09 July 2014

This is your pilot speaking

I've been researching twin engine aircraft for work recently and my favorite part about that is reading aviator-written descriptions of planes, handling, and the trade-offs with a second engine.  And my favorite part of aviator-written descriptions?  Their fondness for off-hand understatement.

For example, these are from AVSIM Commercial FSX Aircraft Review's* description of the Cessna Skymaster.  And, again, the first one is my favorite.  The last is my second favorite.

It has two of everything to maintain and replace, increasing operating and ownership costs. But, of course, it has two engines and that second engine just might save your life one day. Owners usually agree the extra cost is well worth it within minutes of an engine failure at a critical time.

My favorite Skymaster quote is from a pilot who had an engine failure in IFR** over the mountains at night. ATC asked, "Sir, are you declaring an emergency?" The Skymaster pilot replied, "No, I'm declaring an inconvenience."


In early days it was not uncommon to see aborted takeoffs of the C337 simply because the pilot failed to notice the rear engine had conked out somewhere along the taxi stage and the pilot also evidently failed to do a proper engine run-up and mag check prior to takeoff.  Posted placards state, at the insistence of the FAA that the normal operation should be to lead with only the rear engine for takeoff then follow with the forward engine.  This is to ensure the rear engine is actually running at normal power for takeoff.  Rotation and climb out would not be a good time to discover your twin is actually a single.  Single engine takeoffs are prohibited.

This is one of the reasons you see the C337 taxi with the tractor engine completely shut down.  One, you don’t need two engines to taxi, two, you save on fuel and wear and tear on parts, and [three], you probably won’t attempt a takeoff if the prop you are looking at is not turning.


I like the engine sounds*** so much that I load up the C337H in FSX, start the engine or engines, turn up the volume, minimize FSX, and then work on my writing or editing or forum surfing with these sweet sounds in the background.  It reminds me of those old days sitting in the hot sun in Miami waiting for takeoff clearance surrounded by big iron.  It drives my wife nuts.


The standard line is that there is very little indication of a rear engine failure. Other than the sputtering sound, the sudden and noticeable pressure on the restraining harness against your chest and the rapid loss of about 15 to 20 knots in airspeed, there aren't many clues. If someone cannot feel this and see the drop in fuel flow and cylinder head temperatures, they probably should not be flying anything.

*An aviation simulator.  The actual plane is described as part of the complete description of the simulator. 

** "Instrument flight rules (IFR) is one of two sets of regulations governing all aspects of civil aviation aircraft operations; the other is visual flight rules (VFR)."  So saith the Google and the Wikipedia.

*** Having two 210 hp engines hanging forward and back rather than off to the sides means that the plane is consistently described as being very, very noisy.  Like being inside a lawn mower.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

given your feelings about flight, this research must have freaked you out.

xxx. (LMN)