Discuss the problems and solutions to all of the situations that Pilot X finds himself in.
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A time for tears

Nick Lambert tells the tale of Pilot X who was looking forward as much as his young son to their first flight together in Dad’s new aircraft...

Pilot X couldn’t believe his luck. He’d found a retractable Cessna – a Cardinal – based at a grass strip less than ten minutes drive from his home. And now he’d bought a share in the aircraft.
He’d miss the camaraderie of the flying club, but he’d soon get to know the owners of the dozen or so locally-based aircraft – at an airfield with over 600m of manicured grass, orientated east-west, with clear approaches. If Carlsberg made airfields…
The first person he’d met was Peter, the treasurer of the Cessna group, who’d talked him through the offering. Before long, the demonstration flight morphed into a checkout. After a couple of circuits and a tour of the area, Peter declared Pilot X ‘good to go’, just as soon as the cheque for the neecessary amount had cleared.

Being so close to the aircraft soon paid dividends. If Pilot X left work promptly, he was often able to get an hour’s flying in before dusk. He would have liked to spend an evening studying the Pilot’s Operating Handbook, but it was a group rule that it stayed in the aircraft. If he was being honest, he’d initially found the Cardinal a bit of a handful. He’d been scared stiff of forgetting to lower the gear – and its sparkling performance meant the aircraft often arrived somewhere before his brain caught up. There was one embarrassing incident, visiting his old flying club, when he was unable to transmit. He never identified the problem but switched to the second box for the twenty-minute flight back. Mostly, he practised his landings. There were very few houses nearby, so he was able to bash the circuit relentlessly. Soon enough he was operating the aircraft slickly and felt on top of his game. Now the forecast for the weekend looked good and the time had come to take his young son flying...

It was difficult to know who was more excited as they drove the short distance to the farm. His son was armed with a camera and mum had instructions to come out into the garden when she heard them overhead. Pilot X calmly talked his son through everything as he meticulously checked the aircraft. Judging by his son’s numerous questions, he certainly had his attention. The boy followed him through on the controls as they took off. Pilot X levelled out at 1,500ft and he was pleased to notice an enormous grin was spreading across his passenger’s face. The boy was hooked – mission accomplished. He set course for his house and the photographic rendezvous…

Military option

Then, out of the blue, there was a loud bang and the aircraft pitched forward. Pilot X’s first thought was a bird strike. He looked around expecting to see blood and feathers and found none. His son, whose smile had vanished, glanced at his father and stammered, “I didn’t touch anything!”
Pilot X calmed down when he realised they weren’t going to fall out of the sky and turned back towards the strip. He found he needed quite a bit of back pressure to maintain altitude and the airspeed indicator was only showing 100kt. Could it be an engine problem?
He carefully looked around the cockpit and discovered that the gear-up light was no longer illuminated. This was the last thing he needed. He tried to cycle the gear but to no avail. He tried pulling some g, without briefing his passenger, who was now truly terrified. Nothing worked, and to make matters worse he realised he was now panicking. He took some deep breaths, got a grip of himself and explained to the boy that they would have to make a wheels-up landing. The boy said nothing but there were now tears running down his cheeks.

He keyed the mic and made a Pan call but no reply. He switched boxes, with the same result. What was going on? He could hear fine, just not transmit. Surely there was no way both radios would pack up simultaneously? After a few minutes fiddling, he accepted he was on his own. They were now passing over the strip but he had no idea whether grass or a hard runway was a better option. Grass seemed more forgiving, but something might dig in and flip them over. A hard runway would allow for slower deceleration but would increase the fire risk with all the sparks. One thing was for sure, a deserted farm strip, was not the place to find out.
Eventually, he concluded, a hard runway with a fire crew would be the best bet. But how would he get them safely into the circuit, of a ‘proper’ airport, with no radio? He was confident of getting into his former airfield but that had grass runways. Then he remembered his transponder; somewhere on his kneeboard there was a communications failure code. He selected 7600 and set course for a nearby military field. These guys were professionals and would know what to do.

