Emergencies...what did you do?

WhiskeyTango

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Hey guys.

For anyone who is interested in sharing, I'm curious to hear from you guys about 'emergencies' or 'incidents' you guys have had when flying. I'm particularly interested in the types of things which have happened in smaller planes since I can relate to them a little better, but anything will do.

What were you flying? Where were you flying? What were the conditions? What happened? What did you think/feel? How did you handle it? What was the result? Hindsight, what do you think of your handling of the situation? Any advice to others who encounter such a situation?

I've read a lot of accident reports and CVR transcripts, but a large portion of them pertain more to the big time flyers. Just curious to hear about the time your 172 busted a valve or you looked down on downwind and realized you had lost a wheel somewhere.

Thanks!
 

maverick_fp00

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Well, it was a typical Florida summer morning - warm, humid and clear. Today was my fourth training flight for my private. My instructor, Bobby, and I were in a briefing room talking about what we were going to do on today's flight. I was told we were going to learn stalls. Well after taking off and getting up to about 5,000ft he demonstrates a few of them to me. Of course, I get a little anxious. Well, now it's my turn to try it. I pulled the power back, dropped some flaps, brought the nose up, it fell and I gave it some juice and nothing happened; I thought I did something wrong. I frantically look at Bobby's face and he's looking around the cockpit trying to see what the problem could be. Looks like we have no engine power. He took control of the airplane and called the tower and said something like this:

"Panama City Tower, N757HM - we've got an engine failure, we're about 11 miles north of the airport"

It was funny to me because his voice was so calm, like nothing was wrong. But the tower came back with this franctic voice "What?!! Say again!!" I was almost laughing.

So, he said it again but this time the tower came back and asked us how much fuel and souls on board. "3 1/2 hours, 2 souls on board"

Well, anyway, the practice area in Panama City is over 2 sod farms - two huge fields. It had rained the previous day so they were pretty much underwater - you could actually see that from the air. There is a dirt road that runs alongside of one of the sod farms so that's where he decides he wants to land it. Amazingly enough, I'm not scared at all - I'm just enjoying this adventurous ride because I knew he had it under control and were at 4000 feet now and we had our spot picked out to land.

At about 3000 feet he turned off the fuel and all our high tech avionics in the mighty 152. We are at about 1000ft when we both opened our doors in case we flip or whatever, we have a way to get out - all of a sudden we see this blue truck turn on to the road going the same direction as we are going to land. As he's turning and getting lined up with this dirt road I said "watch those power lines." Well, not only did we have 1 object to deal with, we now had 2! We are getting lower and lower and closer and closer to these power lines and the truck. He had to fly this plane underneith the power lines and over this blue truck at the SAME TIME. I started to get a little nervous!!! But, I think he did an excellent job!!

We landed on this dirt road with wet clay splashing all over me and inside the airplane but we landed with no problem. This lady in the blue Chevorlet Blazer drives up to us and says "what are you doing flying so low?" I was about to bitch slap her. Well we told her the story and she says "are you ok?" Bobby and I are like yeah, we are fine. She says "ok well good, c ya later." She left - she just drove off like it was normal for people to land on the dirt roads.

I never understood that. We ended up staying there for about 15 minutes before somebody from the neighborhood a few miles down came to us.

I hope you enjoyed that story. I'll never forget that day!
 

avbug

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A passenger in the right seat of a Seneca III experienced a heart attack one night while we were in a remote area entering instrument conditions. I began a descent, had him on oxygen, and landed. There was little else I could do for him until we got on the ground.

I lost an engine due to a very rapid buildup of carb ice while descending in a 182 after dropping jumpers. It just quit; no drop in manifold pressure, no roughness, just quit. I attempted to apply carb heat, but the cable came away in my hand. I threw that in the back and landed without power on a small gravel strip.

I got shot coming off a dirt airstrip on the Navajo reservation, once. That is, the airplane got shot through the horizontal stab. Got shot once doing some work inside the Grand Canyon...hunters, environmental terrorists...who knows. Got shot at (but missed) by a farmers wife while spraying in Kansas. All those were in light airplanes.

