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-   -   Sharing an emergency (https://www.pprune.org/flying-instructors-examiners/616178-sharing-emergency.html)

Genghis the Engineer 9th Dec 2018 11:19

Sharing an emergency
I had an incident yesterday which, thankfully, ended harmlessly, but has got my grey cells going.

Scenario - instructing a lapsed PPL trying to get his licence back. Normal brief, taxi, checks, bit of a delay as the airfield was busy, then he flew the take-off. I had briefed that if there was an emergency, it'd be a real one (planned sortie was 15 minutes local GH then back into the circuit), I would allow him to handle it until I decided otherwise.

Normal take-off run (strong headwind that I'd not have sent him solo in, but was quite happy with me on board), and then started climb. Around 300ft we lost climb rate from an initial and normal 700ish FPM to a less normal 250fpm. Student and I simultaneously identified this and after a few microseconds of decision making time, I decided that a rusty lapsed PPL shouldn't be managing a possible incipient engine failure and took control - I'm pretty certain I heard him sigh with relief.

Rest of the sortie was short and thankfully relatively uneventful. I called a PAN, flew a tight non-standard circuit that kept landable fields in front of me all the time, landed safely. A bit of diagnostic work showed a left mag circuit failure. An engineer this morning found it was a failed plug on that circuit.

The interesting question is the extent to which I did, or should, involve the student in the emergency. In my case, what I did was provide him with a limited narrative of what I was doing, and then we had quite a lengthy debrief (previous sortie I'd been refreshing emergencies with him, conveniently enough, so we were able to baseline my own actions against my teaching!) Fortunately I actually did do pretty much everything, bar a really crap radio call - did I really say "Tower, please consider this a pan :sad:" by the book so I could then also provide a good debrief against that baseline, including CRM aspects and things that I felt in retrospect I could have handled better myself. (That radio call, also I ended up using residual power to correct an inadvertently slightly low approach - thankfully enough power was still there; the low approach was probably my misjudging of the strong headwind.)

Relating this, I've been on two first aid courses in the last year, one for aviation purposes delivered by a CCM trainer, one was a hobby oriented first aid at work course delivered by an A&E nurse. All good fun, both courses we had an emergency during the course.

Course 1 (taught by an A&E nurse, most students martial artists) somebody fainted due to sight of blood on some of the instructional slides! The instructor calmly picked up the required kit, stepped over, and went straight into using the poor unconscious student as a teaching example.

Course 2 (taught by a CCM, most students airborne scientists) somebody managed to fire a live epipen through their own finger. The instructor stopped all teaching, took the incident out of the room, took no measures to inform or manage continued learning of the class. Picked things up again about 45 minutes later with no debrief.

It got me thinking - of course the first concern can only ever be safety actions - whether that's dealing with a possible incipient engine failure, or a first aid emergency. But insofar as there's spare capacity to do so (and certainly afterwards when all is made safe and there's mental and physical space to do so), to what extent has anybody else either engaged, or shut out, a student in the course of dealing with a real emergency. I'm broadly happy with what I did, including pointing out my own mistakes and side much more with my instructor on first aid course 1 than first aid course 2.


Jetstream67 9th Dec 2018 11:33

Aviate, Navigate .......................... Communicate !

Genghis the Engineer 9th Dec 2018 11:38

You may rest assured, that I prioritised aviating, always knew where I was (given I never left the circuit, that was at least easy!), and only communicated where I had spare capacity to do so -and in particular left the detailed discussion to a lengthy debrief once the aeroplane was back on stand and we had tea and cake in front of us.

Thanks for your detailed contribution.


Big Pistons Forever 9th Dec 2018 21:03

With respect to actual emergencies I brief every student as follows

1) In the event of an emergency that requires immediate action I will immediately take control. The student is to take no action so as to avoid the possibility of us acting at cross purposes. I will expect him to handle all radio calls at my direction ( ie make a PAN call now we are landing on runway XX) so that I can concentrate on flying the airplane and dealing with the emergency. I will also expect him to read any emergency checklists I call for.

2) In the event of an emergency that does not require immediate action ( eg alternator flail light on), I will leave the student in control and coach him through the required actions.

I also tell the student that in event of an aircraft abnormality, we both have a veto with respect to continuing the lesson or returning to the airport immediately.

Duchess_Driver 9th Dec 2018 21:07

Is that 4 full or partials youíve had now G, or have I missed some?

Genghis the Engineer 10th Dec 2018 10:53

Good briefing BPF, I may well steal that.

