Turbines, safety and complacency - RCCanada - Canada Radio Controlled Hobby Forum
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Old 10-09-2016, 01:04 PM   #1
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Turbines, safety and complacency

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I was going to leave this alone but I thought why? This is a smart topic to discuss so while I don't post often, I thought I should post this.

Our turbine engines have become incredibly reliable, we are very used to being able to simply fuel and fly without much concern. Unfortunately this has led to complacency with the operation of these engines.

At a recent event I noticed things have changed a great deal, much for the good, but some for the bad.

As mentioned our engines are reliable like crazy now days. They almost always do what we want them too. Sadly, what I witnessed (and finally said something about) is that during startup in particular a few critical aspects of the start up are being overlooked.

1. Extinguishers. I witnessed a number of starts where while extinguishers were present at the starting area, they were not within arms reach of the jet. In the case of a fire, particularly in the case of an engine seizure where fuel keeps flowing for a moment, we want to be able to get that fire out ASAP. Having to look around to where the extinguisher is, run to it, pull the pin and then use it takes precious time and could be the difference between a minor incident and a fireball.

2. Start zone safety, it always used to be a general rule that when you started a turbine you had nobody in the "blast zone", being in line with the turbine wheel or behind the jet. I witnessed a number of starts made with the tail pipe of the jet parallel to the runway, this left jet blast going into the pit area and the turbine wheel pointing directly towards the spectator area, now the spectator area was plenty far away from the start up area that even in the event of a catastrophic failure it is unlikely anything would reach the spectator area but when turned that direction it is very easy for somebody to be standing in closer proximity than they should be to the side of the airplane. On a less critical note for our safety but still an important consideration, at this field running the engine in that direction was also blowing up dirt from the ground and sending it back towards jets in the pit area.
The flight line at this event was also plenty far from the start area, and without thinking I made what I feel was a bad judgement call. I had started my bobcat multiple times with the tail pipe pointing towards the runway with pilots standing there. The P70 while blowing towards them, just didn't really have any affect, nobody seemed to notice and I didn't either. However, when I started my Olympus and ran it up to full power, the spotter that was on the flight line turned around and motioned that he was getting blasted. I didn't even think about it, it's all too easy to forget how far a jet blast on a big engine will be felt. I hopefully will never make that mistake again.

3. Monitoring during start up. Over the past few years I have seen a number of jets started with all the hatches on and the pilot just standing there and going through the start cycle. The engines are good, but they are far from perfect. Having your data terminal plugged in while start up is the safe and proper way to do things. It may allow you to catch a problem before a start up goes bad. When we had to start our engines with air, and use propane for start gas we never started anything without the data terminal plugged in. Once onboard starting gas and electric start were introduced we began getting lazy. Forgetful even. Again, I will admit to making a stupid mistake that fortunately nothing bad came out of it. Years ago I was having a great weekend flying my Kingcat with a G Booster 160+. The engine had been absolutely flawless and I started the airplane without removing the canopy, it started without fail and I flew an entire flight. Upon landing I couldn't find my data terminal, that's when I remembered I had plugged it on for shut down on my last flight and forgot to remove it from the jet before this flight. Fortunately it's flopping around inside the jet did not damage anything or cause me any issues but again, it taught me that no matter how good our engines are, there are many variables that could cause a huge problem, us being the big one!

4. The last thing I watched and realized afterwards that I too fell victim to is after start up, and everything running successfully, I would set my brakes and walk away from my jet to move extinguishers, data terminals etc. Transmitter sitting next to the jet or in my hand, it wouldn't really be all that hard to accidentally bump the throttle without realizing and those little wheels and brakes won't keep a jet at full throttle from hitting something.

I don't mean this thread to be a "the sky is falling" issue or anything like that. Safety amongst turbine modellers is very good and is part of the reason I am proud to be part of the turbine fraternity, but we all get complacent at some point it seems, maybe something very minor but if we remain vigilant in all starting procedures we minimize the risk of any real problems so lets take a minute to look back and ask ourselves, "do I really do everything according to the book and if I don't, I need to change that".
Despite turbine modellings safety record we are still sadly under the microscope by a lot of people, we don't want to "add fuel to the fire" for any reasons.

Just my opinion.
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Old 10-09-2016, 02:15 PM   #2
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Re: Turbines, safety and complacency

All excellent comments Jeremy. I seem to have more faith in my equipment then myself at times and wanting to help others help me remove stuff from around the aircraft when getting ready to taxi after start up. That's what the spotter's job is to do, is either move stuff away or hold on to the aircraft while you move things away. It's I guess just in a hurried state to get out there to give her hell.
I can relate exactly to your comments have seen it done here in Calgary and must admit have been part of the complacency.

Good write up.

