What To Do If Your Pilot
By Hugh Davis
Prior to the most recent Twin Commander University, we at FlightSafety were asked to present a Pinch Hitter-style course to significant others who are not pilots but frequently ride along in the right seat. We developed a PowerPoint presentation with many graphics of the flight deck and pertinent flight and engine instruments. The course was well received and several attendees have asked for copies of the presentation. We will be glad to share the complete presentation in Adobe format. Just email us at FlightSafety for a copy (firstname.lastname@example.org).
There are many versions of the Twin Commander, so the following is written to cover most aircraft with an FD-112 flight director and AP-106 autopilot with pitch and roll controller.
The first thing to remember is that, no matter the emergency, panicking is the wrong response. Panic can lead to an undesirable outcome of the situation. If your pilot becomes incapacitated, it’s very important that you try and stay as calm as possible and act deliberately using the following procedures.
First, gain positive control of the airplane by making sure that the pilot is not in the way of the controls. Here’s how:
Use the autopilot!
Check the upper-left annunciator to see that autopilot light, which is labeled AP, is illuminated. Or check the green light on the autopilot control panel. If neither light is on, use the control yoke as required to get the airplane more or less straight and level, and re-engage the autopilot.
Make sure the red switch on the pilot’s yoke is in the autopilot-on position (AP ON). Sometimes there also is a red switch on the co-pilot’s yoke, and it should be in the on position as well.
Next, call for help on the radio by using the push-to-talk (PTT) button on the top right side of your yoke. You should be able to use the radio on the channel it is already tuned to.
Push the PTT button and say, “May-Day, May-Day, this is Twin Commander N_ _ _ _ _ [the aircraft’s registration number].” Then let go of the PTT button and listen for a response, which will be addressed to the N-number you broadcast. Explain to whomever answers what happened. Tell them your experience level as a pilot, or that you have no experience.
If you can’t raise anyone, try the emergency channel, 121.500. If no one answers, keep trying. Someone will hear you and respond. They likely will give you instructions to descend and head for a suitable airport. To change altitudes:
Dial in the desired new altitude using the left knob on the altitude reminder. The airplane’s current altitude is displayed on the altimeter’s row of numbers.
If ALT (altitude hold mode) is on, push the ALT button on the autopilot controller to turn it off. Then push the ALT SEL button (to the right of ALT button) to turn on the ALT SEL indicator light.
Next, set the engine power to 20 percent or 200 hp by moving the two throttle levers together while watching the percent-power gauges. They are the top two gauges in the center row of engine gauges.
Move the rocker switch on the autopilot control panel forward for a descent, or backwards for climbing.
Hold the rocker button down a couple of seconds and release it. Watch the rate of climb/descent instrument below the altimeter for effect. Push the button some more for faster descent or push the button in the climb direction to reduce the rate. The desired rate of descent is 1000 feet per minute.
When the desired altitude that was set in the altimeter is reached, push the ALT button and the airplane will level off.
Now it’s time to set up for landing.
Set engine power to 15-20 percent, or 200 hp. The airspeed indicator needle should be around 150 knots when level. Lower the landing gear.
When the airplane is a couple of miles from landing, set the flaps to 40 percent. The aircraft should slow to 110-120 knots. Check the airspeed indicator to confirm.
Use small adjustments in power (keeping it near 20 percent or 200 hp) to maintain 110-120 knots to the runway.
Nearing the runway, turn off the autopilot using the red switch on the yoke.
Hand-fly the airplane to the runway, and when a few feet above the runway gently flare by raising the nose to a near-level attitude. After all the wheels make contact, pull the throttle levers back to the stop.
Steer the airplane on the ground using the rudder pedals, which turn the nosewheel. The yoke does not have any effect on ground steering.
Gently apply equal pressure to the tops of both rudder pedals for braking.
After the aircraft has stopped, move the throttles up and over the gate locks. Don’t pull them any further back than the detent. This is the ground idle position.
As the airplane slows, push down on the propeller control friction lock and pull the propeller controls back and over the stop to the most rearward position.
Come to a stop on the runway. Don’t try to taxi.
Once you have stopped, if the propellers are still spinning rotate both engine control switches (the big black switches on the overhead panel) to the OFF position.
Unlock the door using the door switch on the upper panel, left side, lower row.
Finally, turn the battery switch off (second switch from the left on the overhead panel).
DO NOT try to exit until the left-hand prop has stopped.
Many thanks to Klein Gilhousen and Mr. and Mrs. Eliot Brown, Commander owner/operators who helped in developing these procedures.
Hugh Davis is an instructor at FlightSafety International’s Twin Commander training center in Houston.