DD: 3 totals in the normal flying environment (blocked fuel filter, failed cylinder head bolt retaining tab, rich cut due to mis-set engine / no cockpit mixture control), 6ish totals in flight testing - all just carb settings or too long at negative g and were restarted, 1 partial in flight test: a fuel pump failure, 2 partials in the normal flying environment: a rubber component loose in the oil sump, and a failed plug (plus one PANed and diverted rough running that in retrospect I think was just carb icing, one alternator failure). Or thereabouts: I don't have a column in the logbook for them, and thinking too hard about it isn't brilliant for my sanity. Ignoring the flight test failures, each one in a different aeroplane (okay two pairs - the rough running and this weekend's partial, and the alternator failure and other partial were each the same aeroplane - albeit several years apart in each case), with the engine maintained by a different person or organisation as well. Only one damaged aircraft on the list. Oh and one incipient - oil pressure dropped to near-zero, just after an engine rebuild, but that the engine behaved fine during the diversion and landing - until it stopped halfway between the runway and parking: that was another aeroplane and maintainer again.

Not quite sure if this all makes me lucky or unlucky, but I sort of get why people sometimes get sent to me for specific refresher training in handling emergencies.


Big Pistons Forever 11th Dec 2018 00:34


With respect to the loss of power incident you related in your OP, IMO you should have made a MAYDAY call rather than a PAN call. Personally I think there is an unfortunate tendency, particularly in light aircraft, towards a “real pilots don’t call a Mayday” mindset. I think this kind of thinking needs to be stamped out and Instructors have a big role here.

jayteeto 11th Dec 2018 08:25

A student could learn far more by watching you do it (properly of course).
They learn a few things:
Emergencies DO happen, itís important to know drills
They are NOT going to automatically die horribly
It is actually worth listening to this guy/girl, they know their stuff
And of course, what do I do for this particular drill.

leave them hands on and they will be scared and possibly forget what went on

Ascend Charlie 11th Dec 2018 09:57

You tell me, I forget.
You show me, I might remember.
You let me do it, I learn.

But under the conditions described by G the E, I would have done the same.

Whopity 11th Dec 2018 10:37

Scenario - instructing a lapsed PPL trying to get his licence back. Normal brief, taxi, checks, bit of a delay as the airfield was busy, then he flew the take-off. I had briefed that if there was an emergency, it'd be a real one (planned sortie was 15 minutes local GH then back into the circuit), I would allow him to handle it until I decided otherwise.
Spot on, he is a pilot not a student, albeit an out of practice pilot.
Not in immediate danger is a PAN call.

jayteeto 11th Dec 2018 10:52

Ascend Charlie, that mantra works well for training. In my 2 engine failures (twin turbines), the last thing on my mind was learning. I was surviving. I did do the correct drills, but I can’t remember much else about it due to trying to think ahead ������

C.King 11th Dec 2018 11:03


I cannot fault your actions/reactions with regard to the airborne malfunction, however with regard to your first aid course examples, while they fit your narrative I believe the second instructor probably acted more professionally.
The question that must be asked was, did the student 'casualties' give informed consent to be used as teaching aids in those scenarios? The instructor who took the student out of the class and then maintained clinical confidentiality to a 'patient', would perhaps be recognised by health professionals as having dealt with the matter more appropriately.
As previously stated, I agree with your narrative, but perhaps not the iron clad example to support it.

Jhieminga 11th Dec 2018 14:38

The difference in approach for the two first aid examples may also be due to the different risks involved in a fainting spell and an overdose of epi. But we digress.

As for the lapsed PPL, I think I would have done something similar, and I can only hope that I would do it as successfully as GtE has done. I haven't had any engine issues yet (fortunately), beyond some carb ice that was quickly removed after applying carb heat. Had the pilot started off on handling the emergency I might have left him in control, coaching him wherever necessary and remaining on standby to take over at the first sign of him being unhappy with the situation. You can often spot pretty quickly whether a pilot is able to deal with a situation at hand. I wonder if the signs of him operating towards the limits of his capacity weren't there already, however small, prompting the decision to take over.

Genghis the Engineer 11th Dec 2018 16:16

Many thanks everybody for thoughts and discussion. A few points from me on some of what's been said.

