I really don't want to shut down this engine.
This would be our last detachment site on an eight-month deployment. We wanted to do it right and make the boss proud. While the jet jockeys on the ship had ended their combat missions supporting troops on the ground, our battle was just starting. Distinguished-visitor (DV) warfare was the name of the game. Fly them on, fly them off while showcasing the power, pride and professionalism of the U.S. Navy to foreign dignitaries. Each carrier wing only has two CODs, so no broken planes during DV warfare.
Back to our ORM discussion about our skinny runway. NAS Sigonella has a nice, wide runway with arresting gear, a big plus for tailhook aircraft. Fortunately, Sigonella has a secondary runway, but with no arresting gear. We agreed that we'd feel comfortable landing a hypothetical single-engine emergency on this runway, a chance to show off our pilot skills and earn our pay.
On our second day of a detachment transit to NAS Sigonella from Bahrain, we had seen it all. We had trouble with country clearances, loss of air conditioning and pressurization (a big deal over the Middle East in the summer). Of greater importance, we noted an increased fuel burn at lower altitudes from our T-56A425 Allison engines. But hey, we were fortunate to have the pleasure of one night in NAS Souda Bay to get our fill of gyros and baklava.
The next day, we had a two-hour flight from Souda to Sigonella--all that was between us and three days of liberty. As we started our descent and completed the approach checklist, we saw a propeller-pump light flicker.
I trust the jet jocks reading this remember how they had to feed in right rudder when adding power in your trusty T-34/T-6. It's a similar issue in the COD, but worse when you have 4,600-SHP engines on your wings. Our plane has to fit on the flight deck, so the engineers made it short and gave us three big rudders, instead of a nice long tail with only one. Those three rudders produce large forces, so we have a rudder-limiting system which keeps us from ripping them off when we come into the break at a scorching 300 knots. These speeds allow for a face-sagging, awe-inspiring display for all of our admirers in the tower and flight deck. The rudder-limiting system, like all systems, is designed with the best of intentions. However, when it fails, it can hinder your best efforts to keep the houses small and the sky up.
So, there I was (I had to say that, don't judge me), as we received indications of a loss of pressure from our main propeller pump on our port side. NATOPS directs an engine shutdown while the secondary pump is still producing pressure to control the blade angles on the prop. You go to max power to drive the blades closest to the feather position before pulling the T-handle. This step is vital, in case the aircrew can't execute the shutdown before the secondary pump loses pressure, or the prop loses all fluid. If that happens, you risk losing control of blade angles. What's the big deal you ask? If you can't feather the prop, you are stuck with the equivalent of a 14-foot-wide, trash-can-lid-worth of drag hanging on your wing.
Enough with the technical garbage; we had a successful shutdown and feathering sequence. We were winning. Then we had a Dudastrophe, named for Capt. Terry Dudash, USN, (Ret.), a C-2/E-2 simulator master. Our rudder-limiting system was stuck in a high-speed limiting mode, giving us only two degrees of rudder authority versus the 20-degree rudder we needed. However, we had the altitude to reduce power on our operating engine, thereby reducing the asymmetric thrust and descend. We identified the issue as a faulty artificial-feel system, which limits our rudder authority. After a few tense moments, we diagnosed the problem and regained control of our aircraft.
WITH 40 MILEs LEFT to our destination and closest airfield, we set up for a single-engine approach to a 98-foot wide, 8,000-foot-long runway with no arresting gear in Sigonella.
The C-2A(R) is not equipped with anti-skid brakes. Sound judgment and trusty FRS instructors vehemently teach no brakes during normal landings (until well below 50 knots), unless you want to blow a tire and gain membership to the fraternity of the golden boot. So, we normally use our props to slow down.
Tragically, that pesky single-engine, asymmetric-thrust problem reared its ugly head again. High drag from our functioning starboard engine was pulling us to the right side of the runway at the same time. You have to use reverse thrust to try and slow down. Single-engine full stops are sporty enough on wide runways.
After eight months of deployment, this seasoned crew pulled all of their training together to land a plane full of 16 hardworking VRC-30 Det. 2 maintainers in Sigonella.
To all the jet jockeys and rotorheads, thanks for playing along, I can't wait for all the jabs back. This tale is not written in blood, and tragedy has been averted yet again. Trust your gut, use your training, and never take extra gas to a possible crash site.
LT. POPEJQY FLIES WITH VRC-30.
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|Title Annotation:||single-engine aircraft|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2012|
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