Mooney_Allegro

Nearly Gave up General Aviation Flying After this Incident

Recommended Posts

I have a story to convey that is very alarming for me and I'm still being haunted by what could have happened.  I've been told by many aviation experts that "I can count my blessings" I didn't have an engine fire or engine shutdown while cruising at 15,000 feet last year over rugged terrain and low IFR enroute conditions over New Mexico.  
 
On 17 October, 2018, I was repositioning my aircraft (2015 M20TN) from Atlanta (KPDK) to Las Vegas Henderson Executive Airport (KHND) with one fuel stop in Clinton, Oklahoma.  The first leg went just fine.  My fuel stop in Clinton consisted of grabbing a bite to eat at McDonalds (not many food choices in Clinton), then returning for the final leg home.   I arrived back at the airport an hour later, sumped the tanks with the 75 gallons of fuel I had pumped earlier, and I was ready to file my new IFR flight plan via ForeFlight.  I fueled my tanks especially full on this leg because of enroute low IFR weather 1/2 way to my destination, high terrain and lack of close alternate airports along the way.   
 
After takeoff in good DAY VFR conditions, I smelled 100LL fuel, which was a bit surprising, but I discounted it, since I assumed it was caused by filling the tanks as high as I could (100 gallons).  In the 2015 Mooney Acclaim Type S, normally I don't top the tanks due to the added weight for shorter flights.   In my previous 1998 Mooney, I once smelled fuel in the cabin after takeoff six months after my tanks were resealed.  The culprit was a few loose screws behind the pilot's sidewall that links to the fuel senders in the wing.  In that instance, fuel was leaking from those screws very slowly and making a blue mess behind the interior sidewall.  I ended up fixing the leak myself under direction of the "Weep No More" repair center.  That fix entailed removing the pilot's seat, removing the left sidewall, and tightening the screws carefully and cleaning the blue stains, all which I could do as a pilot/owner legally.  
 
During cruise, I made a note to contact my Mooney Service Center in North Las Vegas the following day to have the fuel smell addressed.  Again, I assumed the fuel vapor was primarily caused by a small fuel seepage from a cabin screw behind the sidewall.  
 
The fuel smell continued after two hours, so I knew it wasn't due to overfueling.  It must have been the fuel seepage into the cabin.....so I thought.   About an hour outside of Henderson Executive, while talking to Los Angeles Center, my G1000 fuel range ring all of a sudden showed I had five minutes of fuel remaining from 60 minutes I was suppose to land with.  My fuel gages still showed I would have 20 gallons remaining on landing, which is my normal reserve on such a long cross-country flight.   I discounted the G1000 fuel range ring as a malfunction, but a later review of my G1000 engine parameters database showed my fuel flow spiked from under 18 gph to 35 gph over a five minute period.    I relied on my fuel gages, burn rate, and time.  The G1000 fuel ring is not something I rely on, but is an advisory "nice to have visual display" only. 
 
I was cleared for the visual approach into Henderson Executive, made a smooth landing and taxiied to my hangar with the fuel gages showing I had 20 gallons remaining.  Since I had 32 hours on the oil and since the engine oil was still hot, I decided to do an oil change right then and there.  After uncowling the engine and draining the hot oil, I noticed the firewall, nose gear doors (inside and outside), underbelly, and parts of the engine right next to the 1600'F+ dual turbo-chargers were coated with 100LL thick blue stains.  I was in shock, because I'm super meticulous with my plane's maintenance, aircraft cleanliness, and I've never seen any leakage before like this with any aircraft I've owned in the past.   This was a very SERIOUS leak.   The only maintenance I've had done in the area was to "replace the main fuel pump" and to "reposition fuel line to prevent chafing".  This was done two years ago.  The MSC that accomplished this advised me they did not touch the fuel line in question.  
 
The next morning, I came back out to the airport to finish the oil change and to start the engine to find out where the fuel leak was located.  Under the direction of my Mooney Service Center both in Atlanta and North Las Vegas, I started the engine, let it run at 1000 RPM's and had another pilot take video of the engine during the ground run at 1000 RPM's.  We had an extensive safety briefing before the runup due to the spinning propeller.  We have video of the leak, and it was a massive leak near the top of the firewall, where the fuel transducer and main fuel line are located.  The fuel was literally gushing out extensively and spraying all over the firewall.   It was not a pretty site to see and as I said before, I'm told that it was a miracle there was no fire or engine failure while in cruise flight.  
 
