Fred Scott, Jr.
(434) 295-4188



My Beech B55 Baron flies often from a private runway in Virginia, and we had just installed a new JPI-760 Twin engine monitor to track temperatures of exhaust gases, cylinder heads, oil, ambient air, and to monitor fuel flows. Several recent discussions on an internet world-wide Beech Owner's Group (Proper takeoff mixture and fuel flow settings... The use of the engine monitor... Engine failures... come to mind) and twice-annually recurrent training made a big difference in the outcome of an engine failure on takeoff recently.

Early in my departure from Virginia to Nova Scotia via Nantucket, I noticed the takeoff fuel flow on the right engine factory fuel flow guage (it's pressure sensing, but marked as flows) were VERY low... 12GPH... when it should have been 21GPH, and the brand new EDM 760 Twin monitor was peaking at max EGT value for all six cylinders, while the good left engine was mid-range and normal (but I have less than two hours of looking at it, as it was just installed).

Nevertheless it was pretty hard to miss the two obvious clues: Split fuel flow needles on the primary flow guage and a bright orange right engine on the JPI, to say nothing of the real obvious fact that the plane was not accelerating properly (I first rechecked the gear and flaps to see if I had left them hanging out, but no) and one engine was popping (afterfire or backfire type sounds) and shaking.

Damn, I think first, a fuel pump failure or fuel leak. (Two flight hours before this, we had run a leak test on the new fuel lines; while doing that, we noticed that the right boost pump would not bring up the flow, and we found and fixed a small leak). But there were no flames or smoke obvious, so I turned on LOBOOST and then HIBOOST with only a small improvement up to 15GPH. Engine was still sputtering, and I was making every effort to prevent detonation (yet still climb), so I reduced power on both sides to keep flying as coordinated as possible ... ultimately down to about 2500RPM and 18-20MP and things settled out, but still popping, engine very rough. We were able to climb very slowly. I called CHO tower (15 miles from my runway) and said that I was IFR to Nantucket, but I needed to land immediately. Weather was clear with good visibility, mimimal wind.

By then (30 seconds to one minute after the event) I was beginning reject my fuel leak hypothesis and starting to suspect a piece of trash in the fuel line that had broken loose from a two-hour before installation of the new JPI flowmeters. In that installation, the main fuel lines to the engine are cut, flowmeters added, and the system rechecked.

All seemed normal in the several hours I flew it post-installation. (But that was not true! My neighbor who knows nothing about aircraft but can fix his tractor said - after the fact - that the plane did not sound right on my approach the day before! From now on, he will call if hears anything strange! ... and maybe noise-cancelling headsets aren't always a good idea.)

I live on a grass strip that's really smooth, but since it has been so terribly dry here the runway grass is dried up, and much of its cushion has disappeared, and the strip feels rougher than it normally does. My first guess was that the vibration shook loose a piece rubber from the inside of the fuel hose feeding the flow divider and stuck in exactly the wrong place somewhere.

Throughout all EGTs were flat across, but the right engine was very hot, yet all CHTs were flat, but I was pretty busy and did not focus on the exact numbers.

The worst part is that the problem occurred - or I first noticed! - after liftoff and just before - maybe 5 Kts before - blueline (Lordy, I HATE IT WHEN THAT HAPPPENS !) with full fuel and two up, small baggage load, at 82F ... but since the failure was partial I elected to keep going, which was not that hard to do, but violating every preplanned "below blueline, land it" scenario I had thought out in years and years of thinking about it.

We did wake up anyone who was napping as it took a number of miles to get to pattern altitude as we worked our way out of the low ridges.. To have a preplanned "worst case" route, incidentally, was taught me in in the 1960s in the Cassiar Mountains of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory by a great bush pilot. He said always know - ahead of time - which valley you can fly out of, or turn in. It will be too late to figure it out when the engine burps.. He's right.

My normal takeoff procedure is as follows: leaving my 3000 ft farm grass strip in 82F temps amd nearly calm breezes, I did a normal runup at 1700 RPM or so and all was well. Coming up to full takeoff power, I always pause at 2000RPM for a thorough (engines, temps, pressures) recheck before releasing brakes, say out loud "Two good ones" and then up to full power and another glance at the three important guages (RPM, MP, Fuel Flows) while looking forward and rolling. I leave the fingers of my throttles hand forward of the handles below blueline (which slightly blocks the pilot's view of the flowguages), preparing to pull back and land without further thinking if something breaks before blueline. When I get to blueline in ground effect I get the gear except that when on short runways I sometimes get it sooner, looking for speed. At blueline, I switch my hand to behind the throttles, pushing lightly forward and always say "We go".

