Posts Tagged ‘fire in the cockpit’

First things first

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Here’s a pop quiz: What are the first two words of every single missed approach procedure? Here is a bit of a twist to the question: it’s the same procedure no matter if you are VFR or IFR.

It’s actually quite simple. The first two words are always, always, always “Climb and…” You may be climbing to maintain an altitude or climbing and turning, but you are always climbing. The reason is simple—you are awfully close to the ground and, given that you can’t see the ground, or that you can’t safely land in VFR conditions, safety increases dramatically with altitude and airspeed.

There is another command that is not as plainspoken, but it also occurs regularly. In this case it is on numerous checklists, and tends to be condition-specific, but it is still a do-it-now issue: fuel shutoff. If you have a perceived or potential fire, then you are nearly always commanded to close the throttle, thus limiting fuel flow, and then told to shut off the fuel entirely. On a piston engine, you would shut of the mixture, and on a turbine you would move the appropriate lever to the fuel shut-off position.

In the case of the fuel, it’s important that you recognize that the leap to safety in this case comes from taking a step that will actually force you to land. After all, without fuel, you are without power, and without power you are a glider. But the circumstance is such (in the eyes of the manufacturer, as well as common sense) that you are better off isolating the source of the fire. It may be that other emergency checklists will also start with some form of FUEL OFF or THROTTLE CLOSE, and it would behoove you to be familiar with all of them. In fact, you should memorize which checklists they are.

There are other scenarios in which the first steps are fairly obvious. Electrical emergencies may or may not start with isolating certain systems. But if there are any on your airplane that quickly lead you to turn off the battery, you need to know them. Likewise, if you have electric trim, and it begins to do a runaway, you need to know how to isolate the trim. Are there circuit breakers you can pull? Can you turn off the radio master? Do you have to turn off the battery master?

A missed approach always starts with “Climb and…” When it comes to the pilot’s operating handbook, you should be intimately familiar with groups of checklists that have a similar start or logic.

That isn’t to say you should memorize all checklists (you shouldn’t), but with the proper review, you will be better prepared to handle a real emergency if one presents itself.—Chip Wright