The area where the leak is located is wrapped up in orange fire-sleeve materials.  About a week later, I had my MSC director of maintenance drive an hour to my hangar to diagnose the issue.  His corrective action was, "TIGHTENED FUEL LINE ON FUEL TRANSDUCER".  He found that this connection was not even finger tight.    This area is on the upper rear firewall above the turbo chargers on the TSIO-550G engine.  The fuel connection was about to let loose completely.  I was flying 4 hours in that condition with considerable fuel spraying out.  He said that this fitting is tightened from the factory and should never come loose on its own.  He also said that it's something NEVER checked on annual or 100-hour inspections, because it's not suppose to come loose.  I verified this with other leading Mooney Service Centers across the country and they advised me the same thing.....this main fuel fitting is NEVER checked on annuals.  It's wrapped up in thick fire sleeving and there's never a need to check it.  My MSC mechanic was super surprised that the plane didn't have a complete engine failure or especially a fire with the glowing red hot turbo chargers just below.  Note: This main fuel line fitting cannot be safety wired, so it relies on proper tightness.  
 
That following week, I drove to the Las Vegas FSDO office in Las Vegas and provided all of my photos to document the issue.  They were VERY interested and directed me to submit all of my documentation online, which I did.  Their conclusion was that this seemed like an isolated case and it hasn't been reported in the past.  The purpose of visiting the FAA was not to point any fingers, but to document the issue and perhaps prevent this from occurring to someone else.  If it happenend to me, there's a good chance it will happen to someone else.  
 
So the moral of the story is:  IF YOU SMELL FUEL IN THE CABIN, LAND AND HAVE IT CHECKED OUT BY A MECHANIC.  PLEASE DON'T DELAY!  I could have easily ended up a statistic in this case and possibly the NTSB would have never known what happened after their investigation since the plane would have most likely burned up after a forced landing in the rugged mountains or rough desert floor.   
 
At every annual, I will direct my mechanic to remove the fire sleeving from this area and check the security of the fuel line on the fuel transducer.   After my incident, the MSC advised me they will start checking this on all TSIO-550G engines from now on.  
 
Another tip is to always keep the engine bay and wheel wells super clean, so that in the event there's a new leak of some sort, you'll spot it immediately.  I learned this years ago while flying corporate aircraft.  

FCC01FC6-7C7C-4ECB-99CB-A23AD0DEC21E.jpeg

59CFEDF7-76BA-4963-AC03-9FD0C27637AA.jpeg

BA829EE9-19D4-46DE-9570-51973636577F.jpeg

9FABF7DE-4217-40BB-B2CC-9BEDB2C772B8.jpeg

8DFAF8F7-BFC5-4B23-93A7-29CCA5D16085.jpeg

DB815D1B-02A4-4E3A-BB28-05688D1D99D6.jpeg

8A86AB86-C432-4FC3-A24E-95EB58731148.jpeg

63DDFD98-77B1-4BCA-B58D-E8BC2398D03E.jpeg

A4F926E2-CDF2-49D9-8D1D-1DCC8C6E5DC1.jpeg

2183657D-47A6-4A84-B070-760DDBE97DB1.jpeg

91AF6843-F69E-4021-9E7D-FD24108CD7DE.jpeg

Edited by Mooney_Allegro
Added text for clarification & accuracy
  • Like 15

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*Members that donate $10 or more do not see advertisements*

Rereading this:

" That following week, I drove to the Las Vegas FSDO office in Las Vegas and provided all of my photos to document the issue.  They were VERY interested and directed me to submit all of my documentation online, which I did.  Their conclusion was that this seemed like an isolated case and it hasn't been reported in the past.  The purpose of visiting the FAA was not to point any fingers, but to document the issue and perhaps prevent this from occurring to someone else.  If it happenend to me, there's a good chance it will happen to someone else.   "

Since the FSDO is failing their job.   do you have better pictures of the fuel leak?   Your firesleeves are put on with a ty wrap.  Which means that is not factory.   Someone else has messed with the fitting.

Have any fuel lines or oil lines been replaced?   Check your log book

 

 

Edited by Yetti
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
35 minutes ago, Mooney_Allegro said:

The purpose of visiting the FAA was not to point any fingers, 

Wow! You are lucky to be alive! Do point fingers! Someone doesn’t know what they’re doing and will surely kill somebody!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, RLCarter said:

The moral of the story is very true, 

I agree with the if you smell fuel stop, but the moral of this story is there a maintenance induced failure.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Using a stainless screw clamp around wire bundles is not cool either.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, PTK said:

Wow! You are lucky to be alive! Do point fingers! Someone doesn’t know what they’re doing and will surely kill somebody!

