• Simsbury Fly-In 2019

    Simsbury Fly-In 2019

    With An Unexpected Ending...

    By Nels Anderson

    Ever have one of those days? Or weekends? Where things just go wrong. Well I guess I just did, though after an event each day that I had been eagerly anticipating. Even webmasters have to get away from in front of the computer sometimes...

    One of my joys outside of flying is old cars. On Saturday was my one vintage Land Rover event of the year, "Metal Dash Weekend", where I meet up with a bunch of like-minded souls and even get my 1963 Series IIA 109 Station Wagon off road a bit. It was a fun day, lots of driving, good food and an easy trip home. Until sitting at a traffic light only a few minutes from my destination the truck stopped and refused to start again.

    AAA to the rescue and a ride home from a friend completed a long day, though hardly how I wanted it to end.

    Sunday was to be all aviation. My friend Bill wanted to attend the Simsbury Fly-In in Connecticut and I was going to ride along with him in his Grumman Tiger. This event is hardly world-famous like Oshkosh but is pretty amazing for what it is. This little country airport with only a 2200 foot runway attracts over 100 planes, 700 classic cars and some 10,000 people. This year they also had 25 food trucks to feed everyone. How they do this with all volunteers I don't know.

    I've been there before, in the Land Rover, but never flew in. It's busy enough that there is a "procedure" and Bill and I agreed that having two pilots (and two sets of eyes) in one plane would be a good idea. Well yes, it was pretty crazy getting in, with ATC vectoring us all over the place before turning us loose to finally approach and land. But we made it, got tied down and walked to the show.

    No Blue Angels or Thunderbirds here, but some interesting stuff on the ground. Ever heard of Kaman? A local Connecticut company that builds rather unique helicopters, with dual, counter-rotating rotors and no tail rotor. You'd swear the blades are going to hit. They had on display their "UAT" which I had to look up and turned out to mean "Unmanned Aerial Truck". Unmanned? Apparently so, or at least it's an option as there was a normal cockpit in it too.

    Kaman K-Max UAT helicopter

    Remember Microsoft Flight? The default aircraft from that ill-fated sim was present and on display. Though it apparently has its faults, it's still a pretty cool looking plane and who wouldn't want to be able to land on water and ground?

    Icon A-5

    One of the more interesting flying displays was the AR1 gyrocopter. Kit built and powered by a Rotax engine, this thing is really maneuverable. Though not exactly practical for travel it does look like it would be fun to fly.

    AR1 Gyrocopter

    There were other interesting planes on display, but it was hot and sunny and by early afternoon we were ready to head home. So back to the place, squeeze onto the runway and off we went.

    Warbird rides

    Bradley Approach gave flight following, sending us north around some of their airspace before turning us on course. We were still hot so decided to climb higher to get some cooler air. Over the Connecticut River, past Springfield and into Massachusetts.



    That did not sound good.

    Though nothing obviously changed, the windshield began to mist up, and soon get worse. We were obviously getting covered with oil. Bill declared an emergency and asked for a heading to the nearest airport. We were quickly heading towards Westover (KCEF) which could not have been a better choice given it was huge, having been built as a B-52 base and now housing C-5's.

    We had no forward visibilty with the heavy oil covering the windshield, but the engine seemed to be running surprisingly normally. ATC turned us over to Westover tower who continued to provide directional guidance. Soon we could see the 1000 foot overrun by looking down through the side windows and knew the 11,598 by 301 foot runway was straight in front. Bill made a good landing and we were soon stopped, out of the plane and surrounded by fire trucks.

    Engine failure

    Engine failure

    So, what happened? The left front cylinder had broken off. It was visible just looking through the air holes in the cowling and more obvious once the cowling was opened up. As for why it happened, we'll probably never really know.

    Eventually the plane got towed to the GA end of the field, probably 2 or 3 miles of towing at an excruciatingly slow speed. We were able to get ahold of a friend and get a ride the rest of the way home so yes, we got right back into a light plane and went flying again.

    Exterior oil mess

    Windshield covered in oil

    So, what can be learned? Probably not much. It's not the first time a light plane has made an emergency landing. In reviewing everything the only thing we would have changed would have been to fly more directly right at the airport. The tower put us on a base to final that was more appropriate for the C-5's they are used to directing.

    So two events, two vehicle failures, twice needing a ride home from friends. Think I'll stay home for a while! How as your weekend?

    1. DominicS's Avatar
      DominicS -
      Thanks for sharing the story Nels, that was some day you guys had (glad you made it back safely in the end)!

      I'm afraid my weekend can't really compare with yours...I guess I need to live a little more dangerously

    1. avallillo's Avatar
      avallillo -
      You two did a good job of handling that emergency. Kudos!
    1. Cactus0521's Avatar
      Cactus0521 -
      Great story Nels!
    1. scottb613's Avatar
      scottb613 -
      Hi Nels,

      Hah - I was a mere 50 miles away at the flyin at Windham Airport (last weekend) - rode along with a buddy in his Comanche - as my bird is getting the 2020 ADS-B update...

      Had the same Kaman helicopter - very cool - in addition to the meshed blades - they also appear to turn much slower than conventional helicopter blades...

      That's an exciting end to your trip with a good outcome - some major work - but an in flight failure like that is covered by insurance - right ? Just replaced my engine due to making metal at annual - 750 hours - and it all came out of my pocket - ouch...

      Glad it worked out for you...

    1. kalizzi's Avatar
      kalizzi -
      Wow, hair-raising, especially the last picture showing the windshield completely covered in oil. Glad you guys made it through this safely.

    1. Nels_Anderson's Avatar
      Nels_Anderson -
      Sadly, this is not covered by insurance, at least not the actual engine failure. It appears some parts of the repairs will be but not all.
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