In September of 2007 the pilot/owner of a Piper Tri-Pacer decided to take a young woman for her first airplane ride near Modesto, CA. The pilot, William Supan, landed at the Modesto airport with smoke curling out from under the engine cowling. This landing was greeted by fire trucks until the aircraft was determined safely on the ground and out of danger.
Pilot Supan determined that the problem was a clamp that had failed. Using his ingenuity he quickly went to Wal-Mart and purchased a replacement clamp, made the emergency repair, boarded his passenger and took off once again. Unfortunately after takeoff even more smoke poured from the engine cowling area and once again Supan landed with the usual contingent of fire trucks and rescue vehicles awaiting his arrival.
This time he replaced part of the exhaust hose and launched into the wild blue yonder once again. Problem was, this time there was not only smoke but intense heat. Upon a wobbly landing with smoke trailing from the fuselage and the passenger, Jinhua Lin, aged 43, became alarmed by the intensity of the heat radiating through the floor of the aircraft jumped from the aircraft as it slowed during its landing roll.
The airplane ran off of the runway and Supan quickly exited the aircraft as the fuselage caught fire. Fire fighters put out the fire but the Tri-Pacer's fabric and interior were charred and ruined. In typical FAA fashion the inspector, Ian Gregor indicated that officials were surprised that the pilot William Supan, 52, of Pleasanton would try to take off a third time after having been forced to land twice because of smoke in the cockpit.
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!