by Michael J. “Mick” Kaufman
Published in Midwest Flyer – February/March 2018
In this issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine, I will be discussing handling emergencies while flying under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), and flying in icing conditions with anti-ice protection.
I think many of us can recall an emergency while flying and how we handled it after thinking about it for a while. What would we have done differently next time with a similar situation?
I often go back to some advice given to me by an FAA inspector as part of a check-ride. I was scheduled to take a check-ride for a rating, but I do not remember whether it was for my Commercial, Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) or a CFI add-on, but I drew the name of the inspector who had the reputation of being the meanest/orneriest inspector at what was then known as the Milwaukee GADO (General Aviation District Office).
Upon completion of the check-ride, which I thought went quite well, he started criticizing me on something I did. I thought he was wrong, so I pulled out the FARs and airplane flight manual to prove my point. He said, “Son, if you believe that, you will not live long as a pilot,” and went on to say, “These documents are written for pilots with no common sense, by bureaucrats with no common sense.” Further conversation went on about using common sense and learning everything you can about the airplane you are flying.
In our Bonanza/Baron Pilot Training (BPT, Inc.) program, one of our instructors, Hank Canterbury, developed a course on handling emergencies, which has gotten great reviews.
Hank recalls an incident where he had a double-engine failure in a P-Baron at 20K feet in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) and did a no-engine landing on an airport with no damage to the airplane. In my column in the December 2015/January 2016 issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine, I mentioned a movie based on the Air France Flight 447 crash of an Airbus killing all onboard, because the crew did not know their aircraft well, and could not figure out the problem. I would recommend seeing the movie “Pilot Error.”
Another movie in which pilots used good common sense in an inflight emergency is entitled “Falling From The Sky, Flight 174.” An Air Canada Boeing 767 nicknamed the “Gimli Glider” was flying from Montreal to Edmonton on July 23, 1983, when it ran out of fuel at an altitude of 41,000 feet. The crew was able to glide the aircraft safely to a former Royal Canadian Air Force base in Gimli, Manitoba.
The subsequent investigation revealed that a combination of company failures, human errors and confusion over unit measures, had led to the aircraft being refueled with insufficient fuel for the planned flight. Still the crew used their skill, knowledge of the area, and “common sense” to make a successful emergency landing. (Note: Contrary to the name of the movie, it was Air Canada Flight 143, not 174.)
Of course, the more recent movie “Sully” portrays exceptional judgment and piloting skill by Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeff Skiles of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, who safely landed an Airbus A320 in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, following a bird strike.
I remember hearing one flight instructor giving a lecture to his student saying, “Whatever you do, never use the E word.” I have used that word – EMERGENCY – seven times to my recollection and have never spoken to an inspector or had my judgment questioned. In the movie “Sully,” that was not the case, but in the end, it showed that Sully’s good judgment paid off.
I would like to reference two cases from my own experiences and what I did, which may help you in similar situations.
In one incident, I was on an IFR training mission in Palo Alto, Calif. in the early 1990s and was flying with a client in his Cessna 185. The pilot had a passion for that aircraft and had installed a two-tube Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS) that was so state-of-the-art that it cost $40K per tube in those days. (An Electronic Flight Instrument System is a flight deck instrument display system in which the display technology used is electronic, rather than electromechanical. Early EFIS systems portray information using cathode ray tube (CRT) technology.)
We had been flying together in this airplane for about a week, and this was the day for that 250 nautical-mile cross country. Having to choose a destination, I picked Lake Tahoe, as I had never been there before. The weather at the departure point was IFR, but the destination was good VFR, so we filed the IFR flight plan and launched into IMC.
About a minute after contacting San Jose Approach, those two-tube EFIS displays began to flash, and we were getting smoke in the cockpit. I delegated my client to fly, and I would handle the emergency. I called approach and told them we had smoke in the cockpit and declared an emergency with our intention of getting on the ground as soon as possible. I wrote in my previous column that air traffic control (ATC) saved my bacon several times, and this was one of those times. Always remember, the number one job is to fly the airplane, and my client was doing just that, but I still needed to watch him carefully.
ATC provided all of the necessary information to fly an ILS approach into San Jose, which I will share in detail later in this article. We flew the approach by hand, seeing an occasional flash of the EFIS, followed by a puff and smell of smoke. Upon breakout on the approach, we landed and pulled off the runway and stopped, as several fire trucks pulled up alongside us. A puff of smoke shot up from under the cowling, but there were no flames, so a fire extinguisher was not needed. After signing a form from the fire department, the fixed base operator sent a service vehicle to tow us to their ramp.
