Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Warm Fuzzy Feeling

I was training on our East sector, running the runway 26 final into Pensacola Regional. The West side was taking care of our departures. We had some decent traffic going (file under "Moderate" on the OJTI form).

Suddenly, the West side gets an emergency call. A Beechcraft Baron about 15 miles NW of the field is in serious trouble. He's lost oil pressure in both engines. For you non-pilots out there, oil does the same thing in airplanes as it does in cars: it lubricates and assists with cooling the engine. Unlike a car, you can't just pull over on the side of the road and call AAA for a tow. The pilot's looking at imminent engine seizure here.

On top of that, the airplane's electrical system is going to pot. Maybe his generators are dying. Maybe his battery's shot. I don't know. He apparently was able to communicate his issues at first, but his transmitters soon died. All he had left was his transponder. He could only acknowledge ATC instructions with a transponder IDENT flash.

The controller working the West coordinated with the tower and passed on the information. Due to the radio issues, they decided to leave the aircraft on the approach frequency. The approach controller told the pilot, "Cleared to land." IDENT flash. In he goes to the field.

In the meantime, I had multiple inbounds to the field from my side. A Lear, Skylane, and an air carrier Beech 1900. As each checked on, I told them to expect a delay due to an emergency in progress and immediately reduced the Lear and Beech 1900 to 190 knots. No use in getting them to the field more quickly if the runway is fouled. I vectored the Lear and Skylane around for some spacing. My instructor advised me to keep the Beech 1900 inbound to the field.

The Baron comes in and - thankfully - lands without incident. I call up the tower, ensure the runway is clear, and start landing my inbounds. The Beech 1900 lands, then the Lear, then the Skylane. I especially thanked the Skylane for his help, as I really had to vector the heck out of him.

All of this took probably ten minutes from start to finish, if that.

Everyone worked so well together. The West controller's steady voice, guiding the shaken pilot towards the field using what tools he had at his disposal. The tower guys giving us their airport. The patience and understanding of the other inbound pilots. It's just a good feeling watching everyone work so hard to ensure that pilot made it safely onto the ground. Truly humbling.


Anonymous said...

Penguin - I fly out of Whiting and heard you guys give tours of the TRACON. Is this true? If so, how can I get one?

Anonymous said...

Well done to all of you. I applaud your efforts and those of everyone involved in keeping both pilot and aircraft intact. So much is said when things go wrong and so little for the many occasions such as this where such "news worthy" consequences were avoided; you deserve credit and I, for one, am thankful for what you may consider 'just doing your job.'