Posted 4 years 328 days ago ago by Randy Mains
In the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of Rotorcraft Pro magazine in my ‘My Two Cents’ Worth’ column entitled “Not So New CRM” I talk about the easy to use and understand Risk Resource Management decision-making tool that the pilots at Southwest Airlines use when making decisions. You can access that article at the following link. It begins on page 8.
In the article I point out that the most famous pilot to use the tool was Captain Chesley Sullenberger who had been a CRM instructor and taught it to pilots for 14 years before he famously landed in the Hudson River. Because the tool is so easy to use and remember I now teach it in my helicopter-specific CRM and CRM Instructor courses.
A week after giving a 5-day CRM Instructor course at the Oregon Aero teaching facility, one of the attendees of the course, Gene Reynolds, had occasion to use it when he had a suspected engine fire during a training flight at Fort Rucker. The following is the email I received from Gene a day after the incident.
Randy, I had an interesting sequence of events yesterday that I thought I would share with you. I was the instructor pilot in the right seat conducting CH-47F Chinook training on one of my students at Fort Rucker, AL. I'm teaching the instructor pilot qualification course, so my student is training to be an IP. We were conducting traffic pattern work at one of our stage fields and I was acting as the student (role reversal) while my student was acting as the instructor. I was on the flight controls in the downwind and my student induced a simulated engine failure on the #2 engine by pulling the #2 engine condition lever to the ground idle position (perfectly normal procedure). Being the good student I was, I started spitting out the emergency procedure for single engine failure. It was then that the entire crew noticed an extremely strong smell of fuel in the aircraft. More than one crewmember mentioned the strong smell. At that point, we all went into the "yellow". Mentally, I paused for a second and then determined that we needed to investigate this problem further. I began a turn back towards the stage field landing lane to expedite my traffic pattern and landing. At this point we were turning final but still about 1.5 miles from the landing lane. Just about the time we decided to "clean up" the simulated emergency (by putting the #2 engine back to flight), the flight engineer noticed smoke trailing behind the aircraft. Naturally, he suspected that the engine we were manipulating was malfunctioning so he visually checked the #2 engine; however, it appeared normal. So, he walked across the cabin and put his head out of the window to visually check the #1 engine. It was at this time that he observed the entire nacelle for the #1 engine engulfed in smoke (remember the #1 was the operating engine and providing all the power at the moment since the #2 was still retarded to ground idle). He firmly stated "WE HAVE A FIRE ON 1, FIRE ON 1". The crew immediately went into the "red" as this is now an extremely urgent situation requiring immediate actions.
My crew performed perfectly. Since I was the PF (pilot flying), I began the LAND IMMEDIATELY procedure. I initiated a descent but did not have a suitable landing area directly in front of me so I turned the aircraft to the right (into the wind) and began looking for other options. I saw a very suitable field to our 2 o'clock and turned the aircraft for it. I started my descent turning the aircraft into the wind while simultaneously making a MAYDAY call on the tower frequency with our forced landing location and emergency condition. My student, the PM, (pilot monitoring) had already brought the #2 engine back online so it was now providing power again. He then executed his immediate action steps of shutting down the #1 engine and fighting the fire all the while coordinating with the flight engineer on the status of the engine. As soon as the engine was shut down and fuel supply cut, the smoke subsided and the engine spooled down as it should have. By this time, we were on short final to the open field where we were making our emergency landing. Since we had already briefed our power requirements for the day, I knew we had single engine (OEI) OGE hover capability, and I told the crew I planned to make a normal approach to the ground with zero forward speed - in other words, we did not need to do a running landing. The crew acknowledged and we landed the aircraft safely on sloping terrain. After landing, I immediately set the parking brake, conducted an emergency shutdown on the #2 engine and then ordered the crew to evacuate. I then turned off the battery switch and evacuated the helicopter.
In the end, the engine did not burn nor did it cause any further damage to the helicopter. No one was injured. In hindsight, our training kicked in and we all did our jobs. But looking back, we went through a very similar sequence to what we discussed in our CRMI course last week regarding the Green, Yellow, Red / ABCD model. We assessed the situation, balanced our options and resources, communicated with each other, did what we said we were going to do, and then repeated the process as soon as we went into the red again. During the approach and landing we had successfully gotten ourselves back into the yellow and ready to do the process all over again if necessary. We all came home safely.
Yes, my PM did all the firefighting procedures including:
Emergency engine shutdown
Fire pull handle - pulled (which also arms the bottles and cuts fuel flow)
And he discharged one of the bottles into the engine nacelle bay. However, after we landed and calmed down, we went back to the helicopter to inspect it after the fire department arrived on scene. It was found that the fire extinguishing agent had not discharged. When the PM activated the bottle, the "suppression system" circuit breaker popped preventing the bottle from discharging. Of course we didn't realize this until afterwards. So this problem is being seriously investigated as to why the squib did not blow. Fortunately, when fuel was cut off, the serious smoking stopped and no flame ever really developed.
It is heartening to me to see the Risk Resource Management decision-making tool used in the airlines, translate to use by helicopter pilots as well. Of course there is no reason why not, pilots are pilots whether they fly fixed or rotary wing aircraft. That’s why I think we can learn a lot from our fixed-wing brethren.
About the Author:
Randy Mains is an author, public speaker, and a CRM/AMRM consultant who works in the helicopter industry after a long career of aviation adventure. He currently serves as chief CRM/AMRM instructor for Oregon Aero. He may be contacted at [email protected]