Thursday, January 27, 2011

Emergency Procedures Training Flight

CAP Cessna 182 Skylane
On January 25, 2011, Capt. Noel Luneau and I went for a training flight that focused on emergency procedures. It has been suggested in the SQ that we should practice this much needed skill, more often.

The weather was clear and the temperature was in the mid 60’s. Calm winds from the West and one nervous Mission Observer from the East. Yes, I was a tad nervous as I didn’t know what to expect. I came from a helicopter back-ground namely the UH-1N Huey. I was a Navy Corpsman (medic) that was attached to HMLA-369 out of Camp Pendleton. We did two campaigns in the first Iraq conflict and were also deployed to Korea, Philippines, and Japan. The helicopter was my first love for sure! Graduating to fixed wing type aircraft has been a little challenging for me. Getting used to the turbulence and not knowing if the thing will just drop out of the sky with engine failures and such. Well, after yesterday, I am getting more confident with the fixed wings capabilities. In helicopters, the pilots will use “auto-rotation” for engine failure. It feels like a gentle drop with flair at the end.

1st Lt David Dunham
Once Capt. Luneau and I briefed on what we were going to do, we went to the flight line to pre-flight and ready ourselves. Capt. Luneau has been my mentor since getting to the aircrew side with CAP in 2009. We have flown together numerous times not only with missions, we also attended NESA together and he was of all things, my instructor there for the Mission Observer track. We’ve also done casual flights in his private aircraft. Capt. Luneau is former military with a long list of accomplishments for himself. He is also our Deputy Commander and works hard with new members to help them succeed in CAP.

Climbing out from Oakland
The takeoff out of Oakland was pretty smooth. I casually asked him on when we can practice some procedures. All of a sudden, he pulls back the power and we dropped (to me it seemed like a mile) and I will never will forget what he said, “Like now? An engine failure?” How quickly my blood rushed into my heart and lungs and the excitement and nervousness kicked right in. That was the beginning. As we approached Mount Diablo, he yelled out, “Engine fire!” I hurriedly grabbed the checklist and while I was waiting for commands back, the plane went full nose down (Ed note: One aspect of the Engine Fire checklist is to increase speed in an attempt to extinguish the engine fire). Mind you, he was explaining everything to me on the how and why while we were doing this. I saw the ground and was thinking what I was doing on this flight? 

Capt Noel Luneau
After I got my composure, we went around Mount Diablo and caught an ELT signal. We climbed but the signal ceased after about 15 seconds. Capt. Luneau again surprised me with, “Engine Failure!” I was still recovering from the last two scenarios, so here we go again? His skill and calm made the situation so much better. While I was giving out the checklist, he was saying aloud, what he was doing. The propeller went into this strange silent noise and it was pretty quiet all around. We found a field as we were going to practice landing. When we pulled up for full power, I asked him some questions on how a fixed wing aircraft can maintain flight without the engine? He answered all of my questions to where it made sense.

Forward Slip on landing - Photo by Paul Carter
At the end of this trying flight, we went back to Oakland to practice my favorite landing maneuver. The Side-Slip and Forward-Slip!! Capt. Luneau introduced that landing when 2d.Lt. Bitz and I went on a training flight last October. What can I say; I have fallen in love with that maneuver! It totally reminds me of a helicopter style landing. We did three of those and I can easily do a dozen or so of those landings. Very fun!

Once the plane was secured, the XO and I debriefed over coffee and dinner. The time I have gotten to know Capt. Luneau has been a positive experience. He knows when to be cordial and knows when and how to put me in my place. I look up to him as he is the pilot and I am his right-seater. I totally trust my life with him as his skills and demeanor while in aerial flight, is what I got to experience when I was active duty.  

I would challenge and strongly suggest to any aircrew and pilot, to practice these scenarios whenever and however you can. It’s not fatalistic thinking; it’s just knowing how to tackle something that will be very baffling when it arises. I look forward to the next time I get to practice these tasks as I feel confident that I will be more at ease with each time we get through it.

Thank you Capt. Luneau for giving up some of your time and thanks to all in CAP that makes Squadron 188 such a fantastic family of professional volunteers!

1st Lt David Dunham, is Squadron 188's Personnel Officer and is a qualified Mission Observer.

Images courtesy of Capt Kumar Misra, 2d Lt Pat Bitz and Paul Carter.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds awesome and terrifying at the same time! I'm so glad you pilot folks spend extra time training on what to do in the event of an aircraft emergency. My family counts on you to keep me safe when I go up in the air, after all! Good work! Squadron 188 pilots rock!