January 2009 Issue

Declaring The Emergency

You still have to fly the airplane, but what happens next isnít something to fear.

The left engine was cutting out but youíve kept it running with the aux pump. Weather at the big airport, 15 miles from your destination, has been dropping slowly; itís down to 500 feet overcast and a mile visibility, which just happens to be the published minimums for both of the approaches into Homeplate Regional, where you base your light twin. The couple in the back seat had been fighting about him drinking vodka from the bottle for the first hour of the trip, but once he passed out, things quieted down. Just as ATC gives you the clearance for a lower altitude, the rainís intensity goes from light to firehose and the left engine again demands attention. Full rich mixture smooths it out. A moment later the remaining conscious passenger in the back seat announces her water has broken and sheís in labor. Your right seat passenger asks if youíre going to declare an emergency and shoot the ILS into the big airport. "No way," you reply, visions of John Wayne, Chuck Yeager and The Right Stuff in your mind as you turn to focus your steely, glinting baby blues on him. "Iím not filling out all that paperwork; Iíll just make sure weíre number one for the approach into Homeplate." Over the next 10 minutes the mother-to-be in the rear seat makes increasingly vocal announcements regarding contractions at regular and diminishing intervals, and when you make a power reduction as you near the final approach fix the left engine resumes its misbehavior.

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