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PAN, PAN, PAN!


permison
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I got to send my first “Pan” call tonight (first time in 14 years). I had to get some helicopter night currency in. I was doing a night cross country tonight in one of our R22s from FDK to OKV and back. I was about 15 Minutes west of FDK over the town of Charles Town WV when my oil pressure gauge started to read low. At first I thought it might just be a problem with the gauge as this particular aircraft has been known for reading low and I filled up the oil (5 3/4th) just before I took off. So I started to monitor the gauge a little more closely and continued on my way, I was thinking it might just be the jitters you get when over the mountains at night or when you go feet wet over the water outside of gliding distance to land. Well a few minutes later the gauge was still reading lower and went to the yellow area. I looked at my engine temp gauge and I could swear it was reading a little higher so I decided to start back to FDK. Mind you other then the low pressure reading on the oil pressure gauge I thought I was still in good shape. I was over the last set of hills west of Fredrick (about 10 miles or so) when the oil pressure gauge went to a big fat “0”! I immediately looked at the engine temp and was pretty sure it was rising.

 

Ok, no big deal, I’m trained for this, so down collective, roll the throttle off, aft cyclic, right pedal, nicest autorotation I have ever entered. I look down for a landing spot and I might as well have had my eye’s closed (mind you that is a possibility). The ground below me within gliding distance was pitch black. 1st thought, “I’m boned, no way am I going to survive this! I was at 3500 over the hills there so I had sometime to think this through. Ok the engine is still running, I can see the airport, and there is probably enough oil to keep the engine from seizing till I can at least make the WalMart parking lot. Looking at the engine temp gauge it’s still in the green 220-250 ish. Don’t recall my oil light ever coming on. So I figure I should try to make the airport. I roll the throttle back on, pull collective and push the nose over. I start to think about letting someone know I might be in trouble. I was uncomfortable making a mayday as the aircraft was still flying. So I went with Pan, Pan, Pan on the FDK Unicom. That way someone would know I was in trouble. I got a pretty quick response from someone on the field, gave my position, and what my plans were. She asked me what I needed and I had the thought process to make a quick joke, so I responded “I could use a little oil”. VNE for that aircraft is 102, I rode that speed all the way back to the airport. Meanwhile as I got closer to the airport and below 1000 feet my oil pressure gauge came alive again but was still in the red. I got the aircraft down safely to the runway and did not want to shutdown the airport by staying on the runway so I taxied back to the helipad and shut down.

 

Whew! The aircraft was safe, I was safe and my shorts were still clean! Talk about a night. I could not read the dipstick with my LED flashlight so I got the fuel truck to come around and shine their headlights at the aircraft while I tried to check the oil. Still could not tell how much oil was in the aircraft. So this could still be just a problem with the instrument. I should know more tomorrow.

 

What did I learn from all this? 1st, no matter how much you train for it still going to be a shock, 2nd your repetitive training will pay off, 3rd what you trained to do may not be the best option so think the problem through logically. Don’t just go through the motions. In my case had I followed through on the auto and landed immediately I would probably not be here to write this Pilot Report. It’s probably going to be an instrument failure and not a real significant leak but I am glad I had the control to stop and think through the situation rather then just follow through on the emergency procedures I was taught. I am going to go back up tomorrow and check out the area where I entered my autorotation and see what the area looked like in the day.

 

One other thing, when I got home tonight I looked over my emergency proccedures and found there is no proceedure for the oil pressure gauge in my POH, only for the light. Anyone know why? Could I be missing a page in my POH?

Permison

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Glad to read you & the A/C are safely home vs. another NTSB prelim report. Not an easy decision over the woods at night. Maybe time to thank your past instructors and current check pilots over some cold beers? I'll look through my POH and reference mat'l to see if I come across anything.

 

-WATCH FOR THE WIRES-

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I think that also qualifies as a "most memorable flight " !!

