I generally don’t like to admit my own idiocy but this story is a classic one that relates to the fundamentals of being a private pilot. That being said here’s a question for all you pilots out there. What is the first thing you are supposed to do after starting the engine. I don’t know what you all were taught but on my old Cherokee checklist the first thing was to make sure oil pressure was in the green. I think you all know what this is a blog about then don’t you? That’s right, a very fun and relaxing evening flight with my girlfriend.
It wouldn’t have been a smooth and relaxing flight, however, if I had not remembered to turn the oil on just before taking off. The Waco has a valve behind the engine that turns the oil on and off. This is a little modification by the early crop dusters that prevented oil from pooling up in the bottom cylinders in radial engines (ever seen those oil drains on radial engines at airshows?). Usually part of the preflight inspection is to turn the oil on, and this time I completely forgot. That wouldn’t be a terrible mistake if I had just checked my engine gauges when I cranked up, but I didn’t. In fact, as soon as I started the engine, I ran it at a higher than idle RPM to warm up the engine for about 3 minutes before rolling down the runway.
I then made it almost to the end of the runway before remembering the oil valve, in a quick panic I cross-referenced my hunch with the oil pressure gauge and sure enough it was at 0. After a muttered curse I quickly pulled the mixture right there in the middle of the taxiway. With everything off I jumped out and turned the oil on. Crisis averted.
Luckily I didn’t overheat the engine and even more lucky I didn’t take off with no oil pressure. Chances are the engine would have quit on take-off and we would have been screwed, for the lack of a better term. This is the closest I have ever come to a fatal error and it really taught me a lesson, so this is me passing that lesson on to you all. ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OIL PRESSURE AFTER START UP… if you want to live a long life that is.