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If Numbers Talked

If Numbers Talked

I always begin this story with, “It was 100 percent my fault.” Pride aside, here are the events that led up to my Class D accident.

In the fall of 2005, I was a fresh instructor pilot who was four months out of school and assigned to Fort Rucker FSXXII. I was a new CW3 with about 1,200 hours of Black Hawk time. Let’s see, four months out of the IP course, 1,200 hours — why did that sound familiar? Then it hit me. I think I saw similar numbers on a PowerPoint presentation titled “Statistics.” It was the same class we all sat through; the one that discussed pilots becoming complacent due to hours and experience.

“I’ve never had a mishap and I know my job, so they can’t possibly be talking about me,” I thought. Well, not only were they talking about me, I could have been the poster child for the topic. Some of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about.

I had a student who was doing very well. He was always prepared and eager to learn. It was Friday afternoon and we were at a local stagefield, going through single-engine failures at a hover. It is a common student tendency to remain at a hover and start working through steps as if the engine failure had occurred in forward flight at altitude instead of just landing on the improved surface just below the aircraft.

I explained to my student that once you leave Fort Rucker, there is a good chance you will find yourself in an aircraft or environment that will not support single-engine hover capability. I said, “If you lose an engine at a hover and you’re over a suitable landing area, be a little more aggressive about putting down the aircraft and working through the emergency procedure while on the ground.” That was mistake No. 1 — verbiage.

My student had all weekend to think about how he was going to be more aggressive when that next engine failure at a hover came around. It was Monday morning and we were back out at the stagefield. I told the student to pick up the aircraft to a hover and turn 90 degrees to the left. My thought process was based on the fact that in prior training the student was a little slow in responding to this particular emergency procedure. So, I initiated the EP in the turn, thinking that by the time he reacted we would be through the turn, he would set the aircraft down and we’d recover and head straight out to the slope area. Mistake No. 2 — not correctly setting up the emergency procedure.

As soon as my hand went up to retard the power control lever, the student aggressively lowered the collective. The tail wheel hit the ground while the aircraft was turning and snapped off. It is a common student tendency to lower the collective too quickly during this EP; therefore, it is taught in the IP course to guard the collective. Don’t just have some fingers below it like I did. Additionally, had I not initiated the EP in the turn, the landing gear would have easily absorbed the landing without incident.

So where did I go wrong? Telling the student to be more aggressive was a poor choice of words. Then I didn’t set up the EP properly. As I mentioned before, there would have been no incident if the wheel hadn’t struck with lateral movement. The last weak link, and one we have all been warned about, was complacency. This was a good student; but even your best student might surprise you sometimes. Will you be ready?  

  • 1 September 2014
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 10289
  • Comments: 0