 

I seem to recall that the oil pressure light uses a different sensor than the gauge? I'll have to dig back thru my R22 notes..I mean, it was 6 months ago I was in Robbie school...I cant remember everything !

 

I think I would have made the same decision, Glad to hear all turned out well.

 

Goldy

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Glad you are safe!

 

One pilot I know said the distress call should be: "PAN, PAN, F**KING PAN!!"

 

Our check airmen have told me, if the engine is running use it! You did the right thing.

 

As a close friend of mine says, "Flying at night is inherently dangerous."

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Glad you got down without damage to either yourself or machine , cool thinking, and if it flyes fly it to the ground. :ph34r:

I expect the puccker factor was high though.

delorian.

Does the 22 light come on at 0 lb. or at a higher pressure ?

I never understood pressure warning lights coming on at 0 or near 0 should be at least 10 \ 15 lb. this would give you a reference for the oil pressure gage.

In the race cars we all ways set the warning light to come on at 20 \ 30 pounds this way it usually came on at tick over if the engine would run at sensible RPM. this made you check the gage and if it came on at any other time it was a case of check GAGE & shut down a warning light that comes on a 0 is to late.

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500E,

 

You are right about he low pressure switch. Why do the engineers use such a low pressure to activate the light? Does not make sense to me. Some of the fire trucks I worked on had a light and gauge.

 

All the equipment I work on now uses a light only, mostly. Low idle pressure is min of 17 psi per spec on a common engine, but the idiot light does not activate till 4.5 or 5.0 psi. Thats totally stupid IMHO. And I agree its and Idiot light, because the engineer that set the light to activate at that low of a psi, is an IDIOT.

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Yeah, the oil pressure light comes off of a pressure switch--same one that the Hobbs uses. The oil pressure gauge uses a pressure sender (little gray cylinder mounted next to the black pressure switch).

 

 

DeLorean- You are absolutely correct ! I knew they were driven from two different sources...!

 

Thanks

 

So, here's a question. What if the light came on..but the gauge read normal ?

 

During day VFR I think I would just put it down in a safe area...within a minute or two. At night though, unless I knew the area, I would probably take it to the airport with tight sphincter all the way !

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So, here's a question. What if the light came on..but the gauge read normal ?

 

In my experience a oil psi switch can be leaking oil and not illum the light. My co worker just had his Ford F100 kick a light but the gauge was normal. Seems he had a wire rub and make copper to metal connection. I have had more wire failures than switch failures, not counting switchs leaking oil, because the light never illum. I guess a very rare situation the oil galley could plug on only 1 portion of the port and cause one normal and one to show a failure. But, I don't know the Lycoming engine oil system and switch locations either. I would say wiring if they are mounted in a Tee or L type fitting on the same port.

 

Remember oil psi switchs are Normally Closed, are spring closed, but require positive oil pressure to open the contacts. So a leak where the switch is crimped together will not result in the spring closing the contacts if the oil system is working normally. Not 100% sure on aviation sw's, but auto switchs are usually metal with a plastic switch system crimped into the lower threaded part. Senders on the other hand, I have seen both metal/plastic crimped or all metal crimped.

 

Forgot to mention, A sender varies the ground or voltage, depending on the design of the particular system, to the gauge.

 

This is a good topic, most customers of mine don't understand the difference of a oil psi sw or sender. They usually say switch for both when they describe a problem.

 

On another note, newer diesel engines use 3 or more switchs on the oil system.

Oil PSI sender or switch or both, to the dash.

Oil PSI sender to the computor, engine monitoring.

Oil Temp sender to the computor, engine monitoring.

 

 

 

Later

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Light on gage normal?

Would suspect presure switch malfunction, monitor gage and temps real close and have serious think about landing.

The thing about warning lamps are they are real noticable, and I do not think that scanning is as reliable as a lamp.

