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The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only. IFA, nor any related parties to IFA, assume any responsibility or liability for events that occur due to actions you or others on your behalf take based on the information provided in these articles.  It is suggested that you consult your own aircraft manuals and aircraft mechanic for any maintenance on your aircraft. You are proceeding at your own risk.

“As the Hangar Door Shuts” Blog - by Brooks Margolien, 3/24/13

Fire on a Malibu                                                 

By chance I was on the air on a popular FM morning show this week – “Loren and Wally” in Boston. They were cracking jokes about the President's diesel-powered limo being mis-fueled with gasoline over in Israel, joking about how much trouble he was in. They discussed the properties of the two fuels, they were close, but since the subject interests me I called in and was shocked when my call was answered and I got my chance to be on the air. I pointed out the differences between #2 heating oil, kerosene, gasoline, pointed out that every pilot has a job just as important as the President's limo driver when it comes to fueling, told the city of Boston a jet engine can run on AvGas but a diesel won't run on gasoline, although maybe it will, maybe a pop, too soon on the compression stroke I bet. The best part was when they asked what I did for a living and I told them “Airplane Mechanic” I think I earned a bit of respect. Two friends heard me, both pilots, made my day when they called to say they heard.

The last time I was on network TV it was not such happy days. In 2001, I was at work installing an engine on a Mooney 201 on a Sunday evening when I heard an engine power up to max, followed abruptly by two booms. When I looked out the hangar door I saw flames, big ones, down at the end of the runway, about ½ mi. away. After calling it in and giving the dispatcher the gate codes (everyone should make sure the ambulance, fire and police have the gate codes), I headed down there on my ramp bicycle (my car was outside the gate and I wasn't sure where the keys were) with a 15 lb. CO2 extinguisher in hand. I can only say I was relieved when I saw it was a Malibu as I wasn't maintaining one at the time, so the initial worry of who was in there was replaced by: How do I get this guy out?

The left wing was busted off and over the engine where the fire was, so that's where the extinguisher went. Once that was empty I was into the cockpit, but the poor fellow was unconscious and his feet were stuck under the pedals. I undid the seat belt, single shoulder harness type, tried to move him or the seat, no chance, now the air was un-breathable, I went outside, just then the police showed up and went to work. One broke off the seat back, the other took out the side window with an axe and got his feet unstuck. Just as the pilot was laid down outside the cockpit I thought he was too close to the plane, we moved him and just then the cockpit reached flash point and went up.

This brings us right back to being the guy in the cockpit!  Right in the middle of a smoky one.

This is what I learned that night: Flying in the sunshine is easy, flying at night is less so. It was a perfect night for flying, the pilot was well experienced and capable, something in the chain of prevention failed, I don't think we'll ever know which link. But I think if the plane had a 4 point harness or the new airbags, I wouldn't be writing this right now.

If you don't have the best safety belts yet, I implore you to call your mechanic and see what's available. With good fortune and proper planning you'll never need them, but don't forget the Scout's motto: Be Prepared.

PS: The pilot survives to this day with his loving family!

Brooks Margolien is president and chief technician of Aero Care, Inc., a state-of-the-art piston engine aircraft (13’6” H by 50’ W door opening) maintenance shop in Orange, MA. Brooks has been an aircraft mechanic for over 23 years. You can reach Brooks directly at

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