(Ed. Note: Thomas uses another actual occurrence to illustrate the fact that in many aviation situations the same things can apply regardless of aircraft type)
In spite of the power loss, the aircraft was able to make it into the air. Almost immediately after take-off, the problem was identified, and the pilot made the decision to return to the airport.
The reportlists several factors that contributed to the crash, including:
Often, a system failure or other emergency is only the set-up for an eventual crash. Discipline, adherence to procedures, and systems knowledge, backed up with emergency procedures and checklists, will determine the outcome when something goes terribly wrong.
We tend to think of inflight emergencies as isolated events; individual problems to be identified and solved. This is especially true for the vast majority of general aviation pilots who receive all their instruction in actual aircraft - where it is difficult and at times even impossible to accurately and/or safely present emergency scenarios, because doing so is just too risky in actual flight. Typical practice scenarios might be:
Instead, we need to think about each abnormal or emergency condition as the first item in a series of actions and decisions that end with the airplane safely on the ground. Instead of dealing with a simulated problem and then moving on to the next syllabus item, think about everything you’d need to do after noting the new status, through and including getting your passengers and yourself out of the airplane on the ground.
I’m working with an Instrument Instructor candidate who in flight today used a phrase I’ve repeated many times before: “What are you doing now? What happens next? What happens after that?” That line of questions is often used to prepare for upcoming actions while proceeding along an instrument approach or missed approach course. Mishap history shows, however, that we should apply the same thinking to teaching, practicing and actually flying abnormal and emergency procedures.
- Electrical smoke or fire condition identified.
- Emergency procedure: turn off alternator/generator and battery
- Panel goes dark. Some flight instruments rendered inoperative. Autopilot, if engaged, turns off. Communication and navigation go away.
- Instantaneous transition from autopilot-coupled, GPS-guided flight to hand-flown, partial panel/lost comm. flight in a dark cockpit … while still dealing with electrical smoke or fire!
- Continue with the Electrical Fire checklist while hand-flying partial panel. Ventilate the cabin.
- Possible need to enter an Emergency Descent if the fire does not go out. Probable off-airport landing (possibly out of low clouds), or a lost-comm. arrival to a runway.
- If the fire goes out, turn everything off (still hand-flying partial panel), then turn on essential items and ensure nothing you restore begins to smoke or burn again.
- Re-acquire situational awareness and communication. Select a suitable nearby airport. Acquire information and brief for approach and landing. Reduced-capability descent and approach (possibly in IMC).
- What if the runway environment is not visible at minimums? Do you miss the approach? Do you continue anyway, making a landing (or controlled crash) on or somewhere near the runway?
- After landing and coming to a stop, evacuate the aircraft.
Concert pianistslearn the basics, then apply that learning to advance situations. And the good ones keep practicing the basics throughout their entire career. Similarly, pilots need to do the same thing: master the basics, then apply them to specific situations. Done well, the pilot can then correlate what he/she has learned and practiced to an unusual situation that presents itself in flight. Every decade or so we find regulators unveiling the latest “back to basics” program … because the basics are that important.
Where I don’t see it happening much is in scenario-based abnormal and emergency procedures training ... especially if we train exclusively in actual aircraft. We need to continue to practice and improve on our emergency skills preparedness.... When you practice emergencies or study emergency checklists, approach it like that instructor candidate: ask yourself not only what you’ll do now, but also what you’ll do next, and what you’ll do after that, all the way to exiting or evacuating the aircraft on the ground”.