Propellers can kill and every year they do. Propeller awareness is an important part of threat and error management (TEM),the threat is the propeller and the error is complacency and ignorance.
Get into the habit of always treating the arc of the propeller as live and stay out of it, it’s a habit that could save not only your life but that of your passengers too.
You don’t need to touch the propeller during the walk around, you don’t need to pull it or caress it, just check it’s there, look at it but stay away from it. There is an exception to this if you flying an aircraft with a rotary or inverted engine, which can, if the engine is worn, allow engine oil to leak into the bottom cylinders in a rotary engine and all cylinders in an inverted engine. This leaking can cause an effect known as hydraulicing which can seriously damage the cylinder head should the engine be started with oil in the cylinders. To check there is no oil in the cylinders the propeller is pulled through on the first flight of the day, this pulling through should only be attempted by someone who has had specific training in this procedure and has taken the relevant safety precautions.
This guy in the video below nearly had his arm off after making totally unnecessary compression checks on this horizontally opposed engine. Remember you are not doing a C of A inspection, you’re doing a pre flight inspection!
Do you also really need to pose for a photograph standing in the arc of the propeller, you often see instructors doing this, again totally unnecessary and it also sends the wrong message to students, passengers and other pilots. Would you stand in the middle of a road to have your picture taken?
The propeller of this DC3 came through the cockpit and killed the captain after he caught the runway edge while trying to be clever by holding the tail off for longer than usual and loosing directional control.
This accident report highlights the dangers of worn magneto switches
Beagle B121 Series 1 Pup, G-AXPM -Panshanger-22 April 2011
Following a 50-hour check, the aircraft’s ignition switch was left in the RIGHT position, with no key in the switch, due to the use of an incorrect key. During the next pre-flight inspection the pilot perceived (he didn’t check) that the ignition switch was in the OFF position. As he turned the propeller by hand, as required by the aircraft’s EXTERNAL INSPECTION checklist, the engine started and ran at full power. The aircraft broke free of its tie-downs, struck a parked aircraft and crashed into an earth embankment. Safety action has been taken concerning the content of the aircraft’s flight manual and service manual checklists.
Beagle B121 Series 1 Pup, G-AXPM 12-11.pdf (1,780.08 kb)
This is a frightening accident that once again reminds us of the danger of propellers. In the above case the aircraft manual called for priming of the engine by ensuring the mags were off, setting full power and mixture full rich, then turning the prop over by hand. Anybody who ever did this must have a death wish and this procedure in the manual should never have been approved as it defies common sense. The CAA are publishing an amendment to this manual.
You can never be sure a mag is not live so if you need to turn the prop over you MUST ensure the mixture is in IDLE CUT OFF but be aware the engine could still fire, which is enough to take your arm off. NEVER EVER turn a prop over unless you have been trained in the procedure and the aircraft is securely chocked with the brakes on and mixture ICO.
Other rules and advice are:
Always do a dead cut check on the mags before shutting an engine down.(to ensure you have not got a live mag)
Remember that key ignition switches wear out, which is probably what happened with the Pup as you could get the key out even though one of the mags was actually on!
A friend of mine flew a Rallye from Long Marston airfield. As he was taxying out he got a mainwheel stuck in a drainage channel. Without stopping the engine he pulled the canopy back and tried to vacate the aircraft to see what was wrong. As he stood on the wing the headset he had forgotten to take off pulled him off balance and he fell forward into the running prop. The prop sliced him up the groin and took his arm cleanly off.
A Cessna Skymaster (‘Push Pull’ Twin) parked on the apron at Liverpool, for some reason the pilot asked the passenger to vacate the aircraft before he shut down. It was at night and she did not see the rear propeller running and walked into it and was instantly killed.
A young child was excited to see her father, who owned the engineering facilities at the hangar, arrive back from a flight. She ran out to the aircraft to greet him and straight into one of the running propellers and was instantly killed.
A ground handler at Birmingham was severely injured when he walked into the propeller of a departing turboprop aircraft.
A ground handler at Edinburgh accidentally ran forward with the tug into the revolving propeller of a F27 that was just about to taxy, he was instantly killed and the engine was pulled off the F27 wing!
I was just about to start the engine at Shobdon after refuelling, my hand was on the key when I heard a voice say, “I will just push you back a little bit further”! I looked up to see a PPL student, with both hands on the prop, start pushing the aircraft backwards, he still doesn’t know to this day how close he was to loosing both arms!
STAY OUT OF THE PROP ARC & ALWAYS TREAT THE PROP AS LIVE!
NEVER ENTER OR VACATE AN AIRCRAFT WITH THE ENGINE RUNNING.
ALWAYS BRIEF YOUR PASSENGERS TO WALK AWAY FROM THE PROP AFTER LEAVING THE AIRCRAFT EVEN THOUGH THE ENGINE IS NOT RUNNING.
ALWAYS ENSURE CHILDREN ARE ESCORTED WHEN NEAR AIRCRAFT.
BRIEF PASSENGERS BEFORE FLIGHT ON THE DANGERS OF PROPELLERS
NEVER EVER SWING A PROP UNLESS YOU HAVE HAD PROPER INSTRUCTION AND AT LEAST ONE WHEEL IS CHOCKED
NEVER START ENGINES WITHOUT THE RED ANTI COLLISION LIGHT ON AND MAKING SURE THE AREA IS CLEAR. (calling “clear prop” is a warning not a lookout check!)
IF YOU ARE IN A BUSY AREA GET AN EXTERNAL OBSERVER TO SUPERVISE THE START.
BE AWARE THAT IF THE STARTER SOLENOID SEIZES THE PROP WILL TURN WHEN THE MASTER SWITCH IS SWITCHED ON!