He could neither hear nor see any traffic as they approached the ATZ. So far, so good. He did a low pass to alert the authorities to his predicament and set up for a long final. He checked his son’s harness and had him slide the seat all the way back. He didn’t care about saving the engine, but decided it would be safer not to have 200 horses thrashing about in front of them. As they crossed the threshold he slowly pulled the mixture and prop levers back. During the flare there was absolute silence. They touched down almost imperceptibly, save for the grating noise, that grew steadily in intensity.
Judging by their nose-high attitude, the nose gear was the only one down. They were at jogging pace before the aircraft tipped over to the port side. Father and son looked at each other and burst into hysterical laughter. Pilot X soon regained himself, opened the door, and they both scrambled out. The place was deserted…

1 Did both radios really fail simultaneously?
2 Could Pilot X have tried anything else to get the landing-gear down?
3 In the end a good result, but could our hero have handled the situation better?
By mikeparsons84
There are no mentions of speeds as there are also no mentions of retracting the gear. Being a bit overcautious on not flying a retractable, did he in fact leave the gear extended and bust the gear speed?

Any part of the gear departing would likely take out the antennas also (if both are mounted on the belly of the aircraft)?

Below check is for a Cessna 177RG CARDINAL

■ GUMPS check.............................................................................Complete
■ Fuel Selector ....................................................................................... Both
■ Landing Light..........................................................................................On
■ Seat Belts / Harnesses...........................................................................On
■ Flaps........................................................................................As Required
■ Mixture..................................................................Rich (Below 3000’ MSL)
■ Propeller .....................................................................................High RPM
Landing Gear ....................................................... Extend below 125 KIAS■ Normal Approach ..................................................................... 70-80 KIAS
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By Keef
The article mentions a "gear-up" light. It's a long time since I've flown a C177RG, but I don't recall one of those. But it shows he had the gear up before the bang, so overspeeding with gear down isn't the reason for the bang.

What caused the bang? Lots of back pressure needed to maintain height - did something let go in the trim or the elevator? He didn't check the engine gauges - the C177 has enough to allow some diagnosis.

Nosewheel only down, no radio, no apparent response to the transponder setting: it sounds as if something has hit the belly of the aircraft. Cardinal wheels retract in the most tortuous way, so anything that hits the underside is likely to take out the main gear.

There may have been some kind of electrical failure, which would prevent the normal gear-lowering routine from working. The next step is to pull the gear circuit breaker, select "down", and start pumping the emergency handle between the front seats. If the nosewheel was already down, the implication is that something else is wrong with the mains, but I'd still give it a go.

Box 1 not working? I'd want to know why not. Intermittent connections in radio need sorting!
By Tony Hirst
His difficulty in being able to access the POH and his previous problems with COMM 1 suggest that perhaps he wasn't entirely sure how to operate the aircraft and the radios. Although it is difficult to figure what he could have got wrong. As long as the mic, volume and frequency are seletced it should work as advertised. Many radios have a some kind of transmit annunciation when the mic is keyed.

Most retractable aircraft have an alternate gear extension system. He could have used that. Recycling the gear risks having already exteneded gear stuck up too. Manoeuvering the aircraft as he did without the use the alternate system would probably achieve nothing. Also the POH usually secifies specific manoeuvres such as yawing, pulling Gs maybe inappropriate.

He seems to have rushed into a decision. He already established that the aircraft was flyable, so he was probably only limited by fuel as to the amount of time he could spend diagnosing the problem. He could have climbed above MSA, perhaps reduced speed to best endurance and taken his time evualuate, action the appropriate non-normal checklists and establish some options as well as getting the radios working and considering 7700 instead of 7600 on ghe transponder. Also he could have known the miliary field would be closed at the weekend too. A structured decision model such as RADAR (recognise, analyse, decide, act, review) may have helped.

With regards to the actual problem, if the child did select gear down and only the nose was extended it may account for the back pressure needed.
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By KNT754G
There is never anything irrelevant in these narratives, so the radio problem is important, but for the life of me I can't think why, but it should have been investigated and sorted anyway.

Haven't flown a 177 but sat in one, I don't recall a "gear up" light, indeed I have never come across such a thing on a light aircraft. I do know that on the 177 the "gear down" light is only on the nosewheel, which has a barn door attached to it which woould provide lots of drag (reduced speed, loss of lift, pitching down).

The main gear, which as has been mentioned retracts and extends tortuously, can be checked by looking out of the windows, if not locked down the trail in the breeze - however I am led to understand the a good tug with a golf club having opened the door can pull them into the lock position assuming the lock is still available, yawing and pulling G will not help at all.

Knowing the operating hours of the local airfields would have been useful, as said the military generally don't do weekends.

Squawk 7600 was not totally inappropriate but definitely not what was needed. 7700 was required here.
Indeed if he could hear then selecting 121.5 may also have helped as I am sure that our friends in D&D would make a few blind transmissions on seeing a 7700 that was not promptly called in to them by an ATSU.