But I was initially worried about having a fuel leak and could not figure out if it was a leak why the engine was rough and the EGTs were so hot, and why the boost pumps would make no permanent difference in flows (even with a leak, I would have expected some permanent change in pressure) but I asked the Charlottesville tower anyway "if the fire truck wasn't busy would he please meet me at the center taxiway ramp and coverup my right engine and us if the engine caught fire after stopping?". They said "Sure". We were all very relaxed...

That was silly of me (and inconsiderate, because I was so casual that the crash crew showed up but NOT WEARING their protective fire gear!!). I don't have any idea why I did not say the "E" word but they got the picture (and they know my aircraft). I also was not as excited as always thought I'd be, just working the problem, and trying to give them back their runway as soon as possible. An interesting and polite idea, but dumb, even though - by then - I was pretty sure that we were not going to have a bad day. I probably should have stopped it on the runway. But it only took ten seconds more to clear the runway and taxi up to the waiting fire truck, who I had asked to cover up my right engine if it lit off.

I signed off the radio at the flare and shut off the master at touchdown, and I had my passenger pop open the door just after the touchdown, and had briefed him to get out and walk to the rear as soon as we stopped. He did great and was cool as could be, but I forgot to tell him that he had to undo his seatbelt first! Being a nice guy, as soon as he got it loose he started to hang the shoulder harness where he found it, and I finally had the sense to tell him "to hell with stowing the belts, just get out" Should have done that sooner, and been clearer with him, too.

So... nothing lit off and the firemen went back home, and we found a friend and mechanic who was working on his airplane; his quick analysis reconfirmed our earlier suspicion of a blockage. After restarting the plane I realized that it ran pretty well up to 2000RPM or so, but started to burp, just above that..

So we thought it was kind of neat that I could send George Braly at GAMI the stored data and he can tell me how well I can actually remember what happened! That will be very interesting....

AND SO.... WE SENT OUT THE DATA, and included two other experts:
E-mails follow, first mine to:

Hello... George Braly [at GAMI], John Deakin [AvWEB], and John Eckalbar [who writes great books on flying Beech singles and twins]:

Attached is a JPI data file from the partial engine failure at takeoff on my Baron 55 (TCM IO-470s @ 260HP each) on Saturday.

I'd like to know how much I hurt the engine? (I'm guessing not much as the temps got to 1600F, but only briefly) and for George, I'm just curious if you can tell how much power the right one was putting out? Maybe you don't have enough data....

This JPI is brand new to me and this takeoff was only my second or third with the new instrument. As I read the data, I'm seeing 108 seconds of a Baron fighting to fly followed by a out of whack but controllable approach and landing. How do you see it?

I'm pretty sure now - in hindsight - that I missed seeing the low flows on the initial takeoff roll. Initially, I had thought the power loss occurred just below blueline, but looking now at the recorded flows, I think the 12 GPH flow on the right was constant more or less throughout the flight. Am I right?

I think I know why, too. If I had my optional factory twin needle EGT I'd have seen the overtemps immediately. As I have said before, I find digital data hard to read quickly, and so I saw the split flow needles first, (I think!) and ultimately I caught the BRIGHT ORANGE!! bars on the right engine, but my sorry excuse is that it was a new presentation. Not a very good reason, I'm afraid. Thanks for looking at this.

THE RESULT OF REPAIR WORK... on Monday following:

We had a brand new but completely blocked fuel line because the new - and incorrectly installed - fuel line nipples downstream of the flowmeters had made a little "heart valve" out of the interior wall. We could not even blow through it, and the other engine was not a whole lot better.. Replaced both and all is well. Baron flies great, idles and runs smooth, too. Temps flat across, flows normal.


(for a large high resolution version (287K) of this graph, click here)

(My thanks to him for the excellent graph)

I've graphed out your data, and put a few notes on it. You're home free. You actually got a nice LOP climb setting, with 3 jugs staying under 350, and the other three dropping a bit more. Your right engine was putting out a nice 61%, or 182 HP. It would have been rough, as three jugs (3, 4, 6) were quite LOP, and the others were barely LOP. As you took the power up for takeoff, both rose to 16.7, then the left one kept on going (normally), while the right dropped back to a very steady 12.2.

On takeoff, your crosscheck should be, "MP, RPM, Fuel Flow."

But you know that, now! <grin>
John Deakin


It looks to me like when the right engine went lean, it went lean of peak. Didn't hurt a darn thing. You could have run it that way (except for the roughness) for hours and it would have been fine.

Also, I plotted it out. You only had 3 of six jugs that went lean. The other three stayed rich. THAT is a bit puzzling. [ it turned out, some loose rubber hose lining went downstream and clogged three injectors] Looking at it, it is absolutely certain that you were simply lean of peak. Notice the two vertical reference points where the fuel flow increased slightly [that's where the boost pumps were turned on] - - and you had a corresponding rise in EGTs... the only way that can happen is if the cylinders were lean of peak. I think three of the cylinders were so lean that they were no longer firing... or at least doing so intermittently, and that is why it felt so rough.

