Aviation In Canada

Friday, February 11, 2005

Another Fuel Venting Situation

While working a midnight shift in Moncton Center, the majority of the early evening passenger traffic had settled in for the night, and the couriers hadn't yet started up. The lone airplane on this late Saturday night took off from Fredericton, bound for Montreal. It was a Piper PA-23 Apache. Only a few minutes out of CYFC, he called with a stressed voice, stating that he wanted a vector to the nearest airport. I told him Houlton, ME, was 30 miles straight ahead, and Fredericton, where he just departed, was 30NM directly behind and he could make an immediate turn to heading 120 if he wanted to return there.

The pilot elected to return to Fredericton. While on descent, he told me he could see what appeared to be vapor trails from the wings reflecting the moonlight, and believed it was fuel. He landed uneventfully, and later called Fredericton Radio on the phone. He explained to the FSS operator what had happened. The aircraft lacked fuel filler caps, for reasons unknown. They decided to ferry the aircraft to Montreal to purchase new ones and get some maintenance done. How did they close off the fillers? With duct tape. Yes, that's right. It's little wonder the adhesive didn't stand up to 120 knot winds with gasoline splashing against the tape from below. Good thing it was a full moon or he may not have noticed it at all, and ended up setting down in the dark, empty areas of northern Maine.