Looking forward to the opinions re the radios.
By masterofnone
Well done to the guy for getting the aircraft down and both of them, in one piece. Ultimately, that is all that matters.

I agree with the general consensus so far that his response did seem rushed. It is unclear what the definitive cause of the initial problem was, but it seems that a lack of general training and specific aircraft knowledge backed the pilot into a corner and rendered the pilot less capable of investigating the problem fully. I think he might have been able to avoid being in the situation he found himself in. I would also doubt that the radios failed simultaneously. I say this on the basis of some observations....

He would have liked to spend an evening studying the Pilot’s Operating Handbook, but it was a group rule that it stayed in the aircraft.

This is a daft decision - on the part of the pilot and the group - there is no excuse for not having a copy of the handbook. Sure, keep the original with the aircraft, but all group members should also have a copy. Aside from the fact the new pilot should insist on having a copy, the group should have had a policy of insisting that the new member takes a copy and reads it before doing his conversion training / checkout.

... he’d initially found the Cardinal a bit of a handful. He’d been scared stiff of forgetting to lower the gear – and its sparkling performance meant the aircraft often arrived somewhere before his brain caught up

..which tends to suggest that he needed a lot more than the time to convert than he got...the check ride consisting of a couple of circuits and a quick tour of the local area being inadequate

His son, whose smile had vanished, glanced at his father and stammered, “I didn’t touch anything!”

Hmm...an unsolicited denial...very suspicious! :D

This may or may not be relevant to this story, but I think it is worth bearing in mind that children are not little adults. They have very different perspectives and demonstrate different behaviours and this is worth bearing in mind if carrying children as passengers and briefing accordingly.

The narrative mentioned the Pilot talked his son through "everything". Presumably this talk was of a more technical nature - ie on how all the instruments worked and why they needed checking. It doesn't mention him giving his son a basic passenger brief. In particular, that the controls and instruments should not be touched, but if they are accidentally touched that he should tell his Dad and that he would not get into trouble. I don't think you can overestimate the importance of emphasising this point with a child passenger. The fact that his son was young & seemed very interested, I think, would make him more likely to fiddle with controls to satisfy the no doubt burning curiosity that such an experience would provoke (the "I wonder what that does / happens if I touch that" kind of curiosity). Very boy-ish - very healthy - just not in the front seat of an aircraft!

If this was the case, it is fairly unlikely the son would initially come clean. It's not that children are deliberately deceitful, it's just that first and foremost they really don't want to get into trouble! As a child, I lost count of the when I said "It wasn't me!" or "I didn't do it!" almost immediately after it was me, or I had done something. Just a natural attempt to evade the trouble that was deservedly coming my way! I don't think I is at all atypical behaviour.

I would have re-assured the son that he wasn't in trouble, but that it was very important that I knew if he touched anything, and then ask again - if only to fully discount the possibility.

....so he was able to bash the circuit relentlessly......there was one embarrassing incident, visiting his old flying club, when he was unable to transmit. He never identified the problem but switched to the second box for the twenty-minute flight back

The whole issue with the radios is clouded by the probable lack of experience in using them. He flies out of a strip and alot of his flying is circuit bashing at the strip. On the basis that there is no need for radio use at the strip, he probably has very little experience of using them in this aircraft. On one hand, both radios may be working fine and it is a case of user error. On the other hand, one could reasonably question whether both of the radios were working at all when he took off on the day of the flight. There was no ability to request a radio check at the strip and the last recorded time he used the radio (box 1) he found it faulty and switched to box 2 - and there was no verification that box 2 worked either as he was flying back to his strip where radios seemingly weren't used. If the other members of the group fly in the same way, they wouldn't know of the radio failure as they never use them either!

What might cause the radios to be u/s? Perhaps the increased physical stress (broken/disconnected cables etc) they are subjected to being installed in an aircraft that operates from a grass strip, and is used to "bash the circuit relentlessly".

He tried pulling some g, without briefing his passenger, who was now truly terrified

I have genuinely no idea if you could do anything else to get the landing gear down but I am pretty sure the pilot didn't either, as neither of us has read the POH for that aircraft! On the basis that terrified passengers are positively distracting in such a situation, the pulling g's was probably not an inspired move. Also, at this point, he hadn't discounted a problem with the airframe. Pulling G's on a potentially damaged airframe is also unlikely to expedite a safe conclusion.
Last edited by masterofnone on Wed Jan 26, 2011 10:58 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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By AfricanEagle
- Did both radios really fail simultaneously?

