27 January 2008

Engine Out!

Well there's a first time for everything and this was my first engine failure experience.

Except I wasn't PIC, I was in the right seat of the Seminole. And thankfully it turned out not to be all that scary either.

We were basically moving a Seminole from Centennial (APA) to Front Range (FTG), where our pilot was scheduled to have his Commercial Multi-engine checkride the next day, in the very Seminole in which we were riding. The other three of us aboard were going to do a training flight in another airplane upon arrival at Front Range.

It's only about a 10 minute flight between the two airports, and we planned a practice instrument approach to FTG. We set up for the ILS approach to runway 35, descended, then went missed and requested 26 as that was the runway we really wanted.

We circled around the field and entered the downwind for 26. As we turned to the base leg, I happened to notice something different out of the corner of my eye, but it didn't quite register in my brain. The pilot was concentrating on getting us into position for the final so I didn't bother to ask him.

As we turned to final and got lined up I looked more intently to my left and saw it - a little "blip" in the blur of the spinning left prop.

Now that I had seen it for sure, I stared at the left prop and saw it again, just a slight variation in the spin rate.

By this time we were almost in the flare so I sure didn't want to distract our pilot now. Just after we touched down and began the rollout, the prop suddenly blipped twice more and then stopped completely.

Since by this time we were on the ground and decelerating, I asked the pilot if he had seen anything unusual and he said that he too, had seen the variations in the prop spin but didn't think anything of it at the time.

The entire sequence, from the time I noticed the first blip to touchdown, lasted no more than about a minute and a half. All in all, not too scary.

This time.

But - what if instead of Front Range, we had been heading to Jeffco (Rocky Mountain Metro, BJC)?

Jeffco, as most people still refer to it unless you're talking to a controller, is about a 20 minute flight from Centennial. Assuming the same timing of the engine failure, we would have been about 10 minutes out from Jeffco, and most likely right over downtown Denver.

Now, an engine failure in a twin is not necessarily catastrophic, but it sure would have made things interesting.

And would have given our pilot a real-life experience.

We're still not sure what happened to the Seminole. As we taxied to the ramp, repeated attempts to restart the engine were futile. Replacing the starter did not fix the problem. The mechanic said something about an intake valve being the possible culprit.

The checkride was postponed for another day and another airplane.


Anonymous said...

Ah, that doesn't sound that scary! Commercial flying is way scarier these days ;-)

Teaching Mommy said...

That's why I'm terrified of small planes...didn't need to read that story. :-)