel, which explained why the water was in suspension. Why didn't the automatic system work? Never got a good answer, but the flow when I filled my tank was real slow. Suspect it had pinched off flow to a great extent, but was still letting the gas/water mix through. Time, and the vibration of my running engine, had finally induced the water to separate.

I was the third plane to fill up that day. They contacted the owner of the first one, who had flown to another airport. Just a trace water in his fuel. The other plane was a Bonanza, who had landed there, then parked. They found five gallons of water in his airplane.

So, certainly, it's the pilot's duty to check. But the pilot has to understand the range of how contamination might present itself. No one at the airport that day recognized the bubbles as water.

Still, didn't come out too bad. Stopped by later in the day for a free fill up...no one would meet my gaze. They were already modifying the fill point to keep water out better. Sold the story to Flying for $100, so I guess I came out on top that day....

See "Tiny Bubbles" in the May 1987 issue of Flying magazine. It was also re-published in the third collection of "I Learned About Flying From That" articles.

Ron Wanttaja
 

D Hillberg

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very low low low earth orbit
We had paper filters on underground tanks, Water would enter the filter and swell the paper element and a pressure gages on the IN & OUT of the filter would show a differential - time to purge the tank & system and change the filter... Trucks had the same system, Trailer tanks didn't....
If it was so bad to slow the flow you had a swollen filter and tons of water.
Pick ups and drains in aircraft often have a dead spaces and water would gather at low points, Make a bank and the crud gets picked up.... Put put sputter splat,
 

Pilot-34

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Most of me is in IL but my hearts in Alaska
Then who’s fault is it?
If you’ve got enough water in the fuel system to down the plane, is it your responsibility to check as PIC? Or is there a group of pixies and fairies that’s supposed to sign off for the blame later?
The pixies at the FAA and the fairies down the street at Cessna are supposed to make sure that you don’t have to disassemble the airplane before each flight to check for safety.

Freightliner blamed me for not inspecting the front hub for lube Of a truck that lost the bearings and then the wheel.
To inspect this particular hub for lubrication you have to pull the hub you can’t just look at it and when you do you lose all the lubrication, catch 22.
 

TFF

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Memphis, TN
A coworker has a story of being a crew chief on a Sea Stallion at a fuel stop. After they filled up, they taxied to take off. They made it about 5 ft in the air before the engines shut down. They pumped over 100 gal of water into the tanks. The fuel farm tank had the pickup sink. It’s supposed to float on the top to prevent this.

Fuel Farms and trucks are supposed to have a water shut off in the lines. I was volunteered to take care of a fuel truck once and had to perform the test. Syringe full of water shot into a port on the side is how you test it. Suppose to shut down flow. Most of the time I couldn’t get enough water in there fast enough to activate it.
 
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