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By Ian Brown, Editor - Bits and Pieces, EAA 657159
November 2018 - According to a Canadian Transportation Safety Board report, there were 512 post-impact fires in light aircraft between 1976 and 2002. This statistic resulted in a significant fraction of the fatalities in these accidents. Only 4 percent of accidents resulted in a post-impact fire, but they contributed 22 percent of the fatalities. As amateur aircraft builders, we owe it to our loved ones and ourselves to plan for the possibility of a fire post-impact. Here are some ideas to think about when designing, building, and flying your homebuilt.
- Have you modified a kit manufacturer’s design? Did it improve or worsen the risk of a post-impact fire?
- How robust are the fuel system plumbing and any tanks inside the fuselage?
- Do you have a means of emergency egress? This product is ideal and inexpensive. In a crash, you’re more likely to need to break away pieces of an already broken canopy than initiate the break, but having something to break open a hole is good, too.
It’s worthwhile trying to go over every last aspect of what escaping a fire while waiting for help would involve. What would you do if you went down in the middle of a remote forest, for example? Could you reach your fire extinguisher if you were upside down, suspended by your harness?
The plumbing of my Van’s RV fuel supply is very well thought out: it’s robust, and it doesn’t spill fuel in the event of a flip over. The aluminum fuel lines inside the aircraft are routed such that no fuel will overflow when the aircraft is inverted. Have you looked at your own aircraft and thought about what would happen in the event of a survivable impact?
On another safety matter, have you seen the FAA video on “Wrong Surface Landings”? I doubt that Canadian statistics would vary that much since the fundamental causes are probably similar. The majority are caused by GA aircraft in daytime VMC. One common error is the pilot reading back the instructions regarding which runway to land on correctly, but following their assumptions anyway. I have been guilty of lining up for the wrong runway, and I’ve watched other pilots do the same. Fortunately, in each case the problem was corrected early. The video shows how easily this can be done, but the consequences can be catastrophic. If you’re landing at a nontowered airfield, you’re completely on your own. Being aware of the potential risks isn’t always second nature so doing your homework is a good thing. Why did they not call the presentation “Wrong Runway Landings”? Well, some examples refer to landings on taxiways!
Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) is owned and operated by PortsToronto. It’s one of Canada’s most delightful airports with spectacular views of the city. Lack of facilities for general aviation, including aircraft tiedowns, support services, and hangar space have been identified as significant issues in the recently presented Billy Bishop Airport Master Plan. Reading the plan you will see a lot of reason for optimism for GA pilots. After the grievous affair of Meigs Field in Chicago for supposed “security reasons,” it’s nice to see that a Canadian city is capable of working to keep this iconic airfield growing.
By the way, if you’re as confused as I was by where Billy Bishop airport is, there are actually two named after him. The other one is the Owen Sound Billy Bishop Regional Airport, which is where he was born.