Monday, January 30, 2006


Yellowbird Stubs Her Toe

A few days ago, as you may recall, I headed over to Bedford to meet with Captain Wilko. I arrived with one of my Silky Smooth* landings and taxied over to the terminal to meet him. We hooked up and I let him fly the Yellowbird for a while. We headed over to Gardner, where I performed a credible crosswind landing with extra Silky Smoothness and then headed back to Bedford for the day's third Silky Smooth arrival. We taxied back to the terminal where the Captain departed, and then I prepared to return home.

The Bedford flight lineI gave her a quick look over, checked the oil, and noted that the nosewheel fairing was getting dirty, but saw nothing amiss. I started up and was cleared to taxi for departure on Runway 29. As I turned onto Taxiway Echo from Juliet, I noticed that the steering was feeling a little wobbly, like the onset of a nosewheel shimmy. I danced the rudder pedals back and forth a little, feeling for any looseness while I mentally recalled the last time I had the shimmy damper filled. As I passed the Echo/Golf intersection, the nosewheel began to shimmy noticeably. I pulled back on the yoke to take some weight off the nosewheel, but the shimmy only increased. I reduced power and let her slow to a stop.

Flat I gave her a little power again, but she didn't move. I gave her some more, but she still wouldn't budge. I called ground and told them of my predicament and they cleared me to shut down and take a look outside. I shut down the engine, secured the airplane and stepped outside for a look. The strut was fine, but the nosewheel tire was completely flat. The entire episode, from the first notice of sloppiness in the steering to the worst of the shimmy, was less than thirty seconds.

Computer enhanced, but still doomed(Here's a computer enhanced close-up of the tire, only a few minutes before failure, cropped from Yellowbird's Captain Wilko portrait. Does it look a little low to you?)

Alone on Taxiway EchoI called ground again and told them that I wasn't going anywhere. They handed me off to the UNICOM frequency, and I called the FBO for a tow. While I waited, I hooked up the towbar and tried to move her to one side of the taxiway, but it was an obviously futile effort. A couple of planes behind me did 180's and headed off for clearer taxiways. One was a bizjet that nearly blew my door off as he left.

After about 15 minutes, the tow arrived with a compressed air tank. They inflated the tire and hooked up the towbar, but the tire was audibly leaking and by the time we had turned her around it was completely flat. They aired it up again, but we got no further than fifty feet before it was flat again. We had to repeat the process at least half a dozen times before we got her clear of the taxiway. They left us on an empty area of the east ramp and headed back to the hangar. Ten minutes later, the mechanic was back with the tools and the tire was removed. Yellowbird sat alone with her nosewheel fork on a wood block while I rode back to the hangar with the mechanic and the defunct tire.

At first glance, there were no obvious defects or punctures in the tire, other than the obvious damage done to the sidewalls by the wheel rims during the time spent rolling on the flat. The mechanic split the rim and removed the tire and tube. When the tube was inflated, a hole appeared in the sidewall, but it appeared to be in an area that had been noticeably distressed by the wheel rim. The only other apparent flaw in the tube was near one of the seams, but with the hole in the sidewall, he couldn't put enough pressure in the tube to see if that had been a source of the original leak.

Both the tire and tube were dead. Fortunately, they had the same size and brand in stock. Unfortunately, their price was nearly twice what I paid for the original tire only a year and a half ago. And the labor was nearly four times as much. Ahh, the joys of aircraft ownership...

My Next ProjectAnd to add injury to injury, at one point during the long routine of reinflating the tire and towing, the industrial strength towbar must have been dropped on the wheel fairing, resulting in a crack of several inches and a small hole punched almost completely through the fiberglass fairing. I didn't make an issue out of it, partially because I needed to get home, and also because the nosewheel fairing is on my list of future cosmetic fixes. It really needs to be completely stripped, dings filled, and repainted. A little bit of fiberglass repair won't add too much to that effort. I only wish I had been there when he put the tire back on (I was in the office presenting my credit card at the time) so that I could have had him leave the fairing off and stow it in the back. Now I'll have to pull the nosewheel again to get the fairing off. And the Bachelor Kitchen will see another project..

*Captain Wilko can attest to the Silky Smoothness of my landings. If he doesn't he won't get any more Yellowbird rides.


Posted by Blogger Shawn at 12:19 AM, November 30, 2006  

Yellowbird - I notice its been a while since you've posted. Did the flat nosewheel ground the Yellowbird? I hope not.

I am also a pilot and aircraft owner. I have a 1973 Skylane 182P. Recently, I started my own blog on aircraft ownership at I'm glad I found your blog as I've been looking for other aviation blogs.

Hope the Cardinal is still flying and landing well. Also hope you're getting some airtime in. I noticed last week the avgas has dropped a bit in price.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 10:54 PM, January 03, 2007  

I've been wondering about this as well, as I've always found this blog an interesting read.

Whatever happened to it?

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