Possibly a faulty mike or more probably didn't select the right buttons on the audio panel for "transmit"

- Could Pilot X have tried anything else to get the landing-gear down?

He didn't use the emergency gear extension system

- In the end a good result, but could our hero have handled the situation better?

Should have studied the POH beforehand.

As to what actually happened, the child may have lowered the gear while the aircraft was above 125 kts ...
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By Neil MacG
My favourite persnal failure for radio not working - is turning down the receiver volume so as to speak to a passenger and then thinking it has failed when I make a transmission and get no response. Maybe in the heat of the emergency the pilot forgot this was what he had done, but attributed the "failure" to the other problems.

Either way - even if the receiver wasn't working, the transmitter could be and it is worth making blind calls (on whatever frequency was being worked or 121.5) in case there is someone listening at the other end.

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By Jonzarno
He could hear but not talk.

One possibility is that he and his son had inadvertently put on each others headsets.

DAMHIK! G :roll:
By Tony Hirst
Most phne jacks are on the side of the panel but I have never seen a Cardinal, but swapping headsets might be worth punt. I guess it would be worh checking both jacks are seated properly too.
By D&O
1 Did both radios really fail simultaneously?
I have once had problems with incompatable headsets causing a similar problem - so removing one mic may have fixed it.
2 Could Pilot X have tried anything else to get the landing-gear down? - agree there is probably an emergency lowering system on the 177, but I have not flown one so do not know
3 In the end a good result, but could our hero have handled the situation better?
Agree 7700 more appropriate (and study POH) and he could also have tried speachless code to transmit intentions and see if there was cover where he was going - as well as looking up hours of operations in his flight guide - there was no rush to get the a/c down. (Also forewarn his son and calm him that all was going to be OK)
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By Katamarino
I'd be paying a lot of attention to the loud bang, rather than little niggles like no radio! Perhaps a short circuit causing an electrical failure? This would explain the radio failure, and possibly the gear issues; is the Cardinal's gear help up by the hydraulic pressure? I think it is in an Arrow, certainly, so perhaps in an electrical failure it's designed to release, or does so of its own accord if the pump will no longer apply hydraulic pressure.

The nose gear could then drop (spring assisted?), causing the pitch down; however, the main wheels would not drop properly given their orientation and you'd need to use the pump...

On second thoughts, this does not fully explain the radio being able to receive but not transmit...where is the answer sheet for this? :D
By Horizonflyer
The major mistake is not reading the POH and a very poor checkout, as there are several important speeds. Gear limiting speed is 140mph. Flaps 10 150mph 20/30 110mph.

Knowing the gear system I have been trying to work out how the mains could be in trail and the nose gear down and locked with these events.

I. There is a green gear up light that is light by the closing of a switch on the nose gear and the main gear ram. Both must close to light it, but they do not stop the pump.

2. The nose gear has an up lock, the mains are held up by pressure, 1600 psi.
A pressure switch shuts the motor down.

3. The Cardinal, with gear down will hold altitude, with low pitch down forces.
I think the pitch down was for a good story.

So if pressure drops, the the mains will fall out of the wheel wells and just trail. The nose gear needs pressure to unlock extend and lock.

So how did the nose gear get down? The bang could have been the rod end on the end of the main gear ram breaking under the push force needed to hold it up. These do break, unless changed to one with no grease nipple.
Cessna service note on this.

As the ram pulls to lower the main gear so if broken with gear down selected nose gear extends and locks, but mains would stay in trail.

This of course saved the prop and engine and most of the ariels but would have bent the stabilator when it tipped over.

If an up hose had burst then the mains would have fallen into trail, but all the gear would still pump down on the hand pump, but not the motor.

If a down hose bursts, then its a gear up landing, no way of getting the gear down.

The important rule on the Cardinal, in any gear problem, pull the gear motor breaker then site and work out what went wrong. This saves the gear motor and stops pumping all the fluid over board.

All Cardinal RGs realy need a mirror under the left wing for the pilot to see if the gear is down but not many fitted. If the pilot had know the nose gear was down, the mains which are geared together could have been pulled in to lock by open a door looping a belt round a gear leg and pulling it into lock.
Has been done

On the tx problem the Cardinals tend to have a PTT button on the yoke with a curly cord to a socket mounted under where the control colume comes out of the panel. Not easy to see if pulled out slightly, commonly happens when removing the control lock. It would have been the common cause of both sets failing . He should have tried the copilots ptt button and reseated this jack plug first.