As we know, any impairment to physical and mental health is a threat to safety. Fortunately, pilot incapacitation is quite rare. One study showed that in 15 to 20 million general aviation flights, six cases of pilot incapacitation were reported. However, in four of those cases, the pilot died at the controls.
The lesson is that anyone can become incapacitated at any time. And quite often it is non-flying friends or family that have to take over the aircraft. Therefore, it is essential that everyone on board knows what incapacitation is and how to deal with it.
Let’s begin by looking at the causes of incapacitation. It can happen gradually or suddenly, ranging from mild to very severe. The most common causes of sudden incapacitation are gastrointestinal problems, such as stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. Pilots must be careful with food and drink, particularly in remote areas or where there are poor facilities. Two pilots flying together should never eat the same food, and if possible, shouldn’t eat at the same time.
Heart problems and fainting are the main causes of serious incapacitation. Complaints of tightening of the chest, which are often confused with indigestion, and weakness and palpitation should be taken very seriously. Sweating, repeated yawning or shortness of breath should all trigger suspicion.
TEXT 11 (1.39 – Track 11)
The aircraft ingested a Canada goose into number three engine. This uncontained failure caused parts to go into the number four engine. Flame and smoke could be seen coming from both engines. Both of the engines were destroyed. The aircraft was out of service for five days at a cost of over $8 million.
As the aircraft broke through a cloudbank at 7,500 feet, it was struck by a flock of snow geese. The impact destroyed one engine, damaged several fan blades on another and extensively damaged the airframe. Repairs cost $6 million.
The aircraft ingested a gull during climb out. Tower observed flames from number two engine and advised the pilot, who declared an emergency and returned to land without incident. The aircraft landed using single engine landing procedures. The core and all the fan engines were damaged. The engine had to be rebuilt.
The aircraft struck over 400 blackbirds just after take-off. Almost every part of the plane was hit. Substantial damage was found on various parts of the aircraft. The number one engine had to be replaced and the runway was closed for an hour. Personnel were sent to disperse another large flock on the airfield.
The crew think they hit a gull shortly after take-off. The number three engine had a vibration with oil quantity fluctuation. When the oil quantity dropped to zero the engine was shut down. Feathers were found in he engine after landing and repairs cost $1.5 million.
TEXT 12 (1.44 – Track 12)
Good morning. Today we’re going to talk about ditching. It’s something that people can worry about but nine out of ten pilots who attempt ditching in the ocean succeed, even when it involves coming down close to the shore.
So ladies and gentlemen, it still makes sense to carry at least basic flotation in every aircraft, not just those which travel over water or coastal areas. If you ever find yourself afloat in a river or even a pond, a device as simple as an inflatable life vest will greatly improve your odds of surviving. For longer distances a raft is essential.
Having Search and Rescue near improves survival odds. The best way to do this is to file and fly on an IFR flight plan. A radioed mayday call followed by loss of radar contact will usually result in you getting the immediate attention of the SAR. The next best SAR insurance is radar traffic advisories while operating VFR.
So, how do you avoid going into the water in the first place? Well, the most obvious things to avoid are running out of gas and making sure the gas you have isn’t fouled with water or other debris.
At least a third of all ditchings are caused by fuel exhaustion, mismanagement, or contamination. Mechanical failures are listed as the cause in nearly as many ditchings as fuel exhaustion, about 25 percent. Fuel icing can also be a factor; apply carb heat immediately when you suspect icing. Time and time again, aircraft are taken out of water with no apparent mechanical faults, strongly suggesting that carb ice has caused a fuel blockage.
But if you have the choice between landing on water or impacting trees, rocks, or other rough surfaces, I’d say the water is more likely to be survival.
TEXT 13 (1.47 – Track 13)
P1/2 = pilot 1/2
Everything was normal during pre-flight. The ramp guys gave the first officer the HAZMAT during the walkaround, and I noted a 20-kilo package of dry ice. During taxi, we had a delay waiting for the closeout, but we finally got a closeout and proceeded with departure for Jakarta, about quarter of an hour late.
After an hour or so, we got an ACARS message to contact dispatch. So we did and they said we had a dog loaded with the dry ice. We needed to have the dog moved to another compartment, so we diverted to …
Oh, you diverted?
Yeah, we contacted Brisbane control, explained the situation and told them we needed to land …
What about your weight?
Exactly! We were about 32,600 pounds, so we declared an emergency, but made normal approach and landing, moved the dog to another compartment, and flew on to Jakarta.
What a pain! Was the live animal noted on the closeout?
Yeah, it was. Maybe we were rushing because of the delay, I don’t know, but no one mentioned any live animals, either during the walkaround or pushback.
I think we should have more information about carrying live animals, something other than just, ‘live animal o1’ on the closeout.
Yeah, that would definitely help to avoid that kind of thing …