Thursday, January 1, 2009

In case of fire, keep cranking!

Plane: Cessna 150
Route: 40I-FGX-40I
Weather: Clear below 20,000 feet, 34 degrees, wind 160 degrees at 11 knots

I've certainly been learning the hard way lately. First the whole almost starting the plane with the prop over gravel thing a couple weeks ago and now my first encounter with a carb fire. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's not as scary or damaging as it probably sounds. Basically when you prime the engine (as you do when it's cold out) some fuel can leak out of the cylinders and drop onto the air intake from the carburetor. That's not a problem unless the engine backfires, as they can be prone to do when cold, and ignites the fuel on the filter.

Alas, my engine backfired and there were soon flames up front. But we're taught to keep cranking the engine if that happens since it will suck the flames in and put the fire out. And just to let you all know - it works just as advertised. Long story short, I had to replace the filter since it burned through in the middle but otherwise we looked the engine over and everything checked out ok. Then we thoroughly preheated the engine with a kerosene heater and started it up normally. I've heard most carburated planes have had at least one fire (and trainers likely more) so I suppose I get to add my initials to 60338's long history. Facetiousness aside, it was a essentially a non-event and illustrates why you should always have a spotter when starting a cold plane in the winter. Chalk up another learning experience.

The winds were strong - 60 knots ground speed there, 120 knots back!

With all that out of the way, it was time to actually get in the plane and fly. I had intended to fly me and Gina down to Fleming-Mason Airport (FGX) in Flemingsburg, Kentucky to log some cross-country time. Actually I planned to fly there for my second solo XC back in October, but the airport was closed while they repaved the runway. It would be a little tight, but the planned time enroute would get us back around 2 and that left enough time for Gina to get to work at 3. The winds aloft were moderate and from the South so I knew we'd be cooking on the way back - more on that shortly. I fueled up, started up, and then taxied us down to the end of Runway 8 for the pre-takeoff checks. Everything looked great so I took the runway and made a smooth crosswind takeoff with a departure to the South.

A relatively close plane behind us near Mount Orab, Ohio

This was my first opportunity to really put the new Lowrance 600c GPS to use and I plugged in the route and used it as a backup to my charts as we navigated towards Kentucky at 3,500 feet. More than anything, it was awesome to have the ground speed readout. I compared what was on the GPS to my calculated speed (based on the winds aloft forecast) and saw they matched up nicely. My calculations came out to 56 knots and the indicated speed was 58. So along we went, passing by some small lakes and towns on the way. At one point near Mt. Orab another plane was flying in circles (we spotted them around 5 miles away) and I made a couple small turns that hopefully made it easier for them to see us. They came within about a half-mile at one point but were directly behind us so I sure hope they had us in sight.

Flying over Brown County Airport (GEO) in Georgetown, Ohio

We continued South into the headwind, traveling between 58 and 63 knots across the ground. Our route took us directly over top of Brown Co. Airport (GEO) and I snapped the above photo. I only heard and saw a few planes during the entire trip and opted not to contact ATC for flight following and just enjoy the sights as we squawked one two zero zero. Gina started to take quite a few photos as we approached the Ohio/Kentucky border (a.k.a. the Ohio River) since the terrain becomes more hilly and is quite nice to look down upon. We crossed the river just East of Maysville, Kentucky and what appears to be their plethora of power plants.

Flying over the Ohio River on the way to FGX

Flying over the Ohio River just Northwest of Maysville, Kentucky

The William H. Harsha Bridge over the Ohio River in Maysville, Kentucky

I spotted the airport around 10 miles out and began a descent to 1,900 feet. The air got slightly bumpy below 2,500 and I entered the pattern on a 45 to a left downwind for Runway 7. The winds only slightly favored this runway since we essentially had a 90 degree direct crosswind. But coming in from the North it made for an easier entry to the pattern and, being the only plane there, I had no reason not to. In an effort to keep our trip short, I decided to do a touch and go and brought us in for a pretty smooth landing - not bad for the direct crosswind. Carb heat off, full throttle, flaps up, and off we went into the sky once again. Gina thought the touch and go was a lot of fun too. Climbing out we already were indicating over 90 knots ground speed while climbing at 65 knots indicated!

A short video of our approach and touch and go at FGX

Departure from Fleming-Mason Airport

Jeremiah Morrow Bridge on I-71 just South of Stewart

Once level, the venerable 150 was cooking across the ground at 120 knots. Needless to say, I was thoroughly impressed with the little bird. Thirty knots directly on the tail does make most small planes fun! What was a little over an hour trip down would turn out to take only about 30 minutes on the way back. As I descended from 4,500 down to 1,800 a few miles out from Stewart I hit 136 knots ground speed - which is about 155 mph! The ground was really zooming by and looked even faster as we got closer. Fun times all around. Entering the pattern, I got to make another direct crosswind landing and touched down softly after a small bounce. Not perfect, but it felt pretty good. Other than the excitement in getting the plane started, it turned out to be a beautiful day to fly and finally log some XC hours again. Happy New Year!

Flight Track: Google Earth KMZ File
Today's Flight: 1.9 hours
Total Time: 83.7 hours


  1. Yikes! Glad the fire didn't turn out worse. :) Cool video and pics.

    Happy New Year!

  2. I didn't learn engine fire procedures until I took a couple of flights in FL...all the planes I've flown thus far are fuel injected. I'm glad to hear the EP works as advertised.

    Nice pictures and video...that was a great landing, right on the centerline. Nice groundtrack too, looking back towards the field.

  3. All I did was pull the carb heat knob out of the dash in my plane, at least I didn't set it on fire.

  4. Michelle/Paul,

    Thanks and glad you liked all the media... I wouldn't call it the greatest landing but given the crosswind I was happy.


    Smart ass! Glad to hear I'm not the only one who's messed up the carb one way or another tho... :P

  5. Nice Video and write-up. Glad to hear the EP went as planned and all worked out.