2 out of 3 Ain't Bad; 2 out of 4 Is Another Matter.
We were practicing GCAs. It was 100 degrees with about a 10-gusting-to-16-knot crosswind from the left, and seven miles visibility.
As we passed rotate speed following our second GCA, I saw the red overtemp light for the No. 1 engine light up and heard the engineer mutter something profane. At first, I thought he had pushed up the power lever too far and was upset with himself. I felt a violent swerve and saw nothing but grass in front of us. The pilot in the left seat rotated to keep from going off the side of the runway. The nose was 30 to 40 degrees off runway heading, and despite 3,500 feet remaining, there was no chance for us to abort.
The aft observer then came on the ICS: "Torch, torch number one." I cleared the FE to pull the No. 1 emergency-shutdown handle and took the controls. The aircraft continued to yaw left, despite both pilots putting in full right rudder. Once the engine feathered, we regained some directional control and cleaned up. There was rising terrain, and it seemed to take forever to accelerate and climb out.
I tried to contact tower, because we were about to fly into the midfield downwind pattern. Unfortunately, the presets are not the same in all our aircraft, and I wound up on Philadelphia approach. The third pilot sitting on the radar cabinet got the frequency in, and I declared an emergency, while the FE and pilot in the left seat began the emergencyshutdown checklist.
At 800 feet AGL, and about four items into the checklist, the fire-warning horn sounded for No. 2. The engineer announced the fire, and we shut down that engine. We didn't know it at the time, but a swirl-vane staightener bolt had been installed improperly; we suspect that the hot air was probably porting on the detection element.
I continued to fly, as the FE and pilot ran through the checklist. My first thought was, "Where's the runway?" A prolonged flight was not in our best interests, having lost two of the four engines. Tower asked us to climb to 2,500 feet for the delta pattern, but at 2,000 feet and barely climbing, we told them we were leveling off. I had the third pilot--a guy who had done two tours in P-3s and had been an instructor--get in the right seat. I swapped over to the left seat for the landing, because we train to do emergency landings from that seat, and because it has the nosewheel steering, which might come into play as the aircraft rolled out.
My heart was pounding, my mouth was dry, and my stomach was tight. It was boiling in the cockpit, because we had lost air conditioning when we shut down No. 2. We briefed the landing from NATOPS. The left crosswind would help stop us, since the nose would tend to weathercock and allow me to use more reverse on No. 3 and No. 4 while maintaining centerline. We decided we could not restart the engines, and that once we had been cleared to land, had the gear down, and were in position to make the runway, we could slow below 145 KIAS. We couldn't wave off once we slowed. A good aviator always has a plan B, but for the first time in my flying career, I didn't. Once we slowed, we were committed to plan A.
We landed on centerline, and I reversed with No. 3 and No. 4. Someone from the back prematurely said, "Nice job" on the ICS. Touching down isn't the tough part--stopping is. As soon as No. 4 was aft of the ground-start position, we drifted right. I brought No. 4 back up to ground start and used full reverse with No. 3. We decelerated to 100 KIAS by the 3-board, and I didn't touch the brakes until 80 KIAS. The fire trucks followed us as we rolled to the end and turned into the apron, with hot brakes on the port side.
Then the Monday-morning quarterbacking began. Because P-3s had landed with two engines only about five times in the past 15 years, we had lots to discuss. The first thing that had surprised me was how violent the swerve was when we lost No. 1. We did have a crosswind from the port side, and the No. 1 engine is the critical engine, but the real difference is that when we train for emergencies, we simulate a feathered propeller.
With no way to stay on the runway and abort, the pilot flying had done a great job keeping us out of the weeds by rotating even before I could call it. Once airborne, the plane yawed left. Were we below minimum controllable airspeed? Not according to the charts, but the charts do not account for the engine not being feathered. We certainly weren't maintaining directional control. You can counter this problem by reducing power on the opposite outboard engine, but we had rising terrain and no excess speed or climb rate, so in this case it didn't seem to be the right technique. The other downside of this yaw was the amount of sideslip drag it produced, which really hurt our ability to accelerate. Once the propeller was feathered, the drag reduced, and we could maintain directional control, as well as increase altitude and airspeed.
I'm not claiming that we had Hans and Franz at the controls, but neither of us are 98-pound weaklings. We were both stomping full right rudder, and the yoke was hard over. We had a lot of adrenaline going, and it was still tough to keep the rudder over. Engine-out work in a P-3 requires a lot of rudder, and pilots who aren't strong enough should spend some time at the squat rack.
Reversing with two engines out is different from when we simulate losing two engines. There is less drag on feathered engines than on engines at ground start, which causes more swerve than when we train. I have found this to be true on the three-engine landings as well. There is no way to change our training to compensate for this, but all pilots should be aware of it.
ACT worked. We reacted to the emergency just as we trained. One pilot flew, while the engineer and other pilot handled the malfunction. We didn't have much time to analyze and discuss the situation before coming up with a decision. Snap your fingers three times--that's how long it took for us to rotate, call a torch, pull the e-handle, and transfer control.
Autofeather was put on the plane for a purpose. There are times not to use it (for example, touch-and-goes), times when it is not prudent to use it (birds), but don't just write it off every time.
You probably won't read about another two-engine until your next tour. Then again, I didn't think I'd have to write about one until a war started.
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|Title Annotation:||United States, Air Force, maneuvres report|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2001|
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