To the Letter
The importance of being prepared
I would like to share an experience with other aviators to show the importance of being prepared. I was a low-hour pilot with what I would consider average cross-country time. After careful planning and persuasion, I convinced my wife to fly with me from Toronto, Ont., to the U.S. east coast. The passengers on that flight included our one-year-old daughter.
I had booked a Cessna 182 from a local flying school, and completed a checkout flight and short written evaluation on the aircraft prior to the trip. I reviewed the aircraft documents and all appeared to be in order. I was unable to get a copy of the pilot operating handbook (POH) or the GPS manual (I was not familiar with a moving map GPS at the time) until the day before the flight. I had decided that I would spend as much time as possible "chesterfield flying" before the actual trip. I completed all of the flight planning, and flew the trip several times, confirming every action necessary to get us to our intended destination (about four hours). In addition to this, I spent another three hours going through emergency procedures for the 182. Having seen all of the preparation, my wife was becoming a little nervous! I assured her that accidents are extremely unlikely, but that I must consider all possible scenarios.
I took great care in ensuring that all of the baggage was weighed, tagged and properly loaded for security, and that we were within the operating limits of the aircraft for weight and balance. The flight from Toronto to Buffalo, N.Y., went well, then to Elizabeth City, N.C., for more fuel, and from there to Cape Hatteras, N.C. The ceiling was unlimited, and in fact it was a great day for flying. We requested flight following, which was granted to us for the flight as well. We were cruising at 7 500 ft, when there was a sudden radical vibration, followed by an immediate loss of power, followed by the right windshield getting covered with oil, and smoke entering the cockpit. My wife simply asked two questions: "What is going on," and, "are we going to be OK?" My answer was, "I don't know what is wrong, but I do know
that we are going to be OK."
I declared an emergency and requested vectors to the nearest airstrip. The controller gave us vectors to a nearby grass strip, which was identified as being "right below us." The only thing below us was forest with not a blade of grass in sight. When taking my flight training, my instructor was consistently reminding me that I should always look for a place to land in the event of an emergency. I always took this advice, and in this case, I recalled a farmer's field that we had passed immediately prior to the emergency. I turned the aircraft 180° and there it was, about 2 mi. from where we were.
The short, soft field landing was successfully completed into a headwind, and we all climbed out of the aircraft. The State Trooper at the scene asked how I managed the land the aircraft safely. I said planning, training and"chesterfield flying."
The power loss and oil spill were caused by a massive failure of the rear cylinder on the right side. I never did get to the root cause of why the engine failed in such a severe manner, I'm just glad the outcome was a positive one.
Words on Fuel Management...
Fuel management and system problem solving must be approached with a clear understanding of the fuel system. Air operators' pilot training syllabi should communicate all specific and appropriate system knowledge, with particular attention to fuel system anomalies. For instance, helicopter pilots must be aware that when a boost pump malfunctions, a loss of fuel pressure is observed, or an appreciable difference exists between the boost pump pressures, the fuel quantity gage may indicate an erroneous fuel quantity and appropriate action(s) must be taken. They should also be aware that, should a fuel boost pump caution light be followed by a ‘FUEL LOW' caution light, it would be prudent to land without delay at the nearest suitable area at which a safe approach and landing is reasonably assured.
Clarification-Blackfly Air Article in ASL 1/2007
The third paragraph of the article "Blackfly Air on Fleet Expansion" on page 11 of the Aviation Safety Letter (ASL) 1/2007 incorrectly implied that the principal operating inspector was the only appropriate person for operators to call at Transport Canada in order to discuss regulatory requirements associated with a fleet expansion. In fact, the article should have suggested that operators may contact any of their Transport Canada principal inspectors to assist in discussing these requirements.
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