Lesson 15 - Saturday March 29th

Engine Failure Practice

Darn hot today.  Seems like about 85 degree, clear skies.  My lesson is at 1PM, so it's all nicely warmed up by the time I arrive. 

In the classroom, Tanya tells me we are going to do emergency engine-off procedure.  Basically your engine fails (a very rare occurrence, honest Mum), and you have to stay in the air as long as possible while trying to restart the engine, calling for help of the radio and finding and heading for a landing site.

There's a cunning acronym used to help you remember what to do: SSSSSS.  Possibly because when the engine goes you, you'll say "the engine's gone out, oh sssssshit! But actually it's for "Speed, Spot, Start, Speak, Shutdown, Secure".  You do these things in order

Speed - establish the ideal glider rate Vglide which is 73kts for a PS28-181.  This ensures you can stay in the air for as long as possible, allowing you to travel long distances if you start with sufficient height.

Spot - find a landing spot, and head towards it.  A landing spot would ideally be an airport, but generally there won't be a handy airport, so you look for fields, golf courses, parks, beaches, or roads.  You need to choose reasonably quickly.

Start - Start the engine again.  You might this would come first, but if you are unable to restart the engine, you want to make sure you've been gently gliding towards a landing site first.

Speak - Call "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday", either on the tower frequency if you've been communicating with them, or on 121.5, the emergency freq.  Basically a standard communication "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Cherokee 8074T, at Point Dume, Engine failure, landing on beach".  You also squawk 7700, which will allow radar operators to track you as you gently glide to your makeshift landing site.

Shutdown - Once you've established that you are not going to get you engine started, and you are going to land, then you need to shut down the plane to reduce the risk of fire.  So you turn the fuel pump off, ignition off, fuel selector to OFF, and master switch of off.

Secure - Secure any loose object, make sure seatbelts are secure, and crack the door open a bit before landing.

First of all though, we take off and fly up the coast, doing a couple of power off and power on stalls, all went fairly well.  Then we're just past Point Dume, west of Zuma beach.  An Tanya pulls out the power (just to idle, the engine is still on) 

Of course I've totally failed to memorize anything at this point, so Tanya talks me through it.  I establish the glide speed of 73 knots, and then proceed to forget this several times as we head for the only viable landing site, Zuma beach.  West is a little rocky, so we go for the easterly direction.

We are pretty high, so we start to circle.  I simulate running through the checklist for re-starting the engine, and then for emergency radio communication.

"What do you think", says Tanya, "shall we go in for a landing, or circle round again?"

"We look pretty high", I say, since we do, "shall we go around".

"I don't think we will make it around", she said, "we'll have to slip it in".

I've never done a slip before.  Basically you turn the rudder one way, and the ailerons the other way, so you fly twisted to the side, which slows you down, and allows you to reduce speed and/or loose altitude.  Tanya sets us up in the slip, and we drift quicker towards the ground.

Zuma beach looms up in front of us, I can see it's pretty crowded considering it's Monday, must be because it's the first really hot day of the year.  We are getting low, and I image a few people will be looking up, wondering what that plane is doing above them, flying sideways with the engine at idle.

"Shut down the plane", says Tanya, and I pretend to switch off the ignition and turn off the fuel selector.

"Okay, we don't want to freak out these people too much", she says, "let's recover, your plane", and she applies full throttle, and we start to climb back up to a more reasonable altitude.

Pretty cool stuff.  It was the first new thing I'd done for a few weeks, and I enjoyed it a lot.  I know it's probably something I'll never have to do, but it's good to know that I'll be practicing it a lot before I get my license.

On the way back we do a couple of 30 degree bank turns, and then a power on stall.

Coming in to land Tanya hoped to repeat the "80% you" success of last time, but unfortunately I revealed it was at least 40% luck, as I repeatedly let go of the airspeed, and Tanya had to correct several times.  No matter, just need a bit of practice, and multitask a bit better.

Fun stuff.  We'll probably start going out to Thousand Oaks to practice, as they have more fields out there.




(c) 2004 Mick West