Absolutely certain that there was no harm done to the engine when your engine experienced the large loss in fuel flow on takeoff. Having good data sure is nice!
Regards, George


Congratulations on the successful outcome. Pilots often wonder how they will react when the cookie starts to crumble. It's always a real personal discovery...and totally unpredictable, in my experience at least. Sometimes everything slows down and gets real clear, and sometimes you can't remember your wife's name. I'm real glad it all turned out well for you.

I just saw George's note, and for what it's worth I agree totally. The data looks like a big experiment in extreme LOP operations...low power, no harm. EGTs barely flirted with 1600F and CHTs were all low. One of the beauties of the JPI is that when your heart rate gets back into double digits you can
coolly analyze what was going on.

Your takeoff strategy is exactly what I've advocated for years. I like the hand position routine especially. Seems like that gets you poised to do what you have to do. Looking at the data though, it looks to me like proper fuel flow was never present on the right engine. Looks to me like your takeoff chant might have gone like this:
"Throttles up. RPMs good. MPs good. Fuel flow...oops. Abort." That's the virtue of having the hand ahead of the throttles.

Anyhow, I'm real glad we can all learn from this.
John Eckalbar


Here's the trap I got myself into: 600 hours in a PBaron teaches (so does FlightSafety) to pause at 2000 RPM and spool up the blowers, then full power. My later BPPP recurrent classes all teach "No rolling takeoffs" also with a last minute power check - just a pause on the way up - of all engine instruments at 2000RPM. I always follow that with a fullpower recheck of the three primary power gauges only (the three above the levers -- RPM, MP, and Flows) both at initial roll and a glance again just before redline. The hand-on-throttle technique is widely taught, however this incident also taught me that my fist significantly blocks the view of the flowmeters, particularly when they are at full takeoff flows and pointing to the bottom of the gauge). The redline glance caught the failure on the split flow needles -- or maybe it was just a bit later -- but I cannot tell from the data if I'm exactly correct about that. No question that I missed seeing the failure for several seconds, though.

So, from now on, after going to full power I remove my hand from the throttles, and point to each power guage - this takes two seconds - then replace my hand where I had it. Removing my hand forces me to uncover and look at the hidden guages.

All this normal procedure (right or wrong) with a new installation that had a really serious defect in the only fuel hose to each engine, and a pilot who has spent a lot of money on a new device who got distracted by it for a few seconds on the initial roll when he should have been looking at the primary and familiar flow gauges.

But what a great device is the JPI EDM 760 Twin unit! It traps data every six seconds. That function had nothing to do with why I bought it but it saved a major engine overhaul, because we know for sure that the engine was not hurt at all.


There are large numbers of pilots who prefer to sit in position, and run up to some fairly high power setting, then release the brakes and go. I can't really fault that, but I don't do it, or teach it, unless runway length is really critical. For the very reasons that "trapped" you.

You've already done a high-power runup (usually), so sitting on the end of the runway is just making noise, burning fuel (trivial, of course), and adding to the time that the engine is running at power without cooling flow. Those few seconds can also drive the tower batty, because they count on people moving out, so the next one on final doesn't have to go around.

Your usual high-power runup does NOT check anything between about 2,000 RPM and full takeoff power, so that's another reason you're probably just wasting effort on the runway at 2,000. You ain't a'checkin' anything you ain't checked already. Get it up to full power smoothly, but with plenty of time left before "decision speed" to do a quick check of fuel flow, RPM, and MP.
John Deakin

Finally, I was once again reminded that the world of aviation is just full of knowledable folks like Braly, Deakin, Eckalbar, Livermore, Shannon, Osborne, Sobota, Truffer, Bedell, Hegg, and many others, like Scott in JPI's technical support department, who all have better things to do with their time than help someone they have never met or even spoken to, but they do.

and... thanks for the extraordinary Advanced Pilots' Seminar in Ada, Oklahoma.

and .... like all the instructors who have pulled engines to idle or cutoff on me over the years: Takes guts to do that down low, and when you did it right after rotation and before blueline the student may even have learned something. I hope I can remember next time, too..

And I sure hope there ain'tagonna be a next time, either! <grin>

Thanks also to a very chagrined mechanic and his inspector (twin-rated himself, and understands what I had to deal with), both of whom shall remain nameless; I'll be back to their shop, because I know they will be more careful next time... and, besides, I like - and still trust - them.

Live and learn, with emphasis on the former! I hope this helps someone else.. Fred

While you are here, have a look at our horse teams, and carriages, or take a tour of our farm in central Virginia.

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