Again in race cars we used to rotate dials so the working norm for ALL analogue gages was with the needles vertical, (with glass panels we either set them up so color changed or blinking if out of norm) then you noticed anything that was out, you did not have to relate reading to function, out of vertical = out of normal range = ACTION REQUIRED

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That reminds me of a situation that someone brought to my attention once. The question was "If you are flying over the water and you get a severe vibration and a transmission temp and pressure light what do you do?" Book says land asap. Suggestion, descend to a hover over the water and hover taxi all the way until land or until the vibration forces you in the water, whichever comes first. If you continue at full speed and altitude the aircraft may come apart in flight and kill you. If you hover in and it comes apart at least you can just settle into the water and start swimming.

 

Marc D.

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Permision,

 

Thanks for sharing your story! I am very happy for you that it turned out to be a 'learning' exercise rather than an NTSB report.

 

It sounded like you worked through the problem pretty well, and made as good decisions as you could at the time.

 

Everybody

 

I have two minor points which are not intended to be criticism, but ensuing discussion could be useful for all.

 

"The ground below me within gliding distance was pitch black. 1st thought, “I’m boned, no way am I going to survive this! "

 

He was probably right. If he'd had to make a forced landing there and then, he probably would have bent himself badly.

 

I must question why anyone would fly over ground they cannot see in a single-engined piston. In Florida, some students used to plan cross-countries over the swamps on dark nights. Swamps / Hills, same result. DON'T DO IT! It's not worth it. Stick to well lit roads and urban areas. At least you have a chance.

 

I wonder if Permision, now agrees with me after his experience.

 

Ok, no big deal, I’m trained for this, so down collective, roll the throttle off, aft cyclic, right pedal, nicest autorotation I have ever entered.

 

Is this what most people are training now for engine oil lights? I hope not. I don't have my R22 POH handy, but I thought it said something like..."If accompanied with other indications, land immediately."

 

To me that is not 'autorotate'. As Permision states later in his post, actually the 'autoroation' could end in disaster in his case.

 

Instructors, please make this distinction clear to students. Land immediately means 'rapid descent with power' to nearest clear area where safe landing can be performed, while ready for autorotation, not 'autorotate immediately'.

Students, please discuss this with your instructor today.

 

Anyway, to reiterate, I want to say thanks to Permision for sharing. My post is not intended as anything other than to raise discussion points that might help others.

 

Joker

 

MarcD's Discussion

 

severe vibration and a transmission temp and pressure light what do you do?" Book says land asap

You sure?

 

 

1a. Mayday - and activivate rescue services.

1b. Rapid Descent with Power - NOT AUTOROTATION!!!! (See points above - autorotation here could be fatal!)

 

a/b depending on distance away from communications (you might not be able to hail anyone on the water surface).

 

2. Gear Down, Pop Floats, Controlled Ditch

3. Activate ELT, Don Lifejackets, jump into liferaft with pax

4. Tie raft to aircraft using a 'quick release' knot, just incase she starts to sink.

5. Await resuce, happy knowing you saved yourself, airframe and what's left of transmission.

 

Why wait until it breaks up on you?

Edited by joker
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Permision,

 

Thanks for sharing your story! I am very happy for you that it turned out to be a 'learning' exercise rather than an NTSB report.

 

It sounded like you worked through the problem pretty well, and made as good decisions as you could at the time.

 

Everybody

 

I have two minor niggles which are not intended to be criticism, but ensuing discussion could be useful for all.

He was probably right. If he'd had to make a forced landing there and then, he probably would have bent himself badly.

 

I must question why anyone would fly over ground they cannot see in a single-engined piston. In Florida, some students used to plan cross-countries over the swamps on dark nights. Swamps / Hills, same result. DON'T DO IT! It's not worth it. Stick to well lit roads and urban areas. At least you have a chance.

 

I wonder if Permision, now agrees with me after his experience.

Is this what most people are training now for engine oil lights? I hope not. I don't have my R22 POH handy, but I thought it said something like..."If accompanied with other indications, land immediately."

