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Chain of No's

"NO" Story

He lived alone and only flew his wheel-ski equipped Maule Lunar Rocket within 25 miles of the farm's grass strip — just for the pure joy of it. When he died in the burning wreckage of his beloved Rocket, he had accumulated a total of about 330 hours in the air over the past 18 years — mostly alone.

But this is not a tale of a loner. It's a tale of NOs.

The pilot had obtained a Student Pilot Permit in 1977 and been issued a valid medical for private pilot privileges. But he had never completed training, and the student permit expired in 1978. He had NO pilot's licence.

There was NO record of any dual training in recent years. Never having completed training and without recent dual instruction, it's anybody's guess what degree of skill he had developed; to what degree those skills had deteriorated; or what pilot decision making skills he had ever developed.

He had left NO flight plan, flight itinerary or flight note. He was last seen on a Wednesday. The next morning a visitor to the farm found the pilot and aircraft gone. But it was not unusual for him to disappear for a few days without anyone knowing his whereabouts. So its was 10 days later before a serious search got organized. SAR almost immediately located the burned-out wreckage, only three miles north of home. It is unlikely that the delay made any difference in this case. But delays in SAR mean reduced probability of crash survival. NO flight plan means NO timely SAR response. And when SAR is finally alerted, they have NO idea where to look.

The aircraft had sustained landing and propeller damage some years previously, but the journey log contained NO reference to any repairs. Entries in the log dated December/85 and January/86 had been obliterated using "white-out" — a NO-NO. Air Regs specifically state that no person shall alter or erase an entry made in a log.

The ELT was destroyed in the post-crash fire. It had been installed under the pilot's seat — a NO-NO. That location is vulnerable to impact and fire damage. Regs require that the ELT be located and mounted so as to minimize the probability of damage by fire or crushing as a result of crash impact.

The TSB investigators found alternator damage indicative of a previous sudden engine stoppage. The journey log contained NO record.

The investigators also found that the engine had sustained extreme heat distress due to lack of lubrication. They recovered some oil at the site but suspected that, because of low oil pressure, the pilot was attempting to either return to the farm strip or to complete a forced landing in the field. The engine was very close to seizure but still operating at the time of the high speed impact. An annual inspection had been completed two flight hours before the accident and the pilot had flown at least five trips. There were NO records found that would indicate oil consumption.

Our solitary farmer is past help, but if you see any of his NOs around your flying friends, do something!

Originally Published: ASL 1/1997
Original Article: "NO" Story