Why do engine related failures cause fatal crashes in fixed wing aircraft?

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Riggerrob

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I sometimes use a chute in the Skybolt, it glides about as good as a polished brick. Problem is that even if it has quick release canopy (i.e. pretty easy to get out of) my estimate is that I would need to be at around 2000 feet AGL in order to know that I would have ample time to make the decision, jettison the canopy, release the harness and get out.

An instructor I had was killed in Malta some years back when he collided with another airplane (lost the tail on his Yak). They were low, maybe 200 feet IIRC, and the other guy survived. A fraction of a second after the collision he (the other guy) initiated and trimmed for climb (he had lost the prop) and he was out on the wing even before airplane returned towards the water. The chute deployed just in time to reduce his fall to a point where he survived impact with the water. Later I heard that he had practiced the getting out procedure maybe a thousand times, I think he did it after EVERY flight a few times.

I think that for most planes in most scenarios it shouldn't be a problem to have a place to land within gliding distance if you're at a high enough altitude to make bailing out an option. That being said, I wouldn't mind a chute on the plane. How much one of those weigh?

Pilot emergency parachutes weight about 20 pounds per person. PEPs only work if you have recently practiced bail-out drills.

Ballistic Recovery Systems start at 79 pounds for a Cessna 172. BRS has much simpler procedures: get scared and pull red handle.

I would much rather land inside a BRS-equipped airplane in rough terrain.

But what have I learned after 6,000 skydives and zero tree landings?

Rob Warner

FAA Master Parachute Rigger: Back, Seat and Chest
 

SVSUSteve

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SVSUSteve, what is your preferred location for fuel tanks in an aircraft?
Sorry for the delay in responding. Been incredibly busy with work.

As Turd and others pointed out, there's no single best location. There are a few places that are probably just a bad idea. In the cockpit (especially forward like behind the instrument panel or under the seats) is a good example. In the leading edge of a wing is another. Generally...between the spars in the inboard part of the wings is your safest bet for a normally configured aircraft. If you have tip tanks (which aren't a bad idea), it's key to make sure that fuel is used first and is counterbalanced by fuel tanks further inboard. Flying with tip tanks only or with the wing tanks empty would be pretty stupid just in case you did get into a stall or spin scenario.

Thinking about where you route the fuel lines is another concern as well. I've seen more than a few crashes where the fuel tank remained intact but the fuel lines fed a fire that killed or seriously injured the occupants.
 

gtae07

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Sorry for the delay in responding. Been incredibly busy with work.

As Turd and others pointed out, there's no single best location. There are a few places that are probably just a bad idea. In the cockpit (especially forward like behind the instrument panel or under the seats) is a good example. In the leading edge of a wing is another. Generally...between the spars in the inboard part of the wings is your safest bet for a normally configured aircraft. If you have tip tanks (which aren't a bad idea), it's key to make sure that fuel is used first and is counterbalanced by fuel tanks further inboard. Flying with tip tanks only or with the wing tanks empty would be pretty stupid just in case you did get into a stall or spin scenario.

Thinking about where you route the fuel lines is another concern as well. I've seen more than a few crashes where the fuel tank remained intact but the fuel lines fed a fire that killed or seriously injured the occupants.
If one is stuck with, say, leading edge tanks, what in your opinion can/should one do to make the best of it? That's what RVs come with, and changing that isn't really practical, so I'm going to try and make the best of a less-than-optimal situation.

I'm thinking of the following:

Breakaway fittings at firewall and wing root

Steel lines and fittings (or steel-braid teflon hose) within the fuselage to the firewall, protected from FOD and accidental kicks etc. by panels

Fire-sleeved steel lines and hose firewall-forward

Ceramic fire blanket on the engine side of the firewall, with fire sealant

Possibly an automotive-style resettable crash switch to kill the fuel pumps

I realize this doesn't fully address the problem, but I'd like to get what I can.
 
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Dana

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Number one cause of engine failure: too much air in the fuel tank. :)

Dana
 

JIC

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What I think are the two most important things in surviving a emergency landing.
1. Practice power off landings
2. Maintain control of the aircraft all the way to the ground and roll out.

When pilots panic and lose control of the aircraft is when they get themselves killed
 

AdrianS

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Regarding fuel lines : most motorsport regulations require hard lines in the cabin for fuel and any pressurised fluids (oil, water, brake etc.).
I see no reason not to apply the same to aircraft.
 

SVSUSteve

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If one is stuck with, say, leading edge tanks, what in your opinion can/should one do to make the best of it? That's what RVs come with, and changing that isn't really practical, so I'm going to try and make the best of a less-than-optimal situation.

I'm thinking of the following:

Breakaway fittings at firewall and wing root

Steel lines and fittings (or steel-braid teflon hose) within the fuselage to the firewall, protected from FOD and accidental kicks etc. by panels

Fire-sleeved steel lines and hose firewall-forward

Ceramic fire blanket on the engine side of the firewall, with fire sealant

Possibly an automotive-style resettable crash switch to kill the fuel pumps

I realize this doesn't fully address the problem, but I'd like to get what I can.
All of those would be a good idea. They aren't going to fix the issue of the fuel tanks themselves which would, in most crash scenarios, negate a lot of the other measures. The only way I can think of that might improve it would be to put a tear and puncture resistant lining into the tank or try to otherwise improve the design by moving the fuel tanks if possible. I'm not familiar with the specifics of the RV wing structure so I'm not sure how practical that would be.
 

SVSUSteve

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Runway behind you, altitude above you, fuel in the tanks at the fuel station.
The most useless things in aviation. ;)
There are only two times you can have too much fuel on board (so long as you stay below your MTOW): when you have an in-flight fire and during a crash.
 

Magnus Wallner

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On the topic of chutes. I found this video, sorry if it'v been up here before. It's a Cirrus ditching in the Pacific.

What I started thinking watching the video was what would have happened if the plane had been pulled the other way? Ok, in the Cirrus that wouldn't be a huge deal because you have doors on both sides, but consider a Cherokee? Now way you could push the food open against the oncoming water.

Or is there a chute release that he, for some reason, didn't use? It looks like he could have stayed with the plane, warm and dry, for quite some time longer hadn't the chute dragged the plane beneath the water.

Incredible Footage: Pilot Deploys Plane's Parachute, Ditches in Ocean | Citrus Heights, CA Patch
 

Georden

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Sep 17, 2006
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Calgary, AB Canada
I think the issue is a lot of private pilots don't really make any effort to improve their skills and treat flying much like driving a car. I would bet if you look at the types of flying pilots involved in engine outs do, those that fly aerobatics, or fly in the bush or do other type of things that encourage one to push themselves and their aircraft do a lot better than those who just go for a Sunday cruise in and out of 5000' paved runways where floating 1500' down the runway isn't an issue.
 
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