 

To me that is not 'autorotate'. As Permision states later in his post, actually the 'autoroation' could end in disaster in his case.

 

Instructors, please make this distinction clear to students. Land immediately also means 'rapid descent with power' not necessarily autorotation.

 

Anyway, to reiterate, I want to say thanks to Permision for sharing. My post is not intended as anything other than to raise discussion points that might help others.

 

Joker

 

MarcD's Discussion

You sure?

1a. Mayday - and activivate rescue services.

1b. Rapid Descent with Power - NOT AUTOROTATION!!!!

 

a/b depending on distance awayfrom communications.

 

2. Gear Down, Pop Floats, Controlled Ditch

3. Activate ELT, Don Lifejackets

4. Await resuce, happy knowing you saved yourself, airframe and what's left of transmission.

 

Why wait until it breaks up on you?

 

Joker,

Thanks for the well wishes. Not to nit pick in anyway, your post invites great discussion but let me respond to your 2 comments.

I must question why anyone would fly over ground they cannot see in a single-engined piston. In Florida, some students used to plan cross-countries over the swamps on dark nights. Swamps / Hills, same result. DON'T DO IT! It's not worth it. Stick to well lit roads and urban areas. At least you have a chance.

 

In many areas across the world you do not have a choice. In my particular case I was flying to the closest airport from home base. This is over the foot hills of the Appellation Mountains. Unfortunately at night there is not a lot of light below between towns. You have to take what you can get. This just happened to happen over an area between towns. I was really screwed if I needed to do the forced landing but my other choice would have been to not take the flight. An option of course but then I would have never been able to compete the requirement for the FAA. The terrain and lighting is the same in any directions (in point of fact I probably chose the best direction for least danger). So unfortunately I do not agree. I say unfortunately because I wish I could stay close to urban areas and well lit roads but that is just not realistic in much of the world. Having grown up in Fl, I can understand where you are coming from. Lots of lights and little towns around there. Not so up here in VA.

 

Is this what most people are training now for engine oil lights? I hope not. I don't have my R22 POH handy, but I thought it said something like..."If accompanied with other indications, land immediately."

 

To me that is not 'autorotate'. As Permision states later in his post, actually the 'autoroation' could end in disaster in his case.

 

I happen to have the R22 POH handy, there is no proceedure for loss of oil pressure gauge but if your oil light comes on the proceedure is check oil pressue gauge and is pressure loss is confirmed land immediately (I used this proceedure for the oil pressure gauge as I am not aware of a proceedure for the gauge) Though it does say check engine tach for power loss so I guess that counts for other indications. This is kinda useless in the first few seconds as there is still some oil lubracating the pistons and you could fly for a while before you get indications on the RPM. I have seen cars go for a few minutes after all the oil has drained out. I work on motorcycle engines for some of the racers around here. Regardless, I had a rise in temp so that met my requirement for other indications. Now this brings up an interesting question, why is there no emergency proceedure for the oil pressue gauge itself?

 

I deffinitely agree "Land Immediately" does not mean "Autorotate"

 

Real good topic for discussion though Joker. I am still second guessing myself everyday.

Permison

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Thanks everyone for the well wishes. What we do comes with an exceptional amount of risk. I think Discovery should do a show on helicopter pilots right after the show "Deadliest Catch". The could call it "Deadliest Flights" :lol: Seriously, we have to accept a certain amount of risk in the game or go home. I sure hate flying at night over the mountains and will try not to do it too much in the future. They checked out the aircraft today and are chalking it up to a fualty gauge (I am not in agreement as there was oil present). They are going to monitor the aircraft for a few days. I was scheduled in it for a check ride tomorrow and quickly changed to another aircraft when I found out. I will keep you posted but hopefully will have nothing to report. Once again thanks to everyone for the well wishes and great comments. This was an eye opener for me, and I lost a little of my confidence but I got right back on the horse last night and finished my night xcountry.

