looked a little out of place being in an aircraft he was unfamiliar with. I suggested
we find the checklist and start there. The
only checklist we could find was in the
pilot’s operating handbook. It was very
simplified and did not provide a lot of
information. Tom pulled the starter
switch, and the engine came to life. The
aircraft was parked really close to Runway
35, the active runway at the time. This
happens a few times a year when the Santa
Ana winds blow strongly out of the north,
prohibiting the standard westerly operation of 27L and 27R.
Tom and I taxied out to the pad and
performed a normal run-up. As we were
working through the checklist I noticed a
red battery discharge light on. I looked
around the cockpit for the culprit and
noticed that in my haste I had forgotten to
turn on the generator. With the generator
turned on the red warning light went out.
I turned and looked left, and
I could hardly believe my eyes.
I noticed what looked like a
bolt protruding through the
inboard corner of the aile-
ron. In our haste, I must have
missed it on the preflight.
We completed the checklist, or so I
thought. I told Tom to contact the tower
for takeoff. The tower immediately
replied, “Cleared for takeoff.” I rounded
the corner and aligned myself with the
runway centerline, at the same time applying full power. As I rotated the airplane we
began to climb at not that bad of a rate.
The airplane started to roll into a shallow
bank to the left. I tried compensating with
aileron, but the yoke would not budge. I
immediately corrected the bank with rudder, bringing the wing up.
Tom could see something was wrong.
We were still very low to the ground and
running out of available runway. The air-
plane felt very controllable with rudder
only, and I decided to continue the climb
rather than risk an off-field landing.
By now Tom was asking if there was
a problem. I replied that the ailerons
seemed to be jammed. Tom looked frightened and confused. I grabbed the radio
mic and notified the tower that we
seemed to have a control problem. I
requested an immediate return for landing. We climbed straight ahead to pattern
altitude, then flew the traffic pattern
around Rattlesnake Mountain.
Rattlesnake Mountain is located at the
northeast corner of the airport boundary.
The normal traffic pattern is flown
around the mountain, making it a little
difficult to see the runway until you are
midfield on downwind.
I began to frantically search for whatever was jamming the ailerons. I looked
out at the right aileron and saw nothing
out of the ordinary. I turned and looked
left, and I could hardly believe my eyes. I
noticed what looked like a bolt protruding through the inboard corner of the
aileron. In our haste, I must have missed
it on the preflight.
I continued the turn to the downwind
using only rudder to control bank angle
and heading. I was surprised that the airplane still seemed very maneuverable and
under control. Abeam the end of the runway I pulled the power to 1500 rpm and
started a slow descent. I pulled on the first
notch of flaps and yawed the aircraft to the
base leg. I started the final turn early. I
didn’t want to overshoot final with uncertain roll control. The final approach and
touchdown turned out to be fine and
uneventful even though the control wheel
refused to move.
Once safely back on the ground, Tom
and I could see the culprit. In my haste to
get airborne I missed an owner-made gust
lock that was attached with a bolt through
two pieces of 1/4-inch plywood. The bolt
passed through the gap at the inboard portion of the aileron, locking the control
surface in place.
I would like to think that if there had
been a flag attached to it, I might have
seen it. But I had
no excuse for not
proper control check
prior to takeoff. The
stirring of the
every pilot does
before any takeoff would have
discovered the problem
on the ground. We ran a pre-takeoff
checklist, but forgot one of the items that
really matters. Now there was a lot of
explaining to do, not only to fire rescue
folks but also to the FAA.
As I now sit in the left seat of a Boeing
767 I can still look back and say I did learn
several things from that careless mistake
that I will never forget. I learned that
being in a hurry can lead to fatal mistakes.
I also learned how effective the rudder can
be as an important control force. FAA certification rules require that rudder alone
can pick up the wing of an airplane, and
I’m glad that they do. That day I needed all
of the help I could get to live through a
really dumb mistake.
Dave Monroe, EAA 386200, was born in Minneapolis and grew up in an airline family. He soloed at the
age of 16 and obtained his private pilot certificate on
his 17th birthday. Dave is a B-767 captain for a major
airline with experience as a check airman, certificated
flight instructor, and the right wing pilot for the Aero-stars Formation Aerobatic Team. Dave graduated from
National University in San Diego and has more than
25,000 hours of flying time.