So, what happened to have caused this emergency? When the two-tube EFIS was installed, the aircraft needed a larger alternator, so one was installed, however, the alternator bracket was not strong enough to support the larger alternator and bent causing the positive alternator terminal to short out on the engine mount, creating a spark of electricity and the smoke.
The second in-flight emergency I experienced occurred in my own Bonanza on a return flight from Florida. I fly like I teach, and I instruct my students that we, as pilots, must always set “personal minimums” for the weather conditions we fly in.
One of my personal minimums is having “circling minimums” for the departure airport. This has also been adopted for the Bonanza/Baron Pilot Training program, so in the morning of this incident, I was delayed waiting for improving weather. I spent considerable time briefing the weather for the non-stop flight from Ocala, Florida to my home airport in Lone Rock, Wisconsin. Briefed weather showed me in IMC for the first third of the trip and on top of the overcast until Rockford, Illinois, then clear skies for the remaining 100 miles of the flight. Winds showed a headwind making this flight just short of seven (7) hours, but with nine (9) hours of fuel and my add-on, long-range tanks, it was very doable.
The first hour and a half of this long flight went very routinely, and the weather was as forecasted — solid IMC. “George,” the autopilot, was doing a great job as I sat there, fat, dumb and happy! Suddenly, I noticed my altitude was off about 150 feet, and I looked and saw that the altitude hold had disconnected from the autopilot. So, I made the correction and turned it back on. Another 5 to 10 minutes went by and the altitude hold turned off again, so I tried to reset it, but it dropped off-line again immediately, and the heading mode on the autopilot quit as well. For me, this was no big deal, as I flew many long legs hand flying in IMC, but I was not looking forward to five-plus hours of hand flying.
The next issue to get my attention was the squelch on the com radio, which started crackling and making noise, and it was then that I looked at my ammeter and saw a discharge, and I realized I was in big trouble. When I tried to contact ATC to declare an emergency, I did not get a response. I am alone in the airplane, and my backup handheld radio is buried somewhere in the backseat. Would I chance looking for it and risk an unusual attitude? “NO.” Having more than an average electronics background, I decided to use the transponder as it is high power, but uses minimal electricity. It is pulse technology, meaning it does not require a lot of electrical power. The emergency transponder squawk code 7700 worked, and I now have ATC’s attention as they are calling me. They did not hear me previously because my low transmitter power did not break their squelch. I am now able to make them aware of my problem, and we decided to attempt an approach to the nearest airport. Here again, I compliment air traffic controllers for what they did, and for the role they play in flight safety.
Keep in mind that there was no iPad/Foreflight or backup GPS in those days. There was a Garmin 100 panel-mounted GPS that had a backup battery for 45 minutes of reserve power at best. The database had VORs, NDBs and airports – that was all. In those days, we all flew with paper charts, flying the airplane by hand and searching for the approach chart in a book that was accessible, but not easy to find the necessary information. ATC again was helpful, and I will summarize this later.
Immediately upon discovering my alternator failure, I turned off every current draw instrument, except for one King KX175 nav/com, the transponder and the Garmin 100 GPS.
I am now being vectored for the ILS approach to Columbus, Georgia and acknowledging ATC by pushing ident on the transponder. Should I try the com transmitter, as it might deplete that last tenth of a volt necessary to keep the nav/com from shutting down? Should I attempt to lower the landing gear electrically, as the same results could happen. If I decided to crank the gear down by hand and the approach went missed, I could not crank the gear up. If all else failed, I knew the weather north of Rockford was VFR, but with the gear down, I would not have the fuel to make it due to the slower airspeed. I did not know the weather at my destination airport and feared asking ATC would kill my nav/com while on the ILS. My hope was that I would break out on the ILS with enough altitude and time to get the gear down, or it may be an intentional gear-up landing. As God up above watched over me, I broke out at an altitude that allowed me to circle for a landing, crank the gear down and land without any further incident.
In these circumstances, common sense and airplane knowledge/advice given to me by that FAA inspector years ago, paid off. I took full advantage of all available resources, including the limited data available on that Garmin 100 and information given to me by ATC, to make the approach, which was common to both of these IFR emergencies.
I would like to summarize this as the learning part of the article.
In both of these emergencies, the quick response from ATC was the key to their success. So, a pilot needs the following things to do an approach without having a chart readily available to him:
1. A heading to fly that will intercept the approach course (Vectors).
2. The frequency of the approach guidance if not a GPS approach.
3. The inbound course of the approach.
4. The altitude necessary to intercept and follow vertical guidance.
5. Altimeter setting.
6. The lowest point possible one can go on the approach, or the missed approach point (MAP).
Also, should it appear that the approach could go missed, it would be necessary to have missed approach instructions available.
