June 03, 2004

Emergency! Sort Of Not Really.

More DME arcs on John's Elite, this time incorporating a real approach, the Watsonville (KWVI) VOR/DME A approach.

The first approach (using JEJZE as the IAF from V27 via SHOEY) goes well, except I forget to turn the OBS correctly on entry. Not that it really mattered much at that point, as I kept on the arc with the DME and turned it to the exit radial at the right place, but I knew something was missing, and it bugged me until that D'Oh! moment just before I turned the OBS to the final approach course (the Salinas 314 radial). D'Oh!, indeed. I break out at 1600', a few hundred feet above circling minimums, and see the runway straight ahead. Continuing what's becoming a tradition, I just can't take the landing phase seriously -- the damn sim just isn't anything like a real plane at this point -- and try a slow speed victory roll after circling successfully to line up with runway 26. Bang!

As we debrief the approach John asks me if there'd been anything odd about the instruments. I didn't see anything obvious -- the AI, HI, TC, fuel, etc., instruments all checked out throughout the approach (I'd kept a good lookout since John had warned me earlier that he'd fail a few things at some point this evening) -- so John has to point out the failed alternator. D'Oh! Again. I should have picked up on this -- I've actually had a real alternator failure at night in a real plane, which was a bit of a non-event in VMC -- but I missed it completely this time.

The burning question I have for John at this point is how the hell do you pronounce IAFs with names like "JEJZE", "JEJMA", or "KENIW" (all on the WVI VOR/DME A approach plate). Hmmm. He's not sure himself, and he's had situations where the controller has ad-libbed it too or avoided the issue with vectors to a segment rather than the fix. I've just got to try this approach in real life to see what happens...

John sets me up for a second attempt at the same approach, this time from the other side using JEJMA as the IAF. No problem, I think, but I can hear a lot of mouse clicking in the background. What's he going to fail this time? I start expecting to see the AI go belly-up as I start the DME arc, but there's nothing obvious. Then suddenly an annunciator on the panel tells me there's an oil pressure problem. Sure enough, when I look at the gauge, there's no real pressure and the temperature's way high. Not what I expected at all. I don't panic, but all I can think of doing is declaring an emergency. I do so, and forget the first rule of emergencies: fly the bloody plane! I lose the plane for a few seconds, losing altitude, gaining airspeed, and generally swerving about all over the place. With a bit of prompting from John I regain control, and John -- playing NorCal -- asks my intentions. I haven't thought this through at all, and I'm totally unprepared. Argh. John sits there poker-faced. My instinct is to keep going on the approach, but stay as high as I can until I'm close enough to the airport to make the runway. But some part of me thinks "I know the area down there -- maybe I should descend beneath the cloud layer immediately and look for a nice field to land on" (there are a lot just down there -- local knowledge helps in situations like this). But I tell "NorCal" that I want to continue the approach, with any assistance they can offer me, and that I'll stay high until well past the final approach fix. John ("NorCal") vectors me to the final approach course and despite some very rough heading and altitude changes here and there (I don't want to use the engine unless I have to to do anything more than maintain an altitude) I actually break out in the right place at roughly the right time and attempt to land. John fails the engine completely on short final and I "land" badly. But it looks like I survived.

We debrief this one, and, as expected, there aren't too many right answers for an engine problem in IMC except "fly the plane" and try to stay away from known terrain. I didn't do too badly, apparently, and my first instincts were fairly sound -- immediately declare an emergency, and if you're on an approach and in IMC, stay on it if you can, at least as long as possible. The approach was rough on me mentally -- it's realistic enough that you actually concentrate totally on it all the way in -- but that's the point: it's a simulator, and, as John points out, it's the obvious place to learn how to think about emergencies under at least semi-realistic stress levels. Cool. This sort of thing works really well on a sim, unlike the bloody landings...

I feel exhausted. John suggests I take his place and fail a few instruments as he does the same approach in the Elite's Seminole (a twin). Cool! I set him up for the approach, then as he takes control I fail the cylinder head temperature on the left engine. John spots it immediately and goes through the emergency engine checklist, shutting down the left engine and generally keeping control. So I set both the ADF and the VSI to fail in a few minutes, and wait to see what happens. Not much -- John Keeps control nicely, and shoots the approach. But at minimums we can't see the runway at all. A nightmare in real life: going missed on one engine in real IMC. This is what sims are for... so John goes missed, and I ask what his intentions are. I comment that I'd probably head for the ILS at Salinas, but he points out that that would be a huge diversion, and decides to ask for the ILS runway 10R approach into Monterey (KMRY), an airport I'd completely forgotten about, and only a few tens of miles away. After a bit of cursing at the Elite's dismal GPS simulator, and a discussion about how to initiate this approach in actual with a dead engine, this approach goes much better, and John breaks out with 10R in sight dead ahead. Cool!

A good lesson.

* * *

Before we started the actual "flying", John asked me a bunch of typical questions about the charts and approaches ("What does the "A" here mean?", etc.). I fail dismally -- I just haven't been studying or even reading as much as I should to keep this stuff in my mind. I need to start studying and reading seriously...

1 comment:

Hamish said...

John's pointed out that the Elite's twin was a Seneca, not the Seminole. D'Oh!