Aviation Safety Corner
GREETINGS! For this month's topic, I would like to conclude our discussion on, "Staying Ready for Anything."
Exploring what the new Airplane Flying Handbook has to say about handling 'generic' emergency situations.
This is Part IV of IV.
Let's begin our discussion with, "Critical Seconds." Now, let's back up a bit. We probably all agree that the most "generic" of all procedures in the midst of an emergency situation is to fly the airplane first, foremost, always! But once you have airplane control assured, what then? That second step is important. You've got to think ahead of time about what it will be.
Over the years, I've developed my own personal list of second steps, things I have to do if I don't do anything else after I get the airplane under control. None of them is to get out the checklist and read it, or try to run the entire checklist from memory.
Rather, I have taken a cue from the Air Force, which has had great success highlighting "instinctive-reaction" checklist procedures in bold face for memorization. Just what items to include on the "second steps" list takes a little purposeful forethought, using the AFM recommendations as a starting point and following through with an analysis of the airplane and how you fly it.
Now, Let's Discuss, "Thinking Ahead." If you think about it ahead of time, in each situation, you only have to remember one thing after "fly the airplane." When everything else fails, you will remember that one thing which you've really thought about and decided is most important in each situation. The rest you can read in the checklist.
Pulling the carburetor heat on after an engine failure in a Cessna 172 during cruise flight does not replace the advisability of making sure the fuel selector is on "both," the mixture is full-rich, the ignition is on "both" and the primer is locked, while maintaining altitude until glide airspeed is established, then trimming the airplane for a glide and turning toward a suitable landing site. It won't set you up for a good pattern, either. But getting the carb heat on will restart the engine in just a few seconds if it has iced up.
Similarly, applying alternate air in a Piper Arrow doesn't replace putting the fuel selector on a tank containing fuel or turning on the electric fuel pump. But it could result in restarting the engine quickly if the air passage has been clogged by dirt, ice, a bird or some other foreign object.
Now, Let's Discuss, "Name of the Game." And that's the name of the game: prompt action, thought out ahead of time, appropriately taken and aimed at achieving quick, safe results in an emergency.
Thinking about your flying ahead of time works! "Generic" thinking works. Thinking about what you'll do when the situation seems to permit little time for thinking past dividends. The only cost to you, is a little time and effort. You may not like any of the recommendations made in this article, or in the Airplane Flying Handbook, but that's fine. Come up with your own. But do it ahead of time!
The meaningful measure of merit is that you will have thought out ahead of time what you might want to do in any one of a multitude of situations, both routine and emergency. You will have created a framework for future action, so that situations won't "catch you cold." What's more important is that you will have done it on the ground, where good pilots do most of their thinking and planning. As a result, you will be much more confident and effective in what you have to do in the cockpit when the time comes. Where others might be left "swimming in glue," you will be maintaining control of your aircraft (first and foremost), doing what you've decided should be done next and be well on your way to clear-thinking survival all because you have mentally prepared yourself.
Now in Conclusion, When the Airplane Flying Handbook is published, check it out. Its contents will provide an excellent framework for your preparation.
Don't miss next month's, Aviation Safety Corner, when we'll Discuss, "Anatomy of an Engine Failure." Examining the nature of power losses on takeoff and how they can be avoided. This will be Part I of IV.
Larry G. Harmon
FAA Aviation Safety Counselor