Other than the correct wording should of course have been "pan pan, pan pan, pan pan", not "Tower, please consider this a pan", which is definitely not my finest ever piece of RT - I think that the main issue here, and with other urgencies / emergencies is that the pilot passed clear information about the situation and any help they needed. I *think* I did that, if a little scruffily. I think it was defensibly either a mayday or a pan, on the whole I tend to agree with BPF and say that I should have called mayday - but above all I needed to explain the situation to those who could support me, and I'm content I did that.

Re: first aid. I can see the point about the first instructor including the student (unconscious) in his class, at the same time it was a group of martial artists who were used to a degree of use of each other to demonstrate "stuff" in ways that wouldn't be normal in most environments. I am personally more critical of the second instructor for not actively controlling the environment beyond their immediate casualty, nor in providing a useful debrief afterwards. [Incidentally, the epipen needle in question had embedded itself in the bone in the fellow's finger! - he was fiddling with it, not appreciating it wasn't a practice model, plenty of lessons in that which don't need discussing! I gather that when he was sent to A&E, they did make their views on that quite clear].

In the meantime, turns out my student was recording the flight in SkyDemon and emailed me this, if anybody's interested Turweston is 438ft amsl with a 1000ft circuit height, so I kept creeping up but never actually made circuit height - I just kept climbing until I could make the runway, then reduced power. Well inside the circuit, prioritising having somewhere to land at all times. I'm pretty comfortable with that aspect. Also to make sense of the numbers - it was an AA5 with about 10 kts westerly wind at the surface, nearer 20kts within the circuit. The right turn after take-off is clearly the point I took control.



Big Pistons Forever 11th Dec 2018 16:41

One of my pet peeves about flight training is that the engine failure scenario taught is in fact the statistically least likely scenario. A complete failure with no warning and an unsuccessful attempt to restore power. This is IMO exacerbated by the student knowing that the instructor will tell him the restart is unsuccessful so that they can complete the forced approach.

This is IMO very negative training as it it minimizes the importance of the cause check which in the real world has a significant chance of restoring power as the reason the engine failed was pilot induced

Similarly partial power loss scenarios are virtually never practiced but are in fact much more likely to occur than a full power loss. One of my favourite exercises is to reduce power to a level that provides just enough power to maintain level flight at a speed around best endurance and then ask what the student is going to do.This invariably results by a blank look from the student but leads to a very good pilot decision making exercise with some directed questions.

Genghis the Engineer 11th Dec 2018 16:55

I agree totally BPF - as my response to DD's question above clearly indicates.

Also two of my three total power failures, started as a partial power failure. Of those two, one unfortunately did lead to aircraft damage - but the other didn't, and neither led to serious injury - and I think my immediately positioning the aircraft in response to partial power loss contributed to those relatively happy outcomes too.


Big Pistons Forever 12th Dec 2018 00:21


My comments were not directed at you but rather the generally unrealistic scenarios presented in flight training.

I personally have never had a complete engine failure in a SEP but I have had 3 partial failures, all of which fortunately ended up with an airport recovery

Genghis the Engineer 12th Dec 2018 06:19

Roger, and affirm. We've had these discussions before - and I was just using my own experiences to demonstrate why I agreed with you.


BEagle 12th Dec 2018 13:25

I can only recall having had 3 events in light aeroplane instruction which required a prompt return to the aerodrome:

1. During a student's slow roll, engine oil spread itself across my side of the windscreen. As PIC, I took control; left all engine levers alone and used the available thrust to climb towards the aerodrome overhead, then set the throttle to idle and landed off a forced landing pattern. I also operated the radio as I wanted to make it clear to ATC that I would be requiring priority!

2. During departure with another student, I experienced a rough running engine at normal power / rpm settings. Again as PIC I took control, turned for the aerodrome overhead, found a power setting which allowed the engine to run 'normally', then told ATC my requirements before landing off a forced landing pattern.

3. Suction pump failure during the nav section of a PPL Skill Test. After confirming it was the pump, not the gauge, I told the student that the flight was a freebie for which he wouldn't be charged, then flew back to the aerodrome whilst he enjoyed the view.

If I was flying as PIC in a single engine aeroplane with an abnormal or emergency event, I would always take control and proceed as if solo rather than having some distracting discussion with the student, or risking him/her confusing ATC with poor RT. He/she would spend 100% of the time looking out for other traffic and we would debrief the problem only when safely on the ground.

timprice 13th Dec 2018 16:27

Students and pilots overall are like sponges the more information we have the more chance of a better outcome should an incident occur, of course not every thing were told or learn is remembered.
But no harm trying, I find often the more heads the better I suppose that's why big jets have multi crew, hoping one of them might remember something in an incident:E

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