 

P.S. Goldy, wish this was my most memrable flight! If you ever meet me in person, remind me to tell you the story of backing a 58 into a tree during flight training. It's funny but I don't want it in print or the Internet. ;)

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permison,

What was the diagnosis? Lack of oil, failed gauge, failed system?

 

Infrequent it may be, but exactly this sort of ill-defined issue and adverse situation is what we're expected to deal with. I've never had an emergency that was as well defined as a training scenario.

 

Good job.

Wally

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Glad to hear that all ended well.

 

I remember once we had the wire going to the sender unit break on an R22. The gauge failed with an indication of high pressure - i.e. it went off the top of the scale.

 

As far as night flying goes, I've got some time unaided, but have just done my NVG training. Let me tell you this. If I never fly at night unaided again it will be too soon! ( I know, I know not everyone has that option.....)

 

Now not to nit pick, but I'm with Joker on this one. I don't want to second guess anyones decision making, but I would have seriously considered trying to put it down somewhere ASAP. It is better to land somewhere and wait for help rather than continue on with the possibility of the engine seizing, particularly if you know you are over unforgiving terrain.

 

Plan your routes carefully, stick to roads and if possible well lit areas. I always found it comforting to know that there was a road under me, even if I couldn't see it.

 

One of the things I hate doing most is night autorotation training. We do them to the ground, and to a lit runway. I would hate to have to do it for real not knowing what's under me!

 

Fly safe everyone!!

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Now not to nit pick, but I'm with Joker on this one. I don't want to second guess anyones decision making, but I would have seriously considered trying to put it down somewhere ASAP. It is better to land somewhere and wait for help rather than continue on with the possibility of the engine seizing, particularly if you know you are over unforgiving terrain.

 

In this situation????? NO WAY!

 

If I read it right, he was over a blackhole filled with trees in the rolling hills of West Virginia. And with the two little landing lights in the R22, how are you going to find a hole to land in? And even if you do, you're going to have to come in at very steep angle, very slowly, and be WAY out of the safe zone of the H/V diagram if and when the engine quits.

 

There is absolutely no way I would put myself in that situation unless the engine actually quit or the rotor system felt like it was coming apart.

 

Just because the oil pressure gauge crapped out, are you going to ditch the helicopter or put it in the trees? NO. While a cross check with the oil pressure light, oil temp, and CHT would have shown that there wasn't anything wrong, you still don't call it quits.......and risk damaging the helicopter and yourself based off a gauge indication or a chip light?

 

Fly it to a safe area where you can do a normal approach and THEN get it on the ground. Now, overflying a perfectly good parking lot, highway, etc and fly another 5 miles to the airport, unacceptable!

 

It's like the guy that crashed the first 407.....had his cell phone plugged into the intercom. Cell phone went off, he thought it was a low rotor or FADEC fail warning. Entered an auto, screwed it up, and destroyed a perfectly good helicopter.

 

Same goes in many 206s with the "triple stack". When the hydraulic pump fails, it takes the rotor rpm gauge with it. All the sudden the controls get stiff, the low rpm horn goes off, and people think the engine quit for some reason and enter an auto. Been several perfectly good helicopters crashed that way too.

 

Just like the first rule of IFR flying.......CROSS-CHECK the instruments and gauges. I definitely agree with you about flying the highways and not getting over blackholes in the first places. But in some parts of the country, it's inevitable.

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Quote Joker:

"2. Gear Down, Pop Floats, Controlled Ditch

3. Activate ELT, Don Lifejackets, jump into liferaft with pax

4. Tie raft to aircraft using a 'quick release' knot, just incase she starts to sink.

5. Await resuce, happy knowing you saved yourself, airframe and what's left of transmission."

 

I thought it went without saying, but I assumed on this flight you didn't have floats or a raft. With this said, you will then be half way to the bottom before you exit the aircraft and you will definitely lose the aircraft and be floating with just your life vest. I suppose that there could be many variations to this situation. What comes to mind is a short flight across the Long Island Sound in an R22/jetranger/Astar etc. Bright sunny VFR day with nothing but your single engine and a life vest. 20 NM across and you get the vibration half way. Another consideration even with floats is the fact that the aircraft cannot stay right side up with much of a wave. With this in mind I might also hover taxi to the shore. A helicopter upside down in salt water is not much of a "saved" aircraft. There are probably endless "what if's", but this is what I had in mind.

