Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Turbine Matters

A gauntlet of ratings, currency, and proficiency—it’s worth it!­­­­

So far, the flight was going well, but I couldn't shake the feeling that things were going almost too well. It was night, I was a single pilot, and we were climbing out of a widespread, deep overcast in a Citation Mustang. As we climbed through FL240, I started to feel a faint vibration in the seat of my pants. Before I could think about it, a sudden squeal was followed by a loud bang from the rear of the aircraft. The left master warning light began flashing, piercing the darkness of the cockpit with a pulsing red glow. The left fire warning illuminated, and a quick check of the engine gauges along with yaw pulling the nose left confirmed that we had lost the left engine. I reacted from memory, quickly donning my oxygen mask and pulling the left throttle to idle while confirming that the right engine stayed online. We immediately began to slow as I trimmed the rudder and punched the red warning light to turn it off. A few seconds later, the fire-warning indicator went out, so it looked like there wasn't an ongoing fire.

I declared an emergency with center, pulled out the checklist and struggled in the darkness to find the engine shutdown procedure by flashlight. As I worked through the list, the red emergency warning on the right side suddenly began flashing, and the GEN OFF L-R messages appeared on the CAS panel of the G1000. I barely got the left engine to shut down before I realized that I was facing a dual generator failure—at night in the soup! I quickly worked through the memory items and scanned through the checklist to find the proper procedure. I tried a reset but couldn't get the generator back online and had to switch power to the emergency bus. That left me flying by hand with just one PFD and a handful of equipment still operating. I quickly realized that this was going to be a night instrument approach on battery juice—and with no generators, there were no flaps, and I would have to remember to lower the gear manually before landing. All of the airports within 200 miles were at minimums, and I had barely 30 minutes of juice left. After that, all the screens would go black. My mouth was dry, and I was beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed, but I had to focus.

I got my first break when I checked our position and realized that we were almost directly over the big runways at Memphis. Without the generators, there were no speed brakes, so I just pulled the power back, ran the speed up to red line, and started an emergency descent at nearly 3,000 fpm. That gave me time to pull up an ILS approach plate on my iPad. I got the frequencies dialed in and headed for the IAF. Passing through 12,000 feet, I pulled off my oxygen
mask, and that's when someone in the back shouted that they smelled smoke. I couldn't tell where it was coming from, and I didn't have time to pull a checklist, so I fished out the smoke mask and struggled to get it and my oxygen mask back on. Approaching the IAF, I managed to run the checklist to manually drop the gear and thankfully saw three greens and no red. I managed to hand-fly the ILS fairly well, and nothing looked sweeter than that first sight of the rabbit as we broke through the mist just a little above minimums. Touchdown was on centerline, and as the nose came down, I gently squeezed the emergency brake handle to gradually stop on the runway.

That's when the lights came on and my instructor said, "Good job…that's enough for today. Shut it down and let's go debrief." He parked the sim, lowered the bridge, and we headed for the debrief room. It was a tough workout, but it's the kind of session you come to expect when you do recurrent training in a jet.


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