My dead stick by Mike Stewart - mstewartga @ yahoo.com
10/6/03
Well since the cat is out of the bag, and my e-mail is getting full with all
the inquiry's, I have attached our flight debrief from the airshow at SERFI
yesterday for you to read the events. At the end, Ill follow up with some
notes based on the questions I have been getting.
========
7 ship taxi and takeoff went real well. Our hold outside the box was 
a bit long for the show delay, but the only issue I was concerned 
about was Nomad making his Delta departure on-time. We watched the 
video of the flight extensively last night and surprisingly, the 
flight looked real good. We all felt it is a bit ragged as pilots, 
but the video proved otherwise. Transitions were smooth, and the 
runs to show center were quite good. Then.. at about 400' agl ... 
Well, my little engine problem and pitch straight up and out of the 
flight. I was very impressed with my instant decision to pull out of 
the flight without anyone in the flight knowing there was a problem. 
It was nice to see that our training kicked in instantly and the 
flight only knew that I was gone with "1's out". 

In summary:
I had about 2 seconds of an alarm beeping at me. I looked at the 
instrument and a big fat Zero blinking on the fuel pressure. As I 
stared at it confirming I was seeing what I was seeing, I had one 
cough from the engine and I made an imediate decision to pull out 
and called "1's out". I made a 6 G pull, 130 deg. bank left for a 
look see at the runway and called "1's engine out, got the field 
made, Nomad you have the flight"(as briefed). Now I did not intend 
to pull that hard, but the 50lbs of smoke oil made made me more tail 
heavy than I considered at that moment, and I had only ONE concern 
at that moment... Get my ass out from this flight so I don't have a 
bunch of planes running into me. Airboss keyed up and said "1's 
cleared to land." I remember thinking. "Well thats good. Cause Im 
landing on that runway right there." I layed in the hardest slip I 
could and again keyed up, "I have the field, Jim you have the 
flight" Made a nice landing, and rolled off the runway into the 
grass while the rest of the flight regrouped and continued on 
without me, just as briefed. I got my engine started and taxied 
back. Turns out I had a failure in my mechanical fuel pump and had 
the breaker pulled for the electric fuel pump(for other reasons too 
complicated to explain here). 

Incredible job team for getting it together and pressing on. Our 
show was cut short, we had only completed about 1/2 of it, but it 
could not had gone ANY better than it did based on the 
circumstances. It is a testimate to our trainers (Stu, Subie, Nomad 
et al.), and the teams focus and attention to detail. The wingmen 
kept their position and the flight did not fall apart. Its 
incredible really when you think about it. Most of the on-lookers 
did not even know there was a problem. Thank goodness for all you 
military guys that have passed on your experiences to us civillian 
types. It saved my butt yesterday, and the others in the flight.

Next show is columbia. 
See you there.
Mike
==========
Question? What about the electric pump? Well I had just completed a major
panel change over and had not tested the elec. pump circuit. I left the
breaker pulled before leaving home base that morning. I knew it worked, I
had turned it on after the panel change, I had not changed anything in that
circuit, but just as a matter of my own procedure, I dont turn anything on
until I test the circuit(wire chase, current draw, etc.) on a major change
like a panel overhaul. I pulled the breaker as a reminder to do it. It was a
mistake for not following up on it sooner. It would not have changed the
circumstances of the pitchout from the flight, but the engine would have
fired back up and I could have put down with my prop making power. 
Question? Mike dont you fly with your pump on? Not as a matter of course.
Usually only for acro, take-off and landing. But not that day. We discussed
it during the debrief. Some do and some dont. Hind sight, well yes my elec
fuel pump on would have cured that problem. But we all agreed that a pump
failure like the is so rare, that is is Monday night quarterbacking to now
have all pumps on. We have many more, much higher risk items to deal with
when show flying like that and this one is extremely rare that to burden all
with one more mental item to do would be detrimental. You want the flight
members to have their mind one a small finite amount of items. You don't
want to add rules for extremely rare items. For example. A tire failure in a
formation takeoff is a much higher risk item, well somewhat in terms of the
way we take off we try and take it into account, Do we address it really?
No, we take the risk. I know your thinking just put the pump on whats the
big deal. Well i probably will now. But it will not be a flight brief item.
This needs more discussion between us. Much debate here to be had. And I am
sure many will chime in about having the pump on when at low altitude. Ill
probably have my pump running at low altitude next time when my battery
fails on my dual elec ign.. Its hard to manage all the risks. Clearly I
should have had that breaker in and it was a lapse on my part to not have
done so.
Mike how did you have the presense of mind to talk to the flight whilst your
engine was out? Well quite frankly, once I pitched up and rolled and saw the
runway, my only concern then was my buddies I left behind. I have seen
formations go to hell from little items. I could not see them as they were
going away from the airport. I was of course heading toward it. They were
not talking as they were busy reconfiguring as briefed. Naturally they were
also worried about me too so they were pretty quiet. We owned the freq.. But
all I could think about once I saw the runway was the 6 ships I left behind.
"Were they OK, did I pull hard enough? Was what I was thinking" In the end I
had nothing to worry about. They were making power and were in good hands
with Nomad (Jim Lawrence.. Lifetime military fighter pilot, formation flight
lead and check pilot, Delta captain, good man, great stick, and so forth...)

Mike why the pitch up so hard? The biggest danger of all is not pulling out
in an engine failure. Although all flight members fly in a stacked down
position, the clearance is minimal (2-4 feet Leader prop to vert fin for the
guy in the slot for example) and it would not be pretty to the planes behind
me to have a prop not making power while i continue straight and level. They
would try by habit to match my speed and well, it would get ugly very very
quickly. As part of our training, the only thing to do, and I mean RIGHT
NOW, is to pull out. The danger in a pull out like that is that the flight
follows you. Thats why the pull out must be abrupt and RIGHT NOW! you don't
want any flight member to have the chance to follow you. 6 g's? No it did
not have to be that hard, but I pulled to get the hell out, it just ended up
the six is where the needle stopped. Speed at the time was 135kts. Next time
I'll try and only pull 4.7:)
Mike you guys briefed a lost leader? Yes. And I am glad we did. It is common
enough for leader to have a problem that the flight needs to be taken
control of imediately to maintain flight dicipline and flight safety. We
don't necessairly brief a lost lead for every flight, but we do when we are
show flying, doing low altitude maneuvering.
Is there anytime during the flight where you would not be able to make the
field? In theory no. We are never low and slow. Low and fast or high and
slow yes. We get pretty slow at the top of our lazy eights during formation
changes. But we work the routine so that at anytime, the field can be had.
This was my first uncommanded engine out, but not my first dead stick
landing. I have practiced several engine outs over big airports and landed
engine out. I wanted to know exactly what my plane felt like when the engine
was not making power so I have practiced it a few times. There is no
question that my practice did help my calmness during this emergency. You
glider guys know what I'm talking about.

OK thats it. Let the discussions begin. Ill try and answer other questions
as they come if they are addressed my way. This incident has changed me.
There is no question about that. I am going through a strange mental period
right now. I am sure there is a psyco babble name for the stage I am in. The
event was actually no problem. The after event mentally has been
challenging. I am so thankful for my mentors who instilled a few key items
in me. I have learned some things.
Regards,
Mike Stewart