Posted by: Sean Kerr | March 10, 2011

Current From Our Desk – Thinking Through ALL the Issues

Do you still try to stay “current from your desk”? Meaning, do you still practice your scan, run through emergency procedures, etc from your desk? How would you handle this situation? You are in international territory, have a thunderstorm to contend with, and have warning lights in your cockpit…

I am hearing more about pilots who found themselves in not so normal situations. Really, I am sure we can all think of times we have been in and were grateful for the training, the airplane and our experience level when we got to our destination.

Sure, we have checked the winds, fuel, SIDs, STARs, NOTAMs, and other flight planning items; however, did you think about any possible communication barriers, the type of terrain you are flying over, the airport environment, what to do in the event of an emergency, headaches with customs, etc?

With the author’s permission; the following story has been adapted from his blog posting. It served as a great reminder to recheck all my “’i’s’ are dotted and ‘t’s’ are crossed”. You get the idea…

The Setup: A pilot with over 1100 hours in jets, on a flight to a South American country, in a CJ1, as a Single Pilot and runs into a mechanical issue…he never made it to his destination!

“The first day went fine. The next day I departed for my first stop in Manaus but needed to fly over Venezuela. I had no problem with ATC. I spent an hour on the ground doing customs paperwork. Manaus is pretty much on the equator, so it was hot. I took on a full load of fuel and headed off.

Level at FL410 I was enjoying my lunch when the left fuel filter bypass light came on. I read the checklist and decided to continue to my destination, 600 miles away. Shortly after that, the right fuel filter bypass light annunciated. Now my mind is racing. I concluded I must have gotten fuel contaminated with water in Manaus. I started searching for the nearest airport, and the only thing there is jungle! Today it was an IFR jungle. The closest airport was 245 NM away! I started to inform ATC that I had a mechanical issue and needed to descend to warmer air and change my airport. This proved to be more difficult than one might expect here in the USA. About this time the left and right fuel low pressure lights flashed causing both fuel boost pumps to latch on. I’m really excited now! Not only do I have a real emergency, I have large thunderstorms to contend with, communication issues and now a new problem. Because I am at a lower altitude my fuel consumption is way up and I’m 245 miles away from the airport. Thankfully there is room between the thunderstorms to get by. About 75 miles from landing the right then left fuel filter bypass lights go out and the right fuel boost pump resets. The left fuel boost pump will not reset. If I turned it to off, the low pressure light comes on. I am 15 miles from the airport and the fuel low level lights come on. I’ve seen way to many lights on the panel today. I land and park. Before I shut down I turned off the left fuel boost pump and again, the low pressure light comes on.

I learned a few things out of this. Which is why I wanted to share it with all of you. In the USA this would have not been a big issue. Same lights on and 30 minutes later we could be on the ground someplace suitable.”

Were you thinking along the way of what you would do if you were in this situation? Don’t forget to stay “current from your desk”.

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