During a model turbine jet weekend Dave Wilshere was acting as an aerial spotter for a fellow pilot.
Another pilot taxied out to take off with his Scale F-15 Fighter, built over 18 months.
Pitch and roll control of this aeroplane was combined into tailerons – an arrangement very
common in aircraft of this type.
The pilot of the F15 talked through the pre take-off checks with his spotter and when
checking control direction of the tailerons said out loud “left-right” meaning the
direction in which the aircraft would move when the stick was moved in that direction.
However Dave noticed that the F15 pilot had made a gross error when setting up the controls.
The F15 pilot had actually configured his tail controls not for ‘tailerons’ but for
a ‘V tail butterfly’ arrangement – a configuration which, if the aircraft had become
airborne, would certainly have resulted in a complete loss of control and total destruction
not to mention a very serious safety hazard to those in the vicinity.
Dave stopped the F15 pilot from taking off
even though he was
that his controls were
Dave stopped the F15 pilot from taking off even though he was absolutely
adamant that his controls were correct.
After the aircraft for which Dave was spotting had landed the F15 owner came and
thanked Dave for spotting the error, stopping him from taking off and, for
certain, saving his aircraft from total destruction.
Three things saved the aircraft:
- Dave’s situational awareness. He is so finely attuned to
airfield activity that he was able to pick out a potential problem with an
aircraft whilst his attention was primarily focused on spotting for another pilot.
- Dave’s understanding of flight control systems. He was
instantly able to detect incorrect flight control movements.
- Dave’s authority. His experience of putting together, checking
and testing thousands of aircraft over the years meant that, in this situation, he
was entirely certain that the controls were wrong. This meant that he could react
with complete authority. There was no doubt and the aircraft was saved.
This is a good example of why it is so important for professional Test Pilots to
understand all of the processes and protocols that a UAV team use. It enables them
to understand where any potential weak spots might be lurking so that they can either
help to fix them or be on guard for any problems that may result from them
– particularly if they endanger safety or infringe CAA permissions.