Landing gear departs aircraft

Landing gear departs aircraft

Postby Scott Medeiros » Mon Sep 24, 2018 2:35 pm

A Piper Warrior flown by a student making her first solo flight lost a wheel after takeoff.
LiveATC Audio;topic=14833.0;attach=10095

You can hear the initial shock and fear in her voice after being made aware of her predicament. The pilot, controllers, and instructors did a fantastic job of working together to get the aircraft and on the ground safely.

Some takeaways from this emergency...
1. Take a breath, try to relax and calm yourself. The initial shock and startle factor will be high. Even highly experienced professional pilots are subject to startle related errors. Relax, open the air vents, and realize that a very tiny number of airborne emergencies are actually “no time” emergencies that require you to land NOW, vs ASAP. Fire in the fuselage our severe controllability problems are about the only times you need to expedite (but not rush) to get the aircraft on the ground. Relax, follow your immediate action memory items (if applicable), complete all emergency and normal checklists, and set up the aircraft for landing. Attempt to normalize the non-normal. This is where repeated training for emergencies helps normalize that.

2. You are not alone up there. Even while flying solo, you have resources to help you. These come in the form of ATC, FSS, other pilots and instructors, dispatchers (for commercial carriers), and maintenance personnel . Cockpit resource management teaches us to use all available resources and expand your team in order to make the best decisions with the information provided.

3. Aviate, navigate, communicate. We’ve all heard this phase, but let’s elaborate on how it applies to an emergency. #1 priority is that someone is flying the airplane. What good is running the engine fire checklist perfectly and extinguishing the fire if you end up in a CFIT accident? If autopilot is available, you should use it in order to help reduce your task saturation, but you still need to “fly the plane” by monitoring your automation.
Next is navigation. In most emergencies you’ll want to land at the nearest suitable airport, so let’s start heading in that direction. Or say we have an emergency in an area of high terrain that requires a descent, like a decompression or engine failure requiring a driftdown to our max single engine altitude. We need to fly the plane, and navigate to remain clear of terrain or severe weather.
Last, but not least communicate your intentions and needs. ATC may start asking questions such as “fuel and souls on board” and “what help do you need”. They want to help get you down safely, and that’s very much appreciated, but sometimes they can become more of a distraction. This is where it’s important to prioritize your tasks, and you may need to tell them to standby after declaring your emergency. Just declaring an emergency will get the ATC ball rolling and the controller will get the help of a supervisor, start shifting their aircraft to other sectors and controllers, and contacting nearby airports to start building their plan should you need to divert. Once you’re satisfied that the aircraft is stable, under control, and not headed towards a threat, you can work with ATC to expand your team and discuss your options. ATC recordings of the recent Horizon Q400 audio in Seattle, or Southwest engine failure give you a good feel for what ATC can do for you.

In the recordings from this Warrior event, you can hear the instructor tell Maggie that the plane is under control, and she is navigating on downwind. In addition to being a calming voice, and normalizing the situation, he is telling her that her aviating and navigating are good and she is perfectly safe.

4. The emergency is not necessarily over when you’re on the ground. Secure the aircraft, cut the engines, fuel, and power. Grab emergency equipment and evacuate if necessary. If evacuating, make sure passengers are safely away from the aircraft. A good briefing on the ground helps immensely in the evacuation process. Brief passengers as if they were on an airliner. How to release seatbelts, open the doors/windows, where do we go?

Some things, like a wheel falling off, are hard to chair fly ahead of time. But other emergencies can be mentally flown and prepared for ahead of time. Every flight should consist of good briefings (even if you’re briefing yourself), consideration of the various threats you may face, and a preflight plan for the flight and how you’ll handle threats if or when they come up.
Scott Medeiros
Posts: 169
Joined: Sat Apr 12, 2014 8:49 am
Location: Atlanta, GA

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