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With nearly 200 hours on my 601 XLB in the past year and three months, I re-started thinking about emergency procedures.
During Phase 1 testing, critical failures were constantly on my mind and frankly, added a great deal of stress to every flight. Each flight carried the expectation of a major system failure requiring some immediate response.
I had a few relatively minor emergencies during this period. The lack of serious problems helped build my confidence in this complex piece of machinery I had somehow managed to put together.
Phase 1 ended and I continued to expand my understanding and abilities of this beautiful machine. Then I started flying a lot of long distance trips frequently flying at higher altitudes and over rough terrain. While I frequently reviewed the major emergencies – Fire In Flight, Engine Failure in Flight, Electrical or Pitot system failures, I had a nagging feeling that I was missing something in my emergency planning.
After some introspection I came to the realization that these major emergencies are only half of the problem. What I hadn’t really considered is something much more likely – what will be my response when one of my gauges or indicators suggests something is wrong? Did I really understand every switch, indicator and gauge on my panel? Did I know the possible fault or failure indications of each one? I had the nagging doubt that I did not.
I can tell you I’m pretty sure I went thru this thought process on each addition to my panel – two years ago when I was assembling it. Yet it dawned on me that maybe I’d forgotten some important stuff about my instrumentation and that a delay in figuring out a problem in the air could have serious consequences. I had built in a lot of redundancy and warnings into my panel but did I REALLY understand each one? I wasn’t sure, and that led me to the following exercise.
I know what you’re thinking - “Well of course I know everything about my panel and the correct response, after all, I built it!”
The engineer in me needed to find out, “Do I REALLY know this?”.
So I decided it would be a good exercise if I went through my entire panel, from left to right, and review each instrument, gauge or indicator. I would consider a failure or alarm fault from each one, DURING FLIGHT:
- Classify the in-flight risk factor as low, medium or high. High representing a real possibility of an off airport landing. Low indicating a likely “continue to destination” and then resolve and medium somewhere in the middle.
- Consider the various fault symptoms or failure scenarios
- Write down an appropriate response to each scenario
I thought this would be a straight forward exercise with very few unknowns. What I discovered was something quite different.
The first item on the lower left of my panel is the Starter Engage light. Well the risk to safety is low since I’m likely on the ground and the response is simple – shut her down. At this point I started to think that maybe this was just a big waste of my time.
Then I got to the next item on my panel – the EarhtX battery fault light. Uhhh, what does this really mean? I had probably known when I installed it two years ago but I really had no clue what it really meant in terms of the risk to the flight. After reading the manual I was surprised to learn the light had two fault modes – flashing and solid. I further discovered that, while the manual explained the functions of the faults it didn’t clearly answer the question, “how much of a risk to my flight is this?”
(Reminder - that with the exception of the starter engage light, all assessments are based on the situation that these failures occur during the flight. That’s the whole point of this – to be able to properly assess, in-flight, what should be the appropriate response should a fault or failure occur at say, 8500 feet over rough terrain.)
I ended up emailing EarthX and Kathy got back to me very quickly and really helped me determine the right responses for my aircraft. This made me realize there just might be some real value to this exercise.
I continued the exercise for each switch, gauge and indicator.
I can tell you that by the time I was done I realized I had been quite stupid not to have done this much earlier. It raised many questions that required further research, and I was quite surprised by this.
Every item on the list is quite likely to occur at some point in the future. These are not the catastrophic emergencies I practice, but these represent real, and more likely issues, that I will face during some in-opportune time in flight.
I summed up all my panel systems, symptoms and responses in a table that I will shrink to fit onto my kneeboard. I have posted it here.
I made this post because I discovered this was a very valuable exercise and made me consider and decide on an appropriate in-flight response. Hopefully I will remember most of this but if I don’t I will have it on my kneeboard for review in-flight.
Regardless of how well you think you know your panel I would encourage others to try this exercise. I’m guessing you will discover a number of things you didn’t realize about your plane and the information it provides to you in-flight.
If you happen to have any comments on my assessment or responses, I would appreciate you bringing them to my attention. I consider this list a living document that I will continue to improve and update.
Please understand this list is specific to my airplane and my personal risk tolerance. I’m not suggesting anyone else actually use this list. Even if we have similar aircraft and instruments, each pilot needs to view this exercise through the lens of their own aircraft, experience,flying conditions and risk tolerance.
Happy Flying - Or Building!
Its attached in the link in the original post. See above.
I just started flying my 701, and the first part of your discussion is true "critical failures" I have some minor problems that
I hope to solve. High EGT on one cylinder (Bing Carb).
Thanks for the system emergencies docx. It will be a good exercise for peace of mind during flight. Less than one hour
of flight as of today.