When I was doing some ag work, I had borrowed a Cessna 150 to go somewhere. When I returned to the airstrip, which was grass and remote, I performed a low downwind pass to check for obstructions, condition of the strip, etc. (Unforecast rabbit holes and other surprises weren't uncommon, and other aircraft had been groundlooped or had gear damage as a result. Also, if there had been rain, we would usually drag a wheel down the strip to check the firmness and condition of the runway).

I pulled up at the end of the strip intending to do a standard ag turn to a landing. There were tall trees at the end (100' +), which required losing airspeed before beginning the turn. As I cleared the trees and rolled into steep right turn, the engine quit. This airplane utilized a 150 engine with an accelerator pump, and short of ideas and options I pumped that like a maniac. There were only 5-10 acre little plots on the otherside of the trees, all disked and broken up with very large chunks, surrounded by trees. Not good. I continued the turn with the engine catching in spurts, and as I lined up for final at the treeline, the engine quit completely. I made the grass and rolled to a stop, and then pushed it clear.

I think that an important consideration in an emergency is what you have done before the emergency. Always fly such that you have an out. Have enough altitude, airspeed, or whatever, to save you from what might go wrong; have something to work with. I've experienced in-flight structural failures and breakages, inflght fires, hydraulic failures, gear failures, pneumatic failures, control siezures, and a variety of other interesting learning experiences. Some constituted emergencies, some didn't. Most of the time they didn't, because enough preparation and planning took the urgency out of the situation.

It's good to read reports by others and contemplate their actions, but remember that many times, other pilots are facing something for the first time. Their actions are only one of many possibilities, and may or may not have been the right choice. Probably the biggest emergency is arriving at a situation that one has created, or failed to plan for, and having no plan and no options. It doesn't matter what the nature of the event...it's a crapshoot from there out.
 

Humty72

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emergency

maverick_fp00 said:

This lady in the blue Chevorlet Blazer drives up to us and says "what are you doing flying so low?" I was about to bitch slap her.
LOL.. did you?



Here's one of mine..
I was giving a student his private pilot checkride and we were headed out to do some ground reference maneuvers. I was looking out my window when the A/C started to yaw and roll severely to the left. I grabbed the controls and looked over at the student who was in a seizure. His left leg was stomped on the left rudder and his left hand was frozen on the yoke banking the a/c left. I had to fight him to keep the plane straight and level, and figure out how to get the seat back so his leg couldn't hit the rudder. Well it was a 172 so I had to fly with my left knee and use my left hand to release the latch on the seat rail while pulling up on the seat adjustment on the front of the seat with my right hand. Headed for the airport with the equipment waiting and he was ok a little later. The whole thing really reminded me that type of thing could happen at any time so always be ready.
 
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Draginass

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Geez Humty, you must really be a tough examiner to give the checkee a seizure!! :) He's lucky you were there. Otherwise he'd be a smokin' hole.
 
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WhiskeyTango

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Avbug,

Sounds like you have seen it all man.

You actually lead into a question I had. My instructor and I were talking today after some x-wind landings. We were talking about my check ride and he mentioned an examiner simulating an engine failure on final.

I asked whether it made sense, if the engine failed and you did not have the altitude to make the threshold with full flaps, to raise the flaps and take a shot at it. He wasn't positive about which would provide a better ground coverage and we entered a discussion of the inverses of Vx and Vy.

My guess is that 0 flaps would get you closer to the threshold, although in a shorter period and carrying more speed. Might make sense during the flare, then, to start adding some flaps. Is this correct?

Talking about a Skyhawk here.
 
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avbug

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You know, I've heard several instructors preach the need to always be able to make the runway, and what to do if near the runway and the engine quits. That kind of talk has always struck me as ill informed and pointless. What would the instructor do if the engine failed anywhere else? The talk usually revolves around always being able to "make" the runway if the engine fails in the pattern or on final (of ten single engine failures over the years, I've had one quit near the runway, and that was described above). Ridiculous.