 

Marc D.

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OK, A little confusion here!

 

 

We have 2 themes running now which are getting confused.

 

1. Permisions situation - Over the hills and far away with his faulty gague indications. In this case I absolutely think his best option was the one that he took. Fly back to lighted area and land there. The only thing I noted here was the instinct to autorotate, and the fact that he was there in the first place. Fly back to lighted area and land there. Well done.

 

2. MardD's Scenario in Post 13 - Over the water with severe vibration and MGB temp rising - This is where I would set her down immediately onto the floats.

 

Vaqueroaero might have confused things a little.

 

Permision - Glad you took my points in the spirit they were meant. You're right, sometimes we are faced with not the most ideal situations...I won't / can't make a judegement on your risk assessment. As for the autorotation instinct for the gague, well, I've already discussed that.

 

Vaqueroaero - Have a look back to post 13. This is an entirely different situation to Permisions. This is where I would land on the floats immediately. For all the things that Delorean states above, I think Permision did the right thing.

 

MarcD - I guess I was making a point in my reply, similar to the one about being over a black terrain. If you don't have floatation equipment and / or an extra engine, what are you doing more than say 10 minutes/ gliding distance or so over water!!!? But then again, just like Permision, risk assessment is a personal thing, so I won't go there!

 

BTW, Sikorsky claim their floats system will hold the aircraft upright and stable in sea state 4-5!!! s-76uniqueemergen.jpg

 

With no floatation system, your suggested action is probably the one that I would take. This is what I would call, 'Land ASAP'. What does the POH say for severe vibration and temp lights on? (or was that just a typo above?)

 

Just to go on a little more on your theme. I think I would much rather a controlled ditching than try to egress an aircraft after the transmission has crapped out on me. I know I mentioned it , but 'saving the aircraft' should be the last thing on the mind. If you take saving the aircraft out of the equation, then ditching is the safest option. HOWEVER, once again it comes to risk assessment. If I was just a couple more minutes to land, then I would probably stretch to the shore. There are a lot of factors that come into play. No. of Pax, abilities of pax. sea state, ems provision, etc..etc..

 

Hope this clears things up. Remember, my posts above answered 2 separate scenarios. Permision's and MarcD's.

 

Joker

Edited by joker
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Permision - Glad you took my points in the spirit they were meant. You're right, sometimes we are faced with not the most ideal situations...I won't / can't make a judegement on your risk assessment. As for the autorotation instinct for the gague, well, I've already discussed that.

Joker

 

Absolutely! The reason we come here (well most of us anyway) is to discuss things like this and learn from others success and mistakes. Were not always going to agree, but we should always keep an open mind. Open minds lead to learning. Scary concept, but hopefully it will catch on. I certainly appreciate your constructive criticism.

Permison

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I got to send my first “Pan” call tonight (first time in 14 years).

 

Thanks for posting this here and letting the discussion go. As a student, your instructor can (using a runway for your emergency touchdown spot and a fully functional aircraft with simulated malfunctions) walk you through emergency procedures, but seeing how scenarios play out in real life counts for so much. I've read Fatal Traps--a good book, no doubt. What is lacking there is that in most of the incidents the pilot didn't do the right thing or didn't act in time to/couldn't recover, so you see the consequences of viewpoint and discuss the textbook answers for what should have been done, as opposed to Permison's real-world, how-to-get-your-ass-out-of-a-jam viewpoint. Anyway, thanks to all.

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