I’ve seen it. You’ve seen. Our kids and grandparents and dogs have probably seen it, that viral video of a poor guy who hand propped a Cirrus SR22 and struggled against to odds to scramble back inside of it and stop it before it crashed into who knows what. Hangars? Porsches? Well, you know the punch line. Everybody lived and the Porsche stayed shiny and new. The same cannot be said for the Cirrus or the hangar it impacted at a goodly rate of speed.
Immediately the social media world started piling on. And if we know anything about social media, we know that when someone screws up in a big way, and this one was spectacular, the digital world isn’t shy about weighing in. I know one person who openly mocked the pilot for his lack of common sense and ability to foresee the outcome of his actions. Yeah, that was me.
But was there anything useful to be gained by the online burning at the digital flame of the hand-propping guy? (whose name I do not know and wouldn’t publish if I did know it). And the answer is, yes.
But did we have the right question? I’d say, the answer to that is, no.
The question was, should we ever hand prop? Yes! I went through my seaplane rating at good ole Jack Brown’s in Winter Haven Florida without an electric system on the J-3 Cub on straight floats. It was a blast. And in case I need to point it out, no electrical system, no starter. So, it had to be hand started. I did everything but beg my instructor to let me go to the end of the float and hand prop it at least one time, but he was resolute. Insurance and his job were fairly big concerns to him. But the point is, if nobody hand starts an airplane without a battery, it isn’t going flying.
There’s nothing wrong with hand propping, and I have to admit, I’ve been educated these past several days about hand propping big bore engines. It works. I’ve never hand propped anything more than an O-200, and I believed the tale that big engines were impossible to hand prop and dangerous to even try. Well, apparently this isn’t necessarily true. I stand corrected.
Is hand propping safe? No! But then again, neither is flying! But it’s a blast. And without taking to the air, you can’t go flying. So without some risk, there’s no fun. Is hand propping a plane fun? It is. Should just anyone do it? No, just as not everyone should be a pilot.
With all that said, here’s the real question: is the way the sad sack video guy hand propped his plane smart? Duh.
So the right answer to the right question is very simply this. If you’re going to hand prop a plane, know what you’re doing and take all the appropriate safety precautions, of which precautions our unwitting video guy did none.