Photo courtesy of SimCom Training Centers
A few weeks ago, my friend Ray recounted a scary experience he’d had in his high-performance single while on a trip with his wife and daughter in IMC and at night. When he went to engage the autopilot, the airplane started to climb suddenly. He disengaged the autopilot, but the airplane continued to pitch up even more steeply. He pushed the electric trim switch, to no avail. He came back on the throttle, but it wasn’t enough. He pushed the yoke with all the force he could, but knew he couldn’t hold the nose down for long; eventually, his arm muscles would give out. His thought at the time was, “My family; I can’t let anything happen to my family...”
Ray, though, didn’t give in to panic. He remembered the timeworn adage of “flying the airplane” first and foremost. As he shoved with both arms on the yoke, managing to hold down the nose just above the horizon, he remembered his training. Ray had recently taken a simulator refresher course. He’s one of those pilots who’s constantly getting a new rating. He calls it “a life insurance policy for me and my family.”
Ray flashed to the emergency procedures he had learned weeks before. He recognized the condition as runaway trim—something he had trained for in the sim—and he quickly reached over and yanked the electric trim circuit breaker. Instantly, he felt the yoke pressure release and the airplane regain a normal attitude.
I thought about how I would’ve performed in that same situation. I wasn’t positive I would have been as composed as Ray was. Worse yet, I know of many pilots who would likely have panicked. Ultimately, Ray and his family were saved because of his training.
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