Blinded on Final

The entire windshield became clouded over and I had no forward vision at all


I guess you would call me a senior pilot although I have been flying for just 11 years. I learned to fly at age 66 and got my instrument rating at age 72. I share a Cessna 182 with a friend in Florida and a Cessna 172 with a friend in Cleveland. This story is about the 172.

Last spring triple two Juliet was presented to the maintenance shop at Cuyahoga County for its annual inspection. No major problems were reported, with a few small items listed and corrected. All AD requirements met, the plane returned to our hangar.

The aircraft was not flown for several weeks because weather and personal reasons kept us from flying. But finally at the end of April I was able to make some time for a test flight.

Like most owners, it has been my habit to fly the airplane around the pattern a few times and stay close to the airport after an annual inspection. I met my partner on a Monday evening to fly some touch and goes and test the airplane. We made a thorough preflight, during which we decided to repair the seal on the windshield using a recommended clear silicone caulk.

This took longer than expected, and my friend was not able to stay for the test flight. I taxied out to runway 5, did the standard run-up and was cleared for a touch and go, making right traffic.

The airplane was running well. The first landing was very nice and the second landing was a kiss onto the runway. Not bad, I thought, considering I hadnt flown this airplane for several months.

Flying around to make landing No. 3, I made the normal climb to pattern altitude at 1,900 feet and flew the circuit. I notified the tower that this landing would be full stop and was cleared to land.

As I turned base to final at a standard rate, the right side of the windscreen clouded over with a clear material of some kind. I instantly concluded the silicone did not harden and realized I was going to have an awful mess to clean off the windscreen when I landed.

As I leveled out of the turn in line with the runway the entire windshield became clouded over and I had no forward vision at all. The material on the windscreen was clear, but the wind was making it ripple so it was as if I was looking through a frosted window.

Training teaches to fly the airplane first, and that became clear in my mind. I thought, oh well, this is just like IFR on short final. I knew I was lined up with the runway, the DG was at 050 degrees, the wings were level, the descent rate was stable at 400 feet per minute.

I was set up for a normal landing and I had just done two landings. I was at my home airport and knew the visual cues out the side windows. I told myself, Land the airplane. (Sounds cool, but lots of adrenaline was flowing.)

I found an area about the size of a clenched fist in the lower left corner of the windscreen that was reasonably clear, and looking through that spot I managed to make a nice landing. I called the tower, told them that the silicone we had used had blown onto the windscreen and that I had no forward vision.

The controller gave me progressives back to my hangar. I shut the aircraft down in normal sequence and sat there for a minute thinking about the mess I had to clean up. I exited the aircraft just as the line personnel arrived with the tractor for the push back into the hangar.

Then it hit me. Holy mackerel, the airplane was coated with clear, fresh oil. I freaked when I saw it. The line person checked the dipstick, and it came up dry. The line person radioed for a mechanic, who turned out to be the mechanic who did the annual. The airplane was towed to the shop.

The oil was obviously coming from the front of the engine, and we traced it to a leak from the plug that seals the center of the crankshaft. There is an AD that requires the core of the crankshaft to be inspected, and complying with this AD was the beginning of the problem.

I was told a convex plug is placed into the crankshaft end then hit with a punch to flatten out the convex configuration. The flattening creates the seal to hold back the oil. Obviously, the seal was not made properly.

All the oil forced its way out and into the slip steam, completely covering the windscreen. It was fortunate that I had chosen to make the test flight, because where better to have an incident such as this happen than on short final at your home airport.

The FBO accepted responsibility. We have taken the insurance money and applied it to a remanufacture of our engine at the Lycoming factory. I hope my experience will remind all pilots to be super cautious with their aircraft after it has been in maintenance.


Unlucky 13
I fly for a skydive company out of an uncontrolled, but very busy, airport. Memorial Day was busy, as expected, and I was taking my 13th trip up to altitude (a coincidence?) in a 1956 Cessna 182.

It was late in the day and the air traffic had died down considerably. In fact, I didnt hear anyone call in on the frequency during the entire time I spent taxiing and taking off.

My usual procedure is to fly the initial climb out in the traffic pattern, so in case of an emergency Ill be within gliding distance of the runway. When I was abeam the numbers on downwind my altitude was 3,000 ft msl, 1,000 feet above the traffic pattern altitude. At this point I still had not heard any traffic call in, so I switched over to the approach frequency.

At about 3,200 msl I began a left turn (about 1 mile west of the runway) and happened to transfer my gaze toward the ground just as a Cherokee came flying underneath from the opposite direction, no more than 100 feet below us. Some of the people in the plane said it looked even closer than that.

I never saw him until he was already past us, and I have a feeling he didnt see us either, judging from the fact that his flight path didnt change as he flew through the airport area.

Thinking back, I realized I didnt announce my position at any time after taking off. With the radio silent and already above pattern altitude, I didnt think it necessary. Its possible the other pilot felt the same way. Both of us failed to announce our positions when at a low altitude and in the vicinity of an airport.

For my part, I also realized the landing light was not on, which is foolish. When flying skydivers, I have determined to at least wait until reaching a higher altitude and contacting approach before turning it off. The same goes for transitioning the airspace around an airport at low altitudes. Hey, the landing light is there and Im going to use it.

And finally, added caution should be used during a climb when visibility over the nose is nil. If I hadnt started a turn, this near miss may have been head on. In fact, I probably would have never seen him and wouldnt be writing this right now. Food for thought.


Draining Flight, but Oils Well
We flew from the Los Angeles basin to a fly-in at Sedona, Ariz., and settled into a routine of hangar flying with the other members of our group.

The next morning, we planned a short 20-mile hop to Cottonwood for a bomb-drop and spot landing competition. During the preflight, we noticed that the oil quick-drain was lying on the bottom of the engine compartment. There was no evidence of a leak anywhere.

One of the members, an IA and A&P, took a look. He said that because the rest of the valve was seated, it shouldnt be a problem because the oil pressure would keep it in place.

After the competition, the mechanic told us in the strongest terms that we should find the proper oil pan plug as soon as possible. We scoured the small airport but couldnt find one. We asked him if wed be OK to return to Sedona, and he said yes, but to watch the oil pressure carefully.

Once at Sedona, we renewed our quest for the plug. We got lucky and found that one of the mechanics at the FBO happened to have one. We asked how much, and he smiled and said, Have a nice day.

We gathered up as many discarded oil bottles as we could find and returned to the parked bird. We removed the broken drain valve and caught the old oil in the empty bottles, trying not to make a mess of ourselves, the ramp and the airplane. We installed the new plug, safety-wired it and refilled the sump. Even after the sloppy oil drainage, we determined wed only lost half a quart.

During this adventure, the club was hosting a maintenance seminar in the terminal building. We cleaned up and marched over to the seminar, interrupted it, and deposited the broken valve on the front table. We told everyone that if they had one of these things installed, theyd better replace it with a better model as soon as possible.

We dont know when it broke, but we had just flown over some rugged country coming here. Our luck was strong, because were still here to tell about it.


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