If you've already got flaps set and you're close to the ground, don't mess with them. If you're in a critical spot and have ample altitude and you need to reduce the flap setting to make your forced landing site, then do it.

Generally when full flaps are set in light airplanes, you're committed and close to the runway. That's a bad time to be retracting them.

I like to put students in a position to see for themselves, in a field or pasture. Get them to set up for a landing and see if they make it, going around just prior to touchdown, in most cases. Or a road, over the water, and other such places to get the feel of descending into something other than a runway. I'll have them try it with flaps, without, and then see what happens when they take out flaps, and how it changes their point of impact.

This is often done for flight reviews or other instruction requested by individuals. There is a great psychological difference between seeing a forced landing site, and a runway. While a student can delude themselves into thinking many things approaching a long flat runway, lessons are deeply ingrained after seeing an approaching powerline or treeline, or a short open space between the two.

Use what you need, but be aware that you had better have a good handle on what removing flaps, or making any other changes will do, before making that decision. Go out and try it at altitude, then over the runway, and then get with an instructor who is comfortable with off-field work and have him show you how it feels in the "real world." The effects may surprise you.
 

WhiskeyTango

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Avbug, thanks.

Your conclusion was the one we reached- i.e. we should go to altitude and measure these things. I think he brought it up because he has had examiners ask the question. Agreed, a failure on a final approach is less likely. We did not extensively about failures on upwind/crosswind which is probably a much more likely profile. It's really just as ugly a situation. In fact, I think he said he had a student lose an engine on upwind one time and she put it down perfectly (long runway), called for a tow, paid for her bill, and never flew again.

10 failures eh? That sure seems like a lot for any number of hours. In my area, here are a lot of flat empty fields or bean fields to choose from, so the practiced engine failure is not usually a big deal.
 

ifly4food

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I fly the E120. Emergencies, or at least "abnormal situations" are a way of life.
I handle them the same way any airline pilot would. Fly the airplane, run the checklist.
 

avbug

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The comment on the student who quit after an engine failure, is a concern. While one can never account for individual preference, in my opinion I would place the burden for her leaving flying on the instructor. An engine failure is not a big deal, and in most cases it is not an emergency. For a student it can be an exciting time, but this should be countered with ample preparation before the fact, and with counseling and generous follow-up after the fact.

An instructor will let the student walk away. A teacher will use it as a learning experience. With such a valuable experience so early in her flying, it's a shame she was allowed to leave.

As an aside and a pet gripe, it's a big failing I see among instructors; the followup. It's impossible to say without having been there, but I strongly suspect that's one student that could have been "saved."
 

RichardFitzwell

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Here's a couple...

W.T.

Without going too much into detail; a few years ago I was flying for an aircraft broker in Florida and went through a spell of bad luck. In just over 4 months I enjoyed the following...

1. Took off from TPA 18L in an Apache and lost the right engine at 700 agl. Circled over the Bay at 700' and landed back on 36R. I found out the rt. primer located between the seats had become loose and sucked air into the fuel line which killed the rt. engine.

2. One week later...flying with a student in his C401 and doing practice night approaches into Lakeland we had the left main gear light not indicate down and locked. After several low approaches it became clear this would not fix itself so we circled north of TPA and tried to manually extend the gear. The mechanical extension is in front of the pilot's seat but when he moved his power seat back to reach the mechanism, his seat shorted out, filling the cockpit with smoke. Long story short...left the seat alone, I flew back to TPA in the right seat, a lifeflight helicopter just happened to be hovering at the airport and verified the gear was down by shinned his spot light on the mains but he couldn't tell if it were locked. I landed...very softly. On rollout the light came on. It was a broken wire.

3. One month later...flying an Aztec from south Florida in the early morning. Shot the ILS into SRQ close to mins. Picked up some a/c parts and took off for TPA. Again over Tampa Bay the left engine started sputtering and shut down. Feathered the engine, pumped the gear down and landed on 36R at TPA. The engine sucked in two valves.

