“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.

The seller had kept the annual current and run the engine regularly, but hadn’t flown the plane in a few years. Following a thorough preflight inspection and engine runup, I departed Rice Lake Regional Airport (KRPD) for Storm Lake, Iowa (KSLB), where I stayed in a neat lakeside hotel.”

After waiting for fog to lift the next morning, Jim launched toward Phoenix with refueling stops at Smith Center, Kansas (K82), Dalhart, Texas (KDHT), and Belen, New Mexico (E80).

Following a slight diversion for thunderstorms, he crossed the Mazatzal mountain range east of Phoenix in darkness, “which was fine because I am very familiar with the area,” and overnighted at his home field, Phoenix Deer Valley Airport (KDVT). After 15.3 flight hours from Rice Lake, all that remained the next morning was 60 minutes to Salome Arizona. Deer Valley Tower issued Jim an intersection departure from Runway 7R.

“When I lifted off, the engine lost power and the plane settled back on the main gear. As the nose came down, the engine regained power just as I pulled the throttle to abort the takeoff.” Back at the ramp, Jim thoroughly tested the engine. Everything worked fine and having so much time in the airplane, he figured the culprit was a one-time bit of water in the fuel. Still, as a precaution he requested full runway length for his next departure…

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

Photo: Jim Pitman, with the 1946 Ercoupe. See COCKPIT VIDEO of Jim’s engine failures!

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


©2018 Gregory N. Brown

Follow Greg on Social Media!

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

2 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!

Leave a Reply