|Well, what to say. I was up in Rockford and
looking to make a decision on what to do next. I decided that the
weather looked decent so I'd do some flying this evening instead of
tomorrow evening. Just a short ride - nothing long or fancy. Just to
get my feet off the surface for a bit.
Over to the airport I headed to pick up two empty fuel cans (2.5
gallons each). In goes the proper amount of pre-mix 2-stroke oil and I
headed out, cans in hand, to the fuel station. Fuel cost $16+. Five
gallons will be good for a bit better than an hour. I figure about 20
minutes of flying tonight should be about right - stretch that fuel
into two or three evenings of flying. Back to the airport I go.....
Fuel loaded and pre-flight complete I grabbed a warm coat as it was
just cool enough - I could open it up if I didn't need it - better to
grab it. It's only going to be a short flight, right? Listen to the
automated airport weather stats - broken clouds at 3,000 ft, ceiling at
9,000 ft. OK, whatever. I typically fly in the 1500 to 2500 ft range.
The sun was still being covered by the upper layer of clouds. Sunset at
8:08pm and it was just after 7pm.
Camera at the ready - Off and up I head. I should add that the camera
is the now fully functional Canon PowerShot A620 that gave me fits on
the Taiwan and Thailand trip.
It went back for warranty repair (two times - they got it right on
the second whack) and it was finally ready to be used again. The LCD
panel swings around and displays the image it should and the camera is
quiet when it turns on/off (no stripped gear noise).
I get up to 2,000 feet and start to think - those clouds really are
close - DUH - only 1,000 feet more. They are very thin and wispy and
broken - large sections with no cloud. Something I can safely fly
above. Why not....
Once above that first cloud layer I started to think about the
approaching sunset - should I stay up and wait for it? Would I have
enough fuel? Maybe this would be a good opportunity to, on purpose, run
out of fuel. I kept flying up and shooting pictures.
Click, Click, Click went the camera - fresh batteries at the ready
[which was a good thing since I took 233 photos - and I can tell ya -
it was somewhat hard to look through them and decide which would make
the cut and which would not. Forty-three did make it and are shown on
I eventually stayed and waited for the sun to appear below the 9,000
feet cloud set - and even to fully set beyond the horizon. Just about
that time the thought of intentionally running out of fuel came into
mind. Perhaps I should give the fuel tank another check. For me to
check fuel I need to look over my right shoulder. The fuel sight line
is a bit difficult to see - and depending upon the throttle setting of
the engine the carriage / fuel tank has a different tilt to it - the
gauge reads slightly differently in the air than on the ground (which
is why I would like to see where "Empty" is in actual flying conditions
and thus the desire to run-out while flying).
While looking over my shoulder - camera tucked away - I noticed that I
could not see any fuel in the sight line. Right then I looked over my
left side and there was a trail of air bubbles in the fuel line heading
to the carburetor. Before I could say - "won't be long now" the engine
sputtered once and died. Pretty much a "died with no warning" type of
No worries. I'm still up at 3,500 feet and DIRECTLY over the quiet
airport. Ground is about 950 feet. The vehicle feels a bit different
between powered and non-powered flight but nothing dramatic. The quiet
is nice! It would be a while before I came close enough to consider
landing so I set into a wide, slow left-hand turn. A slow spiral down.
With the GPS rolling down elevation numbers I flipped to the seconds
clock and timed a minute of drop - 500 feet per minute. I'll be landing
in about 5 minutes. Time another minute - yep, right at about 500 feet
So I have an engine off sink rate of about 500 fpm and from a prior
flight a 80-90% power climb rate of 167 fpm. Now I know. Still having
time to look about I took a photo or two of the non-moving motor /
The landing was fine - I practice engine out landings every so often -
so I knew what to expect. The worst part was PULLING the vehicle up to
On to the photos!
I'm in the middle of the clouds. We're looking west and the sun is
above the upper layer of clouds. About an hour from now it'll pop below
this layer and shine until it sets. The clouds, unfortunately, didn't
shine those intense shades of purples and reds.