4. Six weeks later...flying a C310 from MO to FL on a ferry permit. Right engine indicated a loss in oil pressure. I shut it down and landed at Malden, MO. The oil pressure gauge shorted out and temp gauge didn't work. Mech. fixed the gauge and I continued the flight a few hours later.

5. One week later...flying a C210 in IFR, I lost the vacuum pump. Covered the attitude indicator and flew to Orlando Exec. (the only VFR airport) to land.

6. This is the best one! Three weeks later...ferrying a Cherokee 6 from CA to FL. At 9,000' over Texas the ONLY engine quit and wouldn't restart. I notified ATC. They gave me 2 options. Midland, TX something like 60 miles ahead or Pecos, TX 15 miles behind. I turned around, maintained best glide and headed toward Pecos. I was above an under cast so all I could do was take their vectors and hope. When I popped out of the clouds, the airport was straight ahead and I was lined up for the runway. I didn't change anything and landed on the very end of the runway with enough speed to coast onto the first turn off. I was shaking like a leaf and my knees buckled when I stepped off the wing. I pulled the seat out of my butt and called my boss to quit. Three days later, I flew the plane back to TPA. The mechanical fuel pump had a major leak and the fuel wasn't getting to the engine. The electric fuel pump didn't help.

I was PIC on all of these flights. I continued to ferry aircraft for another couple months before I got hired by a commuter. As you may have guessed, flying for some aircraft brokers isn't the safest way to build flight time.

Since then, the only problem I have had was when I lost A System hydraulics in a Boeing 727. The flap motor broke apart and dumped the hydraulic fluid instantly. We got the gear down and landed at ORD.

R.F.
:)
 
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DC-3TP

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Left engine failure on takeoff

Our flight was departing Kanab, UT for a return flight to home base, when just after I called for "Gear Up" the left engine on our turbine DC-3 failed completely. The run up checks were normal and the takeoff power checks were normal. I heard a loud bang and looked out at the left engine to see the prop go into auto-feather. There was a fraction of second of disbelief, then training took over, and I made my memory item callouts. "Engine failure, Set max power, Positive rate gear up, Confirm autofeather". We climbed to 400 ft and secured the engine and performed a tear drop, and landed single engine without incident. Our company training really paid off for the six passengers and 1500 lbs of "special" cargo on board. The tear drop was what I said I was going to perform in the pretakeoff briefing for an emegency return. I pay close attention to those briefings now, and ask lots of questions when other pilot briefings are not complete.
 
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newmei

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I was flying with another private pilot in central american in a C-170 (he was PIC) we had just climbed out of a private airport which the ag planes use for the rice paddys. With started a turn southbound and at about 700 agl the plane let out a cough and fling and snap snap snap. (the rocker arm had broken) I turned the plane around (I was flying at the time) to try to get it back to the airport about 4-5 miles behind. I handed over the airplane and we began trying to troubleshoot, and then it just quit the prop stoped and everything. There was a green field on the left and a brownish one on the right we went for the brown because it had less vegatiation. The only problem was the 8' tall berms running horizontally across spaced about every 1000 feet. We touched down right after a berm and the tail did'nt even stay down we just rolled on the nose for about 50 feet the left gear and wing caught a rut and over we went doing about 45 mph. I jarred the cessna overhead radio speaker off its mounts with my head and the PIC got knocked out for a few seconds. (I stayed awake, I thought he was a dead for a second) Anyways I was bleeding good and we released the seatbelts and got out quick!

The mud in the field was no less then 1 foot thick, it was a impossible landing BUT keeping the airplane flying to the ground saved our lifes, no doubt. This was by far the most uncomfortable things I have ever gone through (if you never have rolled on your nose watching the ground go by and then rolling over and hanging you would'nt understand) But we lived to fly another day, thats all that matters right???????
 

