Your connection with the sky

May 31st, 2012: Emergency Engine Failure

May 31st, 2012: Emergency Engine Failure (practice)

Emergency engine failure practice today. Ok, now this is cool. Take the plane up to 3000 feet and pretend like your engine just failed, cut the power all the way back and run through the emergency checklist. The idea is to get through the whole thing as fast as you can while keeping your cool, keeping situational awareness and control of the plane while targeting an appropriate emergency landing field. According to my instructor, you want to get through the whole process in a 500 foot descent. Not something you want to get cocky about, but I think I nailed it on both attempts, of course, it didn't hurt that the flying conditions were about as perfect as you could hope for at the time, the engine didn't really fail, and I had him sitting behind me. On the ground we ran through the scenario a few times. 1, get the plane into it's best airspeed and glide rate, in our case, 70 mph and trimmed, 2, pick a field, 3, run through the restart check list, left to right, Master, magnetos, throttle, fuel valve, mixture full rich, prime locked. Continue your descent to your field and if the engine isn't running by now, which it would be unless something was inadvertently switched off, go into fire prevention and crash mode. Master and magnetos off, fuel valve off, mixture lean, door open, yes open, transponder on 123.5, May Day, May Day, then squawk 7700, now land the plane. No sweat.

Flying over the area for a bit, my CFI pointed out a number of fields and explained why they would be good, or not so good. South of 37 towards the bay there is a little of everything, hill sides, water, wetlands, hay fields, grassy fields, plowed fields, old country roads, long driveways and vineyards.  We looked at each and discussed what we liked or didn't like. Next we worked on getting an idea of where the wind was coming from. It was a calm day, so there weren't many good visual clues on the ground but a shallow descending 360 gave us a good idea of the minimal wind drift coming from the west.

Having that in mind he then had me pick a field. There were several that fit the criteria well, long freshly mowed hay fields with minimal obstructions and a long wide grassy field. The others, while having potential, had challenges that made them less suitable. In 2 of the better fields there were workers on tractors, on one of the long country roads there were several occupied trucks, another had a stand of trees at what would have been the approach end,  and several of the others had either been plowed, or plowed in the wrong direction and at the far lied the wetlands.

My instructor had me run through everything, first telling him what to do, from picking his field to throttling back to 70 and getting his glide speed set and then I ran through the checklist, left to right, touching and saying each item out loud. We finished the checklist in just under a 500 foot descent, and then he demonstrated a proper glide pattern down to his chosen field, explaining each step along the way. Get your glide down, descend just as you would if you were flying into the pattern at the airstrip, entering your downwind approach at 1000 feet, picking your landing mark on the field, turning onto base, then final and in for your landing, where, in this case, at 500 feet, he had me take the controls and pull the plane back out for a go around, and into a turning ascent back to 3000 feet.

Now it was my turn, only this time I had to do everything. My CFI pulled the power back to mimic engine failure and then I jumped in, stabilized my airspeed and best glide, picked my best field, and ran through the emergency check list completing all steps in a 400 feet descent giving me plenty of time to concentrate on getting the plane down. I managed to pull it off fairly well, running through the pattern and entering my final approach to my field at our intended altitude of 500 feet. Had I needed to actually land the plane, I would have been very close to my mark and would have had plenty of room left in case I needed it. Powering back up we climbed back out to 3000 feet and repeated the process.

As I mentioned, I enjoy everything about flying, but this was a particularly great exercise. The main thing is to keep the plane flying, but you have to keep your cool and do everything in order while maintaining situational awareness. Even though you are in an emergency situation, you have to continue to do everything else you need to do when flying normally and you have to do your best to protect your passengers, the people on the ground, and your plane. The exercise gave me a great deal of confidence, both in knowing I could keep my cool and knowing I could bring the plane down without power if necessary.

Once we finished with the second no power simulated landing, we headed back to Skypark where he had me practice 3 more take offs and landings, although this time, we approached in a right pattern onto runway 8 which was the first time I had come in from that direction. My takeoffs continue to get better as I gain more confidence, although I am still holding the stick back too long and not getting the tail up soon enough, but I can tell that my crosswind and speed control have improved significantly. The first 2 landings were ok, the second much better than the first. The 3rd takeoff felt quite good, although through a little miscommunication, the 3rd landing was pretty awkward as I went into a slip in the wrong direction trying to slow the plane down. No matter, he may have given me the wrong instructions, but it was my job as the PIC to do what I knew was best, and I didn't. That too was an important lesson, listen, but do what you know is right, after all, you're the one that has to bring the plane to the ground.

All things considered, I felt great about my flying today all around and I can't wait for tomorrow when we spend the full hour on takeoffs and landings.


(no GPS recorded today unfortunately)

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