Quick visit to Aaron’s place to check on his progress towards his first solo. No joy, just the description of a shooting in Detroit. Off to Old NFO’s blog to read an “interesting” post. Back over to Borepatch to read why I really don’t want to upgrade to Win10 and now I’ve got to fix Win7? Thanks loads guys. Quick stop at Insty for any breaking news, and then to the Timewaster for some photo goodness. I knew Sarge and Murph were getting together this weekend, so I’m cutting them some slack on content, but stop by Murph’s anyhow as he’d posted a departure notice. Wanted to see if he’d posted an arrival notice, hopefully with some airborne photography.
Well, he arrived, sort of. Seems he and a bird had a meeting of the minds. Murph and airplane are ok. The bird, not so much. So, good news.
But how had he figured out the subject of my post and then managed to preempt the story by arranging a bird strike?
So….There I was*
I’m an IP at Holloman AFB, flying the mighty AT-38B. We’re back in the pattern after flying a BFM ride. I’m in the front seat. The student in the back seat is going through the IP upgrade (downgrade?) program. A first assignment Eagle guy, it’s now time to pay the piper.
I’ve flown with him before, and he’s having no problems with any aspect of the course. In fact, I’ve learned a lot by having him in the pit. I’m sure he was thinking I was showing him basic student mistakes when, in fact, I’m trying my best. Of course there was some quid pro quo during the Air to Ground portion on the bombing range. I’d talked him into splitting the six bombs, he’d drop the first, I’d drop the second (from the back seat), alternating for 30 degree, 20 degree and 10 degree attacks, quarter a bomb. Most satisfying 75 cents I’d ever won. But, I digress.
As I said, the back seat guy is having no problems, and since we've got a little gas left, he’s practicing back seat landings, so he’s got the jet. We've come down initial as a two ship. # 2 is lower on gas than us, so he did a full stop. We request a closed pattern (pitch up to downwind) and been approved. We’re on downwind, intending to full stop on this landing, so gear down and flaps at 100%.
|Pretty sure I've flown this tail number.|
I do a quick check to confirm his statement that Gear and Flaps are down. Airspeed is good, displacement from the runway is correct. A fourship of Eagles calls 3 mile initial. I see them and so does the student.
He starts his roll off the perch (he begins the turn to final) with a “Juvat 1 is gear down full stop”. “Roger Juvat, cleared to land, traffic is a flight of Eagles 3 mile initial.” “Tally”
As he lowers the nose and rolls the aircraft to start the descending turn, I glance down at the ground and notice we’re over the small arms range. At that instant, I see a black object flash by. Immediately thereafter, I hear a series of small explosions. I think to myself “Hmm, I shouldn’t be able to hear the small arms fire.” as I notice the fire light on the left engine.
“I've got the Jet!”
“You've got the jet!”
There are lots of things that the military does not do well. Fortunately, Training is not one of them. As I take the aircraft, I enter the emergency procedure mode. Hammered into us repeatedly, since literally the first day of Pilot training, are the three rules in an emergency.
1. Maintain Aircraft Control
2. Analyze the situation and take proper action
3. Land as soon as conditions permit
Maintain Aircraft Control. Fly the aircraft first, last and always. Don’t hit the ground, anybody or anything else. I light the burner on the good engine, roll wings level and raise the flaps to 60%. I continue the descent in order to build flying speed, but cut the descent rate a bit.
Maintain Aircraft Control. Where are the Eagles? Ahh, there they are, they’ve already passed my nose and are above me. No problem. Fly the aircraft! Airspeed, about 200, gear up. 225, Flaps up. 250, stop the descent. Let’s hold 250 (max gear lowering speed).
Analyze the situation and take proper Action. Figure out what the problem is and what needs to be done and in what order. I've got flying speed, but I've got a fire and I'm in crowded airspace. Got to let folks know to get out of my way.
“Tower, Juvat 1 is declaring an emergency, we've got a fire on the left engine. Standby for further information, but inform White Sands that I will be entering their airspace.”
Didn’t want to compound our problem by getting shot down by a test missile.
Ok, back to the problem at hand, I've got a fire on the left engine. That's a Bold Face procedure. Bold Face procedures were procedures that Aircrew were required to know verbatim, down to the punctuation. Written test weekly, only passing score was perfect. Failure meant grounding until written perfectly.
Throttle, affected Engine-Idle, Throttle, affected Engine- Off if Fire warning light remains on. If fire is confirmed eject.
(As I said, training is NOT a thing the military does badly. 30+years since flying the jet, I wrote that from memory. Confirmed it with Google, but typed it first.)
I pull the left engine throttle to idle. It may have been microseconds, but it felt like I gave it forever, the light did not go out. I pull the throttle to off. The light goes out immediately.
Well, good, we might not need to eject.
Maintain Aircraft Control. Airspeed’s steady at 250. Altitude steady at 1500’ AGL. Right Engine, looks steady. Hydraulics, good, all gauges good.
Analyze situation and take proper action. Let's make sure I know the entire situation. “You see anything wrong back there?” “Nope”
“OK, we’re going to set up for a straight in and configure at about 5 miles”
I contact the SOF and let him know the plan. He approves and says he’ll contact the appropriate folks. I know the fire trucks are already rolling, but he’s talking about “all the rest”. The Wing King, the squadron, the Wing Safety Officer, all the folks that will have me filling out paperwork for the rest of the day.
Maintain Aircraft Control. 5 mile final, I add a couple of percent on the right engine to compensate for the soon to increase drag and put the gear handle down. I feel a very satisfying thunk followed by 3 green lights. OK, flaps to 60%. (The increase in flaps from 60% to 100% is mostly an increase in drag. More drag in a real single engine emergency at high pressure altitude is not something I want.)
Analyze the situation and take proper action. “Juvat is 5 miles, Gear down, three green confirmed, full stop with emergency.” The "confirmed" was included to prevent the call from the Wing King asking the SOF asking me to confirm three green, which usually would occur over the overrun, when I had other things to do.
“Juvat is cleared to land.”
I’m holding it at about 180 just in case. (Normal approach speed is 155K +1 knot per 100 lbs of fuel over 1000, we’re below that, so normally I'd be 155) I want to cross the threshold at 155, but I want to continuously decelerate to that point. Extra airspeed is my friend all the way to the runway. The runway is more than 2 miles long, so getting stopped shouldn't be a problem.
Land as soon as conditions permit.
Cross the threshold, quick glance at the airspeed. 155. We’re committed to landing, there will not be enough thrust to get us back airborne if something happens now. I continue the throttle reduction to idle and begin the flare. I’m rewarded with a nice chirp when the mains hit the ground and continue pulling on the stick to aerobrake.
Taxi clear, pull in to the dearm area and shut down when the arming area chief gives me the signal. Total time from declaring the emergency to shut down? About 5 minutes.
Climb out and can’t resist taking a look at the left engine. I see daylight as I look down the intake. And STINK! Barbecued Buzzard stinks to high heaven.
|Not mine, but you get the idea.|
As the squadron scheduler, I've got a good relationship with the maintenance NCOICs. (The OIC also, but it’s the NCOIC that’s going to give me the straight answer on whether or not there’s going to be a jet for a sortie.) So, later that day, I ask him what damage the engine had taken. He said that the bird (it really was a buzzard) had taken out all the turbine blades which was why I could see daylight. The engine was irreparable.
In doing some research for this I came across a blogpost about applying the 3 rules in an emergency to everyday events. Lotta truth in that.