Emergency Landing at Maryborough
Location: Maryborough - Queensland
Date: 25th May 2000
Earlier in the morning I had landed at the Fraser Coast showground just west of Maryborough, the show committee were keen to see a selection of Ultralight aircraft attend and put on a static display for the public attending. The show organisers had constructed a runway for the aircraft to land on the far side of the showground.
After a successful day talking to probably 400 people I decided to move the aircraft over to the main Maryborough airport overnight, rather than run the possible risk of vandals and stray fireworks at the show site. The runway had been walked a couple of times before departure and the finely mowed surface seemed in pretty good shape certainly good enough for an aircraft like the X-Air.
Throttle applied and the ground roll was happening like you would normally expect, the aircraft had just rotated on the back wheels when there was a huge bang, the aircraft left the ground and I reduced throttle from 6200 rpm to 5000 rpm to access the situation. The left hand side wheel spat was destroyed and hanging limply under the aircraft, still attached to the outer mounting bracket. It was like the spat had been put on upside down and with the main airport only several kms away I had a few minutes in transit to go over my options.
The broken spat could have been removed in flight except my X-Air is fitted with doors, the doors offer really good protection but have the disadvantage of not being able to open them in flight. My options were limited and I tried to make contact with the ground on the Maryborough CTAF frequency of 126.7, I thought if I could contact someone on the ground they could offer any assistance I needed on touchdown in case the aircraft veered off the runway. Unfortunately, whilst I could see a few planes moving around getting fuel nobody was listening in on the CTAF frequency, the next day was a public holiday in the Maryborough area and I guess everyone was making an early start for the long weekend.
I then made the decision I did not want to land alone I case of an accident and I made contact with Brisbane Centre on 124.6. Hopefully we can learn from the following events as they unfolded and it may give other pilots some options in an emergency situation.
Brisbane Centre - X-Air 231.
X-Air 231 - Brisbane Centre go-ahead.
Good afternoon Brisbane Centre, X-Air 231 overhead Maryborough Airport, left hand orbits 1000ft, Suffered damage on takeoff from Maryborough show site and request assistance on landing, 1 POB (person on board) and 1.25 hours fuel remaining.
X-Air 231 standby. After about 30 seconds.
X-Air 231 please describe damage and assistance needed at Maryborough.
Brisbane - X-Air 231, suffered damage to left hand rear wheel spat on take-off, the spat has rotated under the aircraft and will act as a skid on landing, I fear the aircraft will be uncontrollable and possibly leave the runway on touchdown.
X-Air 231 standby another 1 minute wait while going round and round
X-Air 231 Brisbane Centre
X-Air 231 - go-ahead
We have declared your situation an emergency and advised the local police who will organise emergency services at the airport for your arrival, stay airborne overhead the airport until instructed, change back to CTAF frequency for further instructions.
I now knew they were sending the cavalry, there was going to be more help than I needed, I was kind of hoping for the local grounds man to turn up and help move the aircraft if needed o-well, better to be safe than sorry I thought.
After about 5 minutes the first police car turned up followed by an ambulance, lights blazing, then another two more police cars and finally the fire brigade and the rescue squad, all I could think of was this had better be a good landing in front of all these people or I am in trouble. The emergency vehicles were assembling and getting through the airport gates when my embarrassment was further interrupted.
X-Air 231 Rescue Helicopter 6
X-Air 231 go-ahead
Afternoon X-Air 231, Rescue 6 we have a full medical team on board inbound from the North at 1500ft, 5 miles, will meet you over head the field do not land until we access the situation.
I am even getting embarrassed as I write this, now we have bloody helicopters I thought to myself ..
Rescue 6 to X-Air 231 we have you visual please stand-by
Rescue 6 had been involved in the search for someone who had fallen overboard from a trawler the night before and were returning to Harvey Bay for the evening; they made the short detour to assist if needed.
Rescue 6 X-Air 231 we are going to come along side you to visually inspect the damage, please hold course until advised.
X-Air 231 acknowledge, same heading, same height, same speed until advised.
Rescue 6 came along side and confirmed my worst fears, the spat had suffered major damage on take-off and was underneath the wheel, and they recommend landing as slow as possible.
X-Air 231 Rescue 6 - you guys are the experts at this please give me some instruction what do you recommend.
Rescue 6 - Pick the grass runway most into wind and land as slow as possible
X-Air 231 - confirming grass runway 12
Rescue 6 - we will follow you through circuit on your port side and be available if needed on touchdown.
X-Air 231 - acknowledge
Looking below at the airport to gauge where all the emergency services were I entered crosswind overhead the airport and gave the normal circuit call, fortunately the air was perfectly still by now as the time was around 16.50 and there was no other traffic in the area.
The circuit was normal and the palms a bit sweaty as I turned onto final, off with the sunnys for better vision, wipe the sweaty hands on my top, a few big breaths and all was ready lining up with the runway centerline and slow the plane down. I dragged the X-Air in over the fence at 45 knots, 10 slower than the normal approach speed, with the throttle set at 3500 rpm you can almost hang the plane in the sky just above the stall at 23 knots and this is what I hoped to do, land as slow as possible with the shortest ground roll.
The plane landed as smooth as I have ever done at about 28 knots and after the initial crunching of the spat hitting the ground and bits of spat flying off everywhere I thought to my self thats it!! all over !!. Only problem was the outer part of the spat started rotating with the wheel as it hit the ground every rotation, the wheel bolt is safety wired to the spat to stop it ever coming out in normal flight; my only problem now was the remaining spats rotation was actually un-doing the main axle bolt and at just above a running pace the wheel departed company with the plane and the aircraft veered to the left on the remaining brakes and wheel stub assembly and left a small trench about 4 meters long. Now .. Thats it - finally stopped, engine off, X-Air 231 to Rescue 6 landed and OK, doors open and out to be greeted by about 30 emergency service people.
Thats it landed safely and a quick chat to the emergency services, who took all my details to be entered into their reports etc. The few parts that departed on landing were soon collected and put back onto the aircraft which we then taxied over to the tie down area.
Lessons to be learnt .. I guess its never to be afraid to ask for help when needed, because if I had landed by myself I doubt I could of moved the aircraft from the middle of the runway without assistance, and who knows it might of ended in disaster and all that assistance was needed.
The next morning when going over the plane to check it over for transit back to Caboolture I was showing a fellow aviator the remains of my spat when he discovered what may have been the cause of the accident, the front of the spat was covered with a few streaks of blood, and his closer inspection under the fiberglass layers he pulled out what looked like reptile skin, we came to the conclusion I must of hit a Goanna !!