Charles Wagner Flips His Lid

This appeared in the March 1998 issue of the Falco Builders Letter.

Charles Wagner

I must complain bitterly. The drawings I got showed no provision for fuel tank covers so I had to made alterations to accommodate these after the fuselage had been sheeted This was awkward and not ideal. However I copied the principal of the front tank cover for the rear. Because of this being an afterthought I made no provision for a Dzus fitting and left the cover loose.

Yesterday, my inspector asked me to run the engine up to full rpm, 2600, I did not have my headset in the aircraft nor any tools. The inspector sat in with me and we closed the hatch, ran up to the desired rpm checked the prop governor and shut down. Bloody hell! The propwash had lifted the rear fuel tank cover and we couldn't get the canopy open, the cover was at 90 degrees to the canopy.

We could get the canopy open a couple of inches and started shouting to the very few passers by and waving a red A4 notebook the inspector had taken notes in. Having no tools there was no hope of closing the flap from inside, the hinge it was rather stiff with primer. There was little point in exerting brute force on the flap, as the likelihood was that we would do a fair amount of damage without solving the problem.

I was rather worried, it was a new aircraft, the engine was hot, what would happen if we had a fire. Tim, the inspector, was not amused, I didn't ask him what he was thinking. Aircraft taxied by and we shouted and waved like maniacs. The wind was against us. A Cessna 150 went out, piloted by an acquaintance of Tim's.

We asked ourselves, Have we an emergency or have we not? We had. Reluctantly we morsed SOS on 121.5 carrier wave. Atlantic House, tracking all the North Atlantic traffic, was a hundred yards behind my hangar. Vehicles went by, we were sure, looking for the emergency and never once glanced in our direction.

We hadn't wanted to disturb Prestwick traffic, however, we changed frequency to 118.15 and gave them the dots and dashes. Sod all happened except I began to think that I might need a pee. I did not relish the thought of Tim and me pissing into the airplane before it had had its first flight. This ridiculous situation continued for over an hour and a half. We gave Atlantic House and Prestwick Tower a thorough going over.

The Cessna 150 came back. The passenger got out. We waved, we shouted, Help! And when there was no response and he walked to the clubhouse the cries changed to You, deaf, blind bastard, Help! No response. The pilot checked the aircraft over, tied down, took an age, and started walking to the clubhouse. We yelled Help! In unison, Help! I stuck my fingers thro the canopy gap and waved as best as I could. He walked on. Help! And he walked on. He's not turning into the clubhouse, is he, is he, no! he is, no he's not. The pilot walked on; he came towards us, one final Help!

We were saved. I leapt out and relieved myself on the grass at the side of the taxiway.

It seemed Prestwick Tower had got the message that something odd was happening roughly in our direction, their transmissions were being disrupted. They asked the Cessna pilot to have a look and check. He took his time. Atlantic House heard nothing because of the buildings in between and this did not become an amusing and embarrassing story in Pilot magazine.

While we were having a coffee in the clubhouse the airfield police came screeching by. People housed near the airfield, quite some distance away, on the side opposite where all the passers by were passing by had heard our cries, carried by the wind.

Alfred, make provision for these fuel tank fill flaps in earlier drawings and make sure that the rear cover closes when the canopy opens. It would be better if you had one of these fancy locking covers, like a motor bike fuel tank filler cover rather than a door.

I hope to fly within a couple of weeks or so, I have to go to Lithuania on business on Saturday for a week.

Charles Wagner
Glasgow, Scotland

Maybe you ought to complain to the designer of your specific fuel tank lid! We've always used screws, Dzus or Camloc fasteners on the access door. I agree I should detail that out for you, and have been meaning to do it, but everyone else has used a fastener on both access panels.--Scoti