Our flight in Bill’s Piper Twin engine Comanche to San Antonio was nondescript. By that I mean, I slept the whole way. Something about the hum of the engine and the monotonous clear sky makes me snooze. And, of course, I trust his flying expertise.
But our time in San Antonio, the city of a European/Southwestern-style, romantic river walk, was a different matter. I came down with a 24 hr virus and spent most of our time in the sleek hotel room perched over the toilet. Not good since we only stayed one day. Bill accused me of passing the poison to him even before I recovered. He worried about the sickness attacking while flying to Carthage, Texas. I admit the thought of having your pilot’s head stuck in a bag while 7,000 feet in the air did not appeal to me, but I figured we had about 12 hours before the thrust of the enemy struck him down, and during this window we could fly to our next destination, a one and ¾ hour flight. We took off.
Since an emergency hovered on the horizon, Bill decided I needed a quick lesson on how to fly the plane in case of a pilot’s temporary incapacity. Although I’ve had a few hours of lessons, this airplane was bigger and, I noticed, had a hundred times more gadgets. Here’s some of my pages of notes. Most importantly – DON’T PANIC.
Lesson #1. Leave the autopilot on as long as possible. If it’s flying great, don’t jump in and mess it up. Get your bearings first. Call in to notify ground control.
Lesson #2. Before I take the plane off autopilot, I can do this: 1) Move mixture forward-red levers–never, ever all the way back toward you! The engine will die. 2) Move the prop RPM forward-blue levers, 3) Pull back manifold pressure or power-white/gray levers- to 17 inches, 4)Put down landing gear when the airspeed gets down to 150 mph, and 5) check gasoline – change to main tanks. There are 3 tanks on each wing in this twin: tips, auxiliary, and mains; main should have the most fuel. Do this now in case I forget later in all the excitement.
Lesson #3. Now, to change directions – possibly following instructions over the headset. Hit the autopilot mode indicator button on the top of the panel and it will change to heading. HDG. Change the direction on the heading bug and the plane will automatically turn to that course. Wow! This is much easier to turn than the Grumman!
Lesson #4. To start descending. Push altitude hold button on the auto pilot panel to disengage altitude hold. ALT. Move the pitch wheel to the down position. DN. (Slighty move it up). DN. This should start the plane on a gradual descent. Watch the speed to make sure we don’t go down too fast which we definitely don’t want to do. If so, then adjust pitch wheel. Stay around 100 mph. Level off no lower than about 1,000 feet. Watch your speed. If it gets below 100 mph, add a little power. I can do this.
Lesson #5. Get ready to land. This is the hard part but I have to stay calm. Line the plane up with the runway. Put the flaps down. Trim the nose if needed.
Lesson #6. Land. Pull power back. Keep nose up. Pull power all the way back when over the runway. Touch down!
And remember, I can shove in the power and go around again, if I so desire. This is all assuming I know what the above mentioned terms and gadgets do.
Hopefully, if this emergency occurs, by this time my husband will have taken his head out of the sick bag to observe my excellent landing, and thank me for saving his life.