The Briefing starts at …
This Sunday morning, it’s a little cloudy with a partially blue sky, we start the briefing for emergency engine failure.
Firstly, the instructor explains how we start the exercise. After we reach the altitude of 2,000 feet, he will take over the same checks that I would normally do for the autorotations and at some point surprise me with the command to start:
“Practice Forced Landing – GO”
It is basically the same as an autorotation, we had trained in this so many times by now.
But now, I would have to know where the wind is coming from. I don’t think that is a problem and I obviously turn into the wind and select the field on which I intend to land. For this, he explains the new check I will have to verbalize. This is called 5 x S’s
<< – Size – Shape – Surrounding – Slope – Surface >>
I memorise these words and visualise this procedure in my mind whilst we talk and start to walk around in the classroom. I have never done this before but I assume that the briefing is finished. I start to concentrate and I am absolutely ready to go. I pick up my jacket and all of a sudden realize that my instructor is still standing in front of the whiteboard and wonders what I’m doing.
“I got it – it’s fine – we can go.” – “But we are not finished yet” – “Ah … sorry.”
I sit down again and he continues.
“So, when you have settled the autorotation, selected and verbalized the field (5S), you make a mayday radio call.
… and almost turns into an argument
“What?” – I am sure he is joking and cannot take him seriously at all. I even start to joke, “Yeah, of course, I do a mayday call, start pulling my jacket from beneath the seat and after landing I must not forget to lock the helicopter, correct?
At this point, I have to mention that, during my paragliding times some years ago, I twice experienced an emergency that forced me to launch the secure parachute due to some missed aerobatic figures too close to the ground. This is not the same. Not at all.
Even though we had done enough autorotations in the last weeks to know that it is completely different, my instinct got embossed to turn over to 300% pure survival action in the remaining milliseconds. This radio call sounds extremely theoretical & academic, actually completely ridiculous to me. I am close to getting seriously angry.
He keeps quiet, he always keeps quiet when my Swiss-French temperament goes hot for a minute and continues the briefing. “So, the mayday call is …” – “Twice as long as any other radio call so far”, I think – “After this, you should not forget to brief the passenger” – I am giggling inside myself – “And then you pretend to cut the Mixture, Magneto- and Master-Switch and the Fuel-Valve (behind his back …) by verbalizing and touching them, known as Touch-Drills.
“Ok, good, shall we go now?” – “Have you already memorized everything?” – “Well, no, but I will focus on entering autorotations, turn into the wind properly, and select and fly towards a suitable field. If this all works fine, I am happy.”
We compromise that, today, I will also try the mayday call but can skip the Pax-Brief & Touch-Drills.
Let’s fly & try
During this flight, we did nothing else than climb and “Practice Forced Landing – GO”.
We went all over the place along the coast and we were all alone in the air on a totally quiet Sunday afternoon. Somewhere between the clouds, the green shining fields, and an outstanding reflecting view over the sea.
It was sort of a 5-Star VIP Sofa-Elevator Lounge Sunday Afternoon over the South of the UK in a constant loop.
And, as we always come down quite low before recovering, I see many pictures and places such as the yacht marina of Chichester, etc. for the first time in a magnificent way. I am sure that not many citizens had this privilege in their lifetime …
And really stunning: after 2-3 attempts I ask him, “What was this last part with the Touch-Drills”?
An absolutely amazing flight
After landing we are both absolutely happy. My hysteria about missing flying time whilst doing ridiculous exercises in the classroom this morning literally turned into history in one flight.
And, he says that I did it so well that we don’t have to practice more during the next flights before we start with perfecting and repeating all exercises.
Oh no …. I knew I’ve should skip this Mayday-Call !!
The workload & flow of this exercise can be rehearsed by almost 80% on the ground. On command this routine must just start without thinking.
<< 5S, Mayday, Pax-Brief, TouchDrills >>
The real flying part – after entering and settling into the wind – and so estimating the gliding path and flight to the field must, of course, be practiced and it’s worth not to waste time on rehearsing the words in the air.
And, after all, there is enough time for everything, without stressing like hell which does not help anyway, if performed in a concentrated & straight forward manner.