Aviation In Canada

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Aviation Story, Part 2 of 4

Dave Anderson's story continued...

I have gone from pilot in command to observer in less than three seconds. What the hell is happening? I desperately need to fill in the blanks. My view through the windshield is obscured as the screen continues to darken. I look out the left side window to gain orientation. The wings appear level which I attempt to cross check with my instruments. The attitude gyro has packed it in along with all the engine gauges. Whatever else may have happened, it is now obvious my engine is not operating. The darkening windshield is the result of oil, lots of oil. My 285 horses have left the barn and I now realize that I am gripping the controls of a glider. I continue my efforts to gain command of this situation by viewing out my side window and referencing both my airspeed and vertical speed indicators. I concentrate on flying the airplane and work at obtaining best glide speed. I work at saving altitude, for altitude loss is now irretrievable!
"Lemoore Approach Control; Centerion 4903U; request. Roger 4903U; Lemoore Approach; say request. Lemoore Approach Control; Centerion 4903U; I have experienced an engine failure and it will be necessary for me to attempt an emergency landing; request you maintain Flight Following as long as possible. Ah, Roger 4903U; Lemoore Approach; please ident, and say altitude. Roger Lemoore, Centerion 4903U ident code 4657, altitude 6600 feet, descending."
And so it goes. I have company now and I welcome sharing this flight with Lemoore. Other good news: the flow of oil onto the windshield has stopped and the air stream is improving my forward view. I fine tune my descent by referencing the vertical speed indicator and the airspeed indicator. I am puzzled by the fact that this bird is giving up altitude so slowly. As I S-turn looking for a place to land, my view forward is improved and I can now see that part of the engine cowling is torn and flapping in the slipstream. This revelation drastically increases my adrenaline level. I calm somewhat as I realize that I am over an extensive farming area with large fields of recently planted cotton and established alfalfa. I tentatively decided that any of numerous long alfalfa checks will suffice for an emergency landing. As I quietly continue my glide northeastward my eyes fix on a familiar shape, then I realize that I am looking at the town of Wasco. I wonder if I have sufficient altitude to reach the Wasco Airport. I discontinue S-turns and fine tune my glide for maximum distance. Maybe, just maybe. . . . .
"Lemoore Approach Control; Centerion 4903U. Roger 4903U; Lemoore Approach; go ahead. Lemoore Approach Control; Centerion 4903U; it appears that I have sufficient altitude
to attempt a landing at Wasco Airport . Roger 4903U; Lemoore Approach copies your plan to land at Wasco Airport; we will advise emergency services and have fire trucks standing by. Roger Lemoore Centerion 4903U."
I really didn't need to hear about the fire trucks, but I stay busy planning my approach and reviewing emergency procedures germane to this Centerion. I am approaching Wasco too high and I continue to be baffled that this aircraft is loosing altitude so slowly. As I now need to decrease airspeed and loose altitude, I move the landing gear lever to the "GEAR DOWN" position. Now I am perplexed that nothing appears to be happening; why isn't the gear going down? Then it dawns on me: no engine equals no hydraulics. My flaps are electric and work fine, but I will have to use the emergency hand pump to lower the landing gear. I check trim, look around for traffic, then start pumping. This is a first for me and the emergency procedure seems to take an eternity. I've about decided that I have messed up any chance for a decent landing due to this Centerion's goofy footed gear system (the main gear drops out like legs on a wounded duck prior to locking in the "gear down" position), and I contemplate returning the gear lever to the "GEAR UP" position. Then suddenly there is a snap and the green "GEAR DOWN" light flashes on.

More tomorrow...