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Old 10-09-2016, 03:36 PM   #3
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Re: Turbines, safety and complacency

Well said, Jeremy. I think this goes for all forms of RC as well. Complacency is our worst enemy.
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Old 10-09-2016, 05:01 PM   #4
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Re: Turbines, safety and complacency

Very good points , Jeremy..... also never hurts to rerun statements such as yours to keep us on our toes ; so to speak.
Myself , I have what I want on my telemetry to my transmitters which in fact replaces my GSU on start-up on the JM VT-80 ; but never with the hatch on.
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Old 10-09-2016, 05:13 PM   #5
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Re: Turbines, safety and complacency

Yes the telemetry was brought up on rcu as I made the same post there. The bottom line is monitoring the start is what is important and if your equipment supports telemetry then great. My engines and radio are old by comparison to much of the current stuff and I do not have that luxury. I wonder how many flame outs have happened though in the past due to not monitoring during start up where perhaps a low battery or abnormal pump voltage could have been detected. There is no rule stating you must monitor start up, but it's kind of a common sense thing in my opinion.
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Old 10-09-2016, 05:58 PM   #6
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Re: Turbines, safety and complacency

Agree with you, Jeremy. I use the gsu on my Turbo start-up as it doesn't have the "bells and whistles." of the newer ECU's. But will upgrade the ECU down the road when I need service.
Again , thanks again for the help on pulling the coil on the glow plug and showing me how it is done. found that I had to remove the copper washer as the glow plug was shorter than the burned out one.
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Old 10-09-2016, 09:49 PM   #7
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Re: Turbines, safety and complacency

All very good points, regardless of the type of propulsion. It makes me cringe when I see people in risk zones when engines are running at anything above idle, (for prop engines this is even with the prop plane forward in a 180 degree arc). The same when I see vids posted where the camera is in that same danger zone. Bad, bad habit.

I would like to add a few observations on what I may have missed with your original post. The most important is to have knowledgeable and experienced support. Things can become busy even when things go right. When quickly heading south an extra pair of eyes and hands can make all the difference. Heard the results of a hot start when the support could not activate the extinguisher till too late. NOT the time to try and figure this out.

It is the responsibility of the pilot to primarily concentrate on the craft itself. It is the support/spotter that should be there to handle anything else. This should be the method through startup to shutdown. A good spotter also knows what the pilot needs during the entire flight, in essence being able to give information as to the area or other ops that may affect the flight in any way, (other craft, wind changes and flight duration being examples of important factors that the pilot would otherwise have to check on their own).

With experience on full-size we did things this way. Any supplementary jobs were the responsibility of support staff trained in their tasks to minimize risks, (the pilot really can't exit once the engine or rotors are turning to unplug ground power, remove any other equipment, etc.). Those same support staff are experienced and able to notice and notify the pilot if anything outside their view or monitoring capability becomes a factor.

Also, starting is not the time to deal with distractions or try to police the area. It should be done beforehand. Anyone not directly involved should be advised of the risks ahead of time, (such as the high temp exhaust) and kept away.

I often support my friend with his jet ops and as a rule the extinguisher is next to me or in my hands when starting. I'm the one that moves equipment away when ready to fly, leaving the pilot to monitor the craft. I am also aware of any shut down procedures, such as fuel shutoff locations, if any electrical should be disabled.......

One other rule my friend stresses is the spotter should also be able to control the craft to landing if the pilot has lost the ability to do so, (includes knowledge of specific flight mode switch positions, etc.). IMO, with the speeds involved with turbine craft this becomes even more important.

ps. One thing I do want to question is if anyone has experienced a case excursion where any parts have exited the outer body. Saw the results of one bearing failure recently where the turbine wiped the tailpipe, breaking off one of the blades. No indication of case distortion or that blade went anywhere but out the back.
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Last edited by Cougar429; 10-10-2016 at 07:02 AM.
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Old 10-10-2016, 06:22 AM   #8
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Re: Turbines, safety and complacency

Do not put the emergency shut off valve anywhere near the turbine. If there is a fire you will get burned! Also the line before the valve may get burned and then things really get interesting. I recommend placing the valve in a separate compartment forward of the turbine.
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Old 10-11-2016, 07:04 PM   #9
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Re: Turbines, safety and complacency

I agree with everyone that safety is key. Some good points here for sure.

Though I wish we had more data from the manufacturers on start limits. As a full size turbine pilot every turbine has a start temp limit that is part of the aircraft limitations. Our engines come with no posted start limit (EGT) though this is often part of the ECU monitoring.

I have also monitored many bad starts on the GSU which was not showing an overtemp yet we have to abort the start due to flames from the tailpipe. I have also witnessed starts where everyone is focused on the GSU yet nobody is looking at the fuel leak developing.

My suggestion is that we need to keep a sharp eye and ear out while starting. There are many things to keep an eye on including fuel leaks, unusual sounds, and excessive flaming. All are signs of a potential problem that could lead to a fire, catastrophic turbine failure or an inflight problem resulting in a hull loss.

One thing I noted flying at an event this summer is that the experienced pilots are always keeping an eye out for problems and I do not mean with just their aircraft. On a couple of occasions they noted potential problems on other aircraft and may have saved the day as the owners had not noticed them. This stayed with me as it was a good lesson that we always have to be vigilant and look out for not only ourselves but everyone we fly with.

Fly safe and have fun.

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