In my experience the FSDO wants to see 3-4 such incidence before they get interested.

-Robert

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
42 minutes ago, Yetti said:

do you have better pictures of the fuel leak?   Your firesleeves are put on with a ty wrap.  Which means that is not factory.   Someone else has messed with the fitting.

I don't know why some of the photos are not in the correct orientation as they are on my phone when uploaded to this site.  Sorry, no better photos.  I do have a video showing the fuel spraying out all over the firewall.   As far as maintenance done in the past, a condition of purchasing the plane was that the fuel pump be replaced with an overhauled unit (due to Richard Simile's brand new Acclaim crash in Lakeland, FL back in 2015 at Sun 'n Fun).  Richard's plane was only one serial number away from mine.  My logbook entry has the new fuel pump listed and also "repositioned fuel line to prevent chafing", done back in 2016.  The MSC that accomplished those tasks stated that they never touched the fuel line in question.   The logbook has been checked.  No fuel lines or oil lines have been replaced.  Only a replacement fuel pump was installed at purchase as a condition of purchase and repositioning of a fuel line to prevent chafing.  That's it.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

" At every annual, I will direct my mechanic to remove the fire sleeving from this area and check the torque on the main fuel line.   After my incident, my MSC in Georgia advised me they will start checking this on all TSIO-550G engines from now on.   "

Nope that is not how it is done.

Best course is to replace all the oil and fuel lines with the fancy brown internal firesleeved hoses.   Call PHT hoses in Tulsa.

You don't "retorque" hoes fittings.  It will ruin the fitting if you move them around.  Best is to install them properly the first time.   It is good practice to use your fingers to make sure you can't unscrew them.

This is a fuel transducer on the firewall.  Engine does not matter.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, Mooney_Allegro said:

I don't know why some of the photos are not in the correct orientation as they are on my phone when uploaded to this site.  Sorry, no better photos.  I do have a video showing the fuel spraying out all over the firewall.   As far as maintenance done in the past, a condition of purchasing the plane was that the fuel pump be replaced with an overhauled unit (due to Richard Simile's brand new Acclaim crash in Lakeland, FL back in 2015 at Sun 'n Fun).  Richard's plane was only one serial number away from mine.  My logbook entry has the new fuel pump listed and also "repositioned fuel line to prevent chafing, done back in 2016.  The MSC that accomplished those tasks stated that they never touched the fuel line in question.   

Well you have a 5 year old plane with two errors that an amateur mechanic spotted within 30 seconds.   Someone has not been doing you right.   Someone with more experience working on the newer planes will be along to spot more errors.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You don't want to play around with the torque every annual. Just put torque paint on it and inspect every annual. I have torque paint on all my fittings. So far none have moved.

 

-Robert

  • Like 8
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, RobertGary1 said:

You don't want to play around with the torque every annual. Just put torque paint on it and inspect every annual. I have torque paint on all my fittings. So far none have moved.

 

-Robert

The mechanic who discovered the fitting was loose didn't re-torque the fitting, he just tightened it with a wrench.  I apologize for saying the torque needed to be checked at every annual.  I wish I had the experience to know what is right and wrong when looking at an engine.  I'm not a mechanic.  The only thing I'm competent to do on an engine is an oil change and check for leaks/chaffing.  

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Mooney_Allegro said:

The mechanic who discovered the fitting was loose didn't re-torque the fitting, he just tightened it with a wrench.  I apologize for saying the torque needed to be checked at every annual.  I wish I had the experience to know what is right and wrong when looking at an engine.  I'm not a mechanic.  The only thing I'm competent to do on an engine is an oil change and check for leaks/chaffing.  

When they put the torque paint on it ask them to show it to you. You'll be able to check it anytime you have the desire to remove the cowl. Pretty easy to check; something I do just out of habit anytime the cowl is off.

Random Google image example..
https://images.app.goo.gl/U6rxVibptzJpbDLe9

-Robert

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, RobertGary1 said:

When they put the torque paint on it ask them to show it to you. You'll be able to check it anytime you have the desire to remove the cowl. Pretty easy to check; something I do just out of habit anytime the cowl is off.

