The sad circumstances leading to the only fatal accident in living memory in a Hongkong Aviation Club aircraft* are emerging. M.T. Cheuk, a Civil Aviation Department officer and club instructor, was killed.
Another instructor who doesn’t want to be named said MT had been due to do his instructor rating renewal with a CAD examiner the day after the accident. MT was out flying solo over Tolo Harbour, practising, when he crashed. He may have felt under pressure because he had failed his instructor renewal some weeks before in circumstances some club members say was unreasonable.
The instructor said it appears MT failed to recover when the Zlin 242L was spinning. Instructors undergoing check rides are required to demonstrate they can immediately put in the correct control movements if an aircraft starts spinning. This is in case a student accidentally causes an aircraft to flip into a spin. The Zlin, fully aerobatic, has a short stubby wing-span for faster roll rate and loses height rapidly with every spinning rotation.
The story gets sadder. Out above Tolo Harbour flying the Zlin by himself MT asked air traffic control for permission to climb to 4000ft. This was so he would have more height to recover when he practised spinning. ATC denied him the extra height because of commercial traffic above.
The weather was poor, visibility bad, so MT may have suffered spatial disorientation during the aerobatic manoeuvre.
Spinning a light aircraft is like being in a washing machine. The whole world is whirring around below. In most small planes, the recovery procedure involves holding the control column in neutral.
The pilot figures out which way the aircraft is spinning, to the right or left. Full opposite rudder. Then control column briskly forward, to break the stall. The aircraft should come out of the spin in a dive, now under control. The pilot gently pulls back on the control column to bring the plane out of the dive. A lot of height has been lost.
The Aviation Club has had a bad run in recent months. One of its newer Cessna 172s, Romeo Hotel, was written off, the instructor said, when a pilot attempted to land too fast. The aircraft bounced and yawed. The pilot took the wrong moment to retract flaps, dumping lift. The Cessna struck the ground nose first. It flipped, ending up on its back in the grass. The four people on board, hanging upside down in seat belts, extricated themselves from the wrecked aircraft and climbed out to find they had only scratches and a few bruises. All four were funeral directors.
A Robinson R22 was also pranged recently when control was lost while hovering. Earlier a Cessna 152 Aerobat, Hotel Papa, was written off too in a heavy landing. No one was hurt in either incident. A club spokesman noted the CAD has been auditing its safety procedures for two years and continues to allow the HKAC to fly.
Often on weekends the little aircraft can be seen over Sai Kung.
* In the 1980s a club pilot was killed flying his own Pitts Special. Again he was doing low level aerobatics. The pilot was Tony van der Klee, a rich gynaecologist nicknamed “Goldfinger”.