Aviation Safety Corner
GREETINGS! For this month's topic, I would like to continue 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 III of IV.
Let's begin our discussion with, "Sampling the Handbook." Chapter 20 in Volume I of the new handbook is entitled "Emergency Operations." Here's a paraphrased sampling of what it recommends for handling generic emergencies:
· Engine fire on start. The common cause is overpriming a cold engine, but there are others. In one case, a Cessna 172 was supposed to be "down" for maintenance, but it was parked on the flight line with a loose fuel hose and only two screws holding the carburetor in place. No placard. No note on the key. After a "normal preflight," a renter pilot attempted to start the engine. He was seriously burned when a fire erupted.
Most AFMs do contain guidance for handling an engine fire on start. That guidance should be followed, but here's what the AFH has to say: Continue cranking. Shut off the fuel. Call the tower (so they can send a fire truck your way). Shut everything off. Depart the airplane (if the fire persists). Attempt to put out the fire.
· Smoke/fire in flight. It can happen, as the pilot of a Beech V35 discovered. He was climbing through 9,000 feet on an IFR flight plan when he smelled an electrical odor and the cockpit began to fill with smoke. The "book" said shut off all electrical switches. He did just that while beginning an emergency descent. The smoke cleared. Turning off the electricity had deprived the fire of an ignition source. Investigation revealed that the fire was caused by the owner's improper installation of an alternator wiring harness.
Here, the AFH defers to the airplane AFM in advising that you follow the checklist. Also: Declare an emergency. Slip away from fire on descent (if it doesn't go out).
· Partial power loss. The AFH contains a new message here: Don't feel pressured to get the airplane on the ground immediately. There may be severe obstacles to an immediate landing. You need to get set up to obtain the best performance possible from the airplane. You may need to fly a considerable distance over water or rough terrain.
If that's your situation, consider these steps: Maintain an airspeed for best performance (approximately, the best glide speed). Decide where to land and keep your decision updated. Declare an emergency to ensure priority handling by ATC.
· Complete power loss. Here's what the AFH offers for consideration: Maintain control of the airplane, regardless of altitude. Select a landing area. Maintain best glide speed. Accomplish the engine failure checklist. If the engine is still turning, pull the primer out to fuel cylinders (then close it if the engine doesn't start). Select low rpm if the engine is still turning and the propeller is controllable.
· Door opening on takeoff or in flight. Many pilots have lost control while leaning over during takeoff to shut doors that opened. Accidents also have been caused when baggage doors and various access hatches opened at inconvenient times. Too often, such startling events result after somebody "fiddles" with a door or hatch after the pilot has checked it, and when the pilot does not supervise others who button things up. Although these events are startling, there really is no reason for panic in most situations. The book recommends a sensible course of action: Maintain control of the airplane. If it happens on takeoff, remain in the traffic pattern. Land as soon as practical. Maintain airspeed for adequate control until touchdown (several airplanes with open doors have stalled on final).
· Asymmetric flaps. If an unexpected roll is encountered when lowering flaps, the AFH advises that you: Return flap control to "up" while maintaining control of the airplane. Go around. Adjust landing pattern for nonstandard configuration or conditions.
· Emergency descent. If this is necessary due to an uncontrollable fire, a sudden loss of cabin pressure, etc.: "Clear" the area and descend as rapidly as possible. Advise the passengers to clear their ears. Use 30-45 degrees of bank. Prop to high rpm. Maintain a speed less than Vne; watch Va if in turbulence. Clear the engine periodically.
· Emergency approach and landing. This is the familiar and often-practiced "forced landing." It really helps to have an idea of the features and elevation of the terrain over which you are flying. Here are some other considerations: Land on an airport, if possible. If not, select the best available landing area, considering surface, size, wind, slope, and obstructions. Think ahead of time about engine failure on or shortly after takeoff, and decide upon the minimum altitude at which you will consider returning to land on the takeoff runway.
Now in Conclusion, Know the manufacturer's recommended glide speed. If you lose an engine at altitude, fly that speed while you maneuver the airplane to the landing surface.
Don't miss next month's Aviation Safety Corner, when we'll finish our discussion on, Critical Seconds And "Thinking Ahead." This will be Part IV of IV.
Larry G. Harmon
FAA Aviation Safety Counselor