If a passenger would glance at my logbook she or he would never fly with me. I just filled another page and there is only one flight where I did not have an emergency. Although it was all simulated – I had no normal flights. I am longing for the day when I take off in an airplane without an instructor by my side. Sounds stupid, I know, but it’s not. After 56 hours in the floatplanes and 52.3h on the rubberplanes (almost all hours with instructors) I am sure I could safely operate an airplane.
For the validation I have only a few stalls and four solo landings to go. I am very happy about what I learned during the flight with the Swiss instructor. Here a few examples.
Above the three lakes area at 4500 feet. A scenario as follows: I am flying on top and need to get down. There’s only a small hole in the cloud deck. Since a spiral would only help to become spacial disoriented the best choice is an emergency descent. Flying just above the clouds I fly towards the hole straight and level at 80 knots (within Vfe) with my hand on the throttle. As soon as I realise that I reach the hole I pull back on the throttle, put all flaps down and aim for Vfe, the fastest speed allowed with the flaps extended. Now I find myself on a nice and stable descent of almost 2000 ft/min. If I still can’t make it without flying into the clouds I retract the flaps and push down on the yoke rapidly but gentle. I feel negative Gs and my stomach doesn’t appreciate the maneuver. But now I’m under the clouds and back on the way home. I hope I will never make use of this maneuver – for sure it is another tool in my pocket.
Cruising on a nice cross-country the door pops wide open. My instructor, acting as a fearful passenger, screams: “FLORIAN! IT’S GOING DOWN! OH MY GOD!” … and so on until the problem is solved. I start calming him down and explain that the airplane would still perfectly fly. In the meantime I am descending, uncoordinated and slow. I don’t realise and grab the checklist. It says keep 80 knots. I apply full throttle. Due to the added drag I hardly maintain altitude. “IS IT GOING DOWN? AAAHHH!”, he screams. I try to deal with him and say: “Help me and hold the checklist. Close your cabin vent, the round thing just over the two cables there. Yes, pull it to the right. Very good. I open the storm window now and then we can close the door okay?” I perform the tasks and with the closed door it becomes quiet. The instructor comes to his last scene in his roleplay and tells me: “My goodness, does it happen on every flight with you?” It puts a smile on my face. As an instructor he asks: “Now that was not too bad. You did a good job in calming the passenger down. You gave him a simple task. But we lost almost a thousand feet and slowed to 70knots. There’s no way to know a stall speed in a situation with aerodynamic issues. Climb back and we’ll do it again.” This time I waited with solving the problem. After a minute I knew how the airplane behaved. I already applied more power to hold altitude. I made sure my flight path was free and then helped to close the door. Every pilot knows: 1. Fly the airplane 2. Navigate 3. Communicate. But during my hundred hours with instructors this was the first time to simulate distractions from flying the plane. I think this little emergency excercise taught me a lot. Always fly the airplane.
You switch the tanks on a long flight and everything seems good. After 35 seconds you suddenly hear this “Whhhooaam”-sound and you fall back into your training. You call out: “Engine failure, best glide, 70knots” After looking for a field you switch back to the other tank and it takes only three seconds and the emergency is over. What happened? With an uncontrolled airfield under us my instructor told me to switch off the tanks. I hesitated but did what I was told. Nothing happened. I shall look at my watch and wait for 30 seconds. I found out: After turning off the fuel it takes a long time until anything happens. This excercise is not just for fun, it tells you do listen to the engine for a minute after you swap the tanks. Also the airplane descends about 200 ft/min more than with idle power. That is important to have in mind during all the power off training. When I lit the fire (turned on fuel) I applied only little throttle. This was the first time during my training when I actually had to observe CHT (Cylinder Head Temperature). Until then everything in the green was good. I know better know.
Take care of your engines! And as always…
Keep the rubber side down!