Random Google image example..
https://images.app.goo.gl/U6rxVibptzJpbDLe9

-Robert

Perfect, thanks for the suggestion and photo.  I've seen torque paint on I believe the major oil fittings.  Is torque paint on all the fuel and oil fittings?  Is that standard?  If I remember correctly, sometimes I've seen cracks on some of the torque paint.  I'll have to recheck the engine and look for that.  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

David, hard to speculate what the cause was here, but I tend to agree with Yeti, and believe this was not borne at the factory this way. In fact, new Ultras are about 3# heavier because of all the torque seal used on fittings, control surfaces, etc. Sure glad it didnt end up badly for you, my friend.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sadly no matter how well trained or how well intentioned the technician is things still can and do go wrong.  None get out of bed thinking I’m going to screw up at work and kill someone as a result of my actions today.

From the TN manual here are the torques.

Clarence

BD1FF612-FE62-40AD-9D30-FDAE9D38211A.jpeg

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, mike_elliott said:

David, hard to speculate what the cause was here, but I tend to agree with Yeti, and believe this was not borne at the factory this way. In fact, new Ultras are about 3# heavier because of all the torque seal used on fittings, control surfaces, etc. Sure glad it didnt end up badly for you, my friend.

Thanks Mike.  I'm really glad to hear that it didn't come out of the factory like this.  I just had flashbacks from Richard's crash and now this new crash in AZ, so it's been making me think a bit more about maintenance practices.  That fitting was never something I ever thought about until last October.   At the various maintenance facilities I've been to in the last 4 years, it's a constant theme from management....."we are having a hard time getting qualified people, and the experienced people are retiring".   It's putting me on pins and needles everytime I take my plane in for an annual.  There's been too many issues I've seen on my plane where things have not been put back correctly, and by chance, nothing bad has happened.   Thanks for your concern.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 minutes ago, Mooney_Allegro said:

Thanks Mike.  I'm really glad to hear that it didn't come out of the factory like this.  I just had flashbacks from Richard's crash and now this new crash in AZ, so it's been making me think a bit more about maintenance practices.  That fitting was never something I ever thought about until last October.   At the various maintenance facilities I've been to in the last 4 years, it's a constant theme from management....."we are having a hard time getting qualified people, and the experienced people are retiring".   It's putting me on pins and needles everytime I take my plane in for an annual.  There's been too many issues I've seen on my plane where things have not been put back correctly, and by chance, nothing bad has happened.   Thanks for your concern.

To be honest with you that is why I started doing my own work, even when I have to be under supervision. Even at the factory service centers I have had several situations that could have been disastrous over the last 20 years. With me doing it and someone else watching its also an extra set of eyes. Kind of like packing you'r own chute.

-Robert

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How many young people reading these pages would want to pursue a career in aviation?  Look at the outright distain people here have for the trade.

Many trades and careers have far higher pay scales, the lack of available talent is a now is a result of this.  How many posters race to the bottom for pricing then complain about the outcome? 

Clarence

  • Like 11

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First, super glad you're able to tell the story this way with no injuries and an intact airplane.

Next, thanks a ton for sharing, with your MSC, with the FSDO, and with us.   Always good to hear about stuff like this.

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, M20Doc said:

How many young people reading these pages would want to pursue a career in aviation?  Look at the outright distain people here have for the trade.

Many trades and careers have far higher pay scales, the lack of available talent is a now is a result of this.  How many posters race to the bottom for pricing then complain about the outcome? 

Clarence

Last annual, the IA said "You pilots say everything is fine with the plane"  My response "I am paying you to find something wrong and let's fix it."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thanks Mike.  I'm really glad to hear that it didn't come out of the factory like this.  I just had flashbacks from Richard's crash and now this new crash in AZ, so it's been making me think a bit more about maintenance practices.  That fitting was never something I ever thought about until last October.   At the various maintenance facilities I've been to in the last 4 years, it's a constant theme from management....."we are having a hard time getting qualified people, and the experienced people are retiring".   It's putting me on pins and needles everytime I take my plane in for an annual.  There's been too many issues I've seen on my plane where things have not been put back correctly, and by chance, nothing bad has happened.   Thanks for your concern.
I need to get paid to learn from you again David :) One of the best trainings ever!!

Sent from my Pixel 2 XL using Tapatalk

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, RobertGary1 said:

You don't want to play around with the torque every annual. Just put torque paint on it and inspect every annual. I have torque paint on all my fittings. So far none have moved.

 

-Robert

We have a winner.  This^^^^^! Torque and paint with mechanic’s lacquer. Easy visual anytime you please.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.