Think the next time you are doing an approach… Could I fly the approach without an approach chart given the information above? Most of you could say, yes! Give it a try sometime with your instructor while doing an Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC).
Back in the days of these emergencies, approach charts were laid out differently. Some years ago, Jeppesen began including a briefing strip on the top of their charts and the government charts followed (FIG1 & FIG2). This allowed the pilot to get much of the information necessary to do the approach with a quick glance.
Many of you may look at these emergencies and say it could not happen to me, as we now have so many backups to help us overcome the above-mentioned emergencies, but we have created other weaknesses in doing so.
When I landed in Columbus, Georgia and the aircraft was towed to the maintenance shop, we checked the voltage of the battery with a voltmeter and it had 8.8 volts. That old King KX175 still operated with that low of voltage, but I can say that any of the new avionics would probably drop off line at anything under 11 volts.
When I got my instrument rating, I had to demonstrate partial-panel approaches with the needle ball and airspeed and some course guidance. I did that once with a vacuum failure in IMC. I marvel at Garmin’s new G5 instruments, which are available at a fantastic low price. I am anxious to purchase mine, although with every new item, comes another possible failure.
I have had many bad experiences with icing, which I have written about previously. This time, I wish to address flying in ice with the proper protection.
In the past, most GA aircraft that were owner-flown either had no ice protection or the minimum being pitot heat. If you went a step above that, it was propeller alcohol or heat, along with the same for the windshield. The next step up got you boots on the wings and tail surfaces. However, when I fly with boots, I always have the apprehension of inflating the boots at the wrong time. If you don’t wait long enough, the ice may not be thick and hard enough to crack and comes off creating an air pocket. If you wait too long, you wonder if they will inflate.
An idea that has caught on in recent years is the “weeping wing,” and it has been an option on Mooney aircraft and standard on most Cirrus aircraft from the factory. Aftermarket companies made kits available for Beechcraft and Cessna aircraft, which have proved to be a great add-on for those pilots who need more flyable days in the wintertime.
I had the opportunity to fly with a gentleman in his new Cessna 206 with the newly installed TKS ice protection system to see how it works. I have had previous experiences with this ice protection package on the Mooney and Cirrus with great results, and I was anxious to see how the system worked on the C206.
All flight surfaces on the C206 had protection, including the struts, which made it easy to visually monitor the ice buildup. We turned on the TKS pump as part of our run-up to allow the fluid to start to flow prior to take off from the Viroqua, Wisconsin airport. For those who have had icing experiences, you know that there are those hidden pockets of heavy ice out there waiting for that unsuspecting aircraft to fly through them. For the first 20 minutes of flight in the clouds, we were seeing only a trace of ice forming on unprotected surfaces. With such a small amount, we could have flown in it for hours without any noticeable effect on flight performance.
We had the TKS pumps on low, and all went well until we hit a pocket of heavy ice. All of the protected surfaces still remained clear of ice except the windshield, so we decided to go to high pump. The windshield ice cleared in about 2 minutes and shortly thereafter, we flew out of the pocket of heavy ice and went back to the low pump position. After doing several approaches at Dubuque, Iowa, we flew to Tri-County Regional Airport (KLNR) in Lone Rock, Wisconsin to enjoy lunch at the fantastic “Piccadilly Lilly Airport Diner.” Upon landing, we discovered about 1¼ inches of ice on unprotected surfaces. Should you be a pilot who flies for business like the owner of this C206 does, I feel that it is worth the piece of mind to install the TKS icing package on your airplane.
Anytime you are flying in visible moisture and the temperature is below freezing, you will get ice. Remember, icing is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you are going to get.
NOTE: Michael J. “Mick” Kaufman is a Certified Instrument Flight Instructor (CFII) and the program manager of flight operations with the “Bonanza/Baron Pilot Training” organization. Kaufman conducts pilot clinics and specialized instruction throughout the U.S. in a variety of aircraft, which are equipped with a variety of avionics, although he is based in Lone Rock (KLNR) and Eagle River (KEGV), Wisconsin. Kaufman was named “FAA’s Safety Team Representative of the Year” for Wisconsin in 2008. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 817-988-0174.
The information contained in this column is the expressed opinion of the author only, and readers are advised to seek the advice of their personal flight instructor and others, and refer to the Federal Aviation Regulations, FAA Aeronautical Information Manual and other instructional materials before attempting any procedures discussed herein.