AHPilot

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what?
I guess you could say I've been lucky enough to not have experienced any real emergencies yet. Just wondering....while on the topic of engine failure, in light single engine a/c, what would be the "procedure" for engine failre over a populated city? I fly out of SAT Class C...right off the end of 12R there are two buildings, my guess 50-100 feet tall...about 5 stories. Don't even like to imagine engine failure over a populated city....especially low to the ground, low airspeed, ect. For all you experienced pilots out there, how would you handle such a situation?
Happy Flyin,
Langston
 

avbug

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Langston,

In a true emergency, we seldom get to pick and choose the circumstances. They pick us. All you can do is fly the airplane until it stops moving, or until you are no longer able.

If you have obstacles ahead, then turn to avoid them. If you are in the inner city, you can hope you don't hit powerlines, and can try to land on a street, or keep the gear up and put the airplane into a short vacant lot, grass strip or playing field, or use trees in a park to absorb the impact through the wings. If you can find a lake or open body of water of some kind, you'll get stopped in short order.

Personally, I'm willing to select impact on a hillside or wooded area before I'll go for a crowded highway or city street.

Remember that in an emergency, you didn't create it. You deal with situations as they're handed to you. You can plan ahead, and conduct your flight by prior planning such that when an emergency arises, hopefully you're in the best position to handle it, but let go of the concern and worry; it's not of your making, and you need only deal with the puzzle as it's given you. If the situation is of your own making, then still do your best, and hopefully you'll survive to never make that mistake again.
 

WhiskeyTango

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Amazing the number of incidents some of you guys have endured.

"Remember that in an emergency, you didn't create it. You deal with situations as they're handed to you. You can plan ahead, and conduct your flight by prior planning such that when an emergency arises, hopefully you're in the best position to handle it, but let go of the concern and worry; it's not of your making, and you need only deal with the puzzle as it's given you. If the situation is of your own making, then still do your best, and hopefully you'll survive to never make that mistake again."

Good advice...If it happens it happens- try to prepare for it and when and of ot does, do your best. That's all you can do.
 

aero99

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When I was training for my PPL, we were doing steep turns at 4000 when we smelled what we thought was an electrical fire. Found a small field a few miles away and landed without incedent. Called the flight school and told them of the problem and where we were which was about 50 miles away. We popped the hood and looked for anything that looked burned but couldn;t see anything irregular. Still smelled like something burning even on the ground. The owner of the school called my instructor and tried to push him into flying back since we couldn't "see" anything wrong. I advised my instructor that this is how NTSB file stories start and there was no way I was getting back in. After an hour of arguing with the owner, he finally sent another plane to pick us up. Next morning they flew our plane back and started looking for the cause of the smell-which they smelled on the way back. Turns out it was a starter bolt(if I remember correctly) backing out and rubbing on one of the pulleys. Mechanic said it would have busted very soon.

Had it been another instructor and student this plane could have been a smokin hole if they had decided to push on.
 

tarp

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Things got more interesting as I got more advanced ratings

1.) Stupid pilot trick 1 - PPL with 15 hours, C-172 and 3,000ft runway. Winds calm. Misjudged approach and was high. Pushed nose down and got fast. Started touchdown halfway down runway. Finished with the nose 15 inches from a split rail fence and about 25 feet from the end of the runway! (Why are we so dumb?)

2.) Real IFR practice with student on an ILS to a towered field. Halfway down the approach, we both start gagging and coughing - smoke in the cockpit - nasty acrid wire burning stuff in a C-172. The landing light switch had fused (common 172 problem) and the wires were burning up. We had no choice but to continue and hope that our instruments would work tillwe broke out of the clag. At the bottom of the clouds and with the rabbit in sight, I turned off the master and landed. On inspection afterwards, I found a 30 amp fuse/cb in the landing light holder. On talking to the mechanic, he said he was tired of the landing light fuse always popping, so he just put in a bigger one!

3.) Ferrying a turbo Arrow to Florida. At 9,000ft and 10 miles from Charleston SC, just glided down and landed on the big ol runway out there. No brainer.
 
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