“Powerless,” Greg’s July, 2018 Flying Carpet column

“Hey Greg! I’ve just experienced my first two engine failures—in one trip!”

Flight instructor Jim Pitman had just ferried a 1946 Ercoupe from Wisconsin to Arizona, and wanted to brainstorm what might have caused the power losses.

Okay Folks, this is one column you don’t want to miss, about pilot Jim Pitman who suffered two engine failures in one trip. FIRST watch this cockpit video all the way through and THEN read the following column to learn the details.


**Now Read Greg’s column, POWERLESS“** (Mobile-friendly version here.)

Cover Photo: Jim Pitman, with the 1946 Ercoupe.

(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)

©2018, 2023 Gregory N. Brown

If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!

3 thoughts on ““Powerless,” Greg’s July, 2018 Flying Carpet column

  1. John Townsley Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    July 29, 2018 at 14:46
    I was thumbing through my wife’s cc of the 07/18 issue of Flight Training and ran across your article titled “Powerless”. Nicely done! I found several excellent nuggets for young & old alike. You offered me seven valuable take-aways… three clearly stated and four implied:

    1) RUNWAY BEHIND (a.k.a. ‘Intersection departure’) ain’t a great resource in any plane, and it’s a particularly big liability in one I’m not intimate with;
    2) NIGHT SE, particularly over black, inhospitable terrain well separated from lighted airports is a huge act of faith;
    3) Good outcomes nearly always have an element of LUCK!
    4) Less LUCK is needed if we bring a goodly sum of PROFICIECY to bear on the problem[s] as they present;
    5) SYSTEMS KNOWLEDGE further diminishes LUCK as an element of survival … the ultimate standard of success;
    6) PRE-PLANNED flights (including ‘what if…’) are a staple of good outcomes, further diminish the need for LUCK; and
    7) The ‘STARTLE’ effect is minimized by good measure of item 1, item 4, item 5, and item 6. And yet again the element of ‘LUCK’ is minimized.

    Thanks again. I plan to use your excellent article (with my take-aways) in a conversation with my student pilot spouse, and in another conversation with several CAP pilots.

    John Townsley

    1. Many thanks, John, for your gracious comments and for sharing your valuable takeaways. Hopefully you also watched the associated video. Talk about keeping cool under pressure!

  2. There was a small amount of water in bottom of fuel tank, probably condensation from period of storage.
    Fuselage tank has a flat bottom which tends to bulge down in middle from weight off fuel.
    Water collects there and is not found there due to fuel line being at rear of tank.
    With liftoff angle of climb, water rolls to rear of tank. Causing engine to sputter.
    Nose down and engine runs again.
    Engine checks good at repeat run up.
    Same problem on second takeoff attempt.
    Mechanic not able to duplicate problem due to water being already ingested into engine.

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