While pilots are required to learn how to conduct an emergency descent during their flight training, it is a procedure that many hope to never have to execute in real situations. Nevertheless, there is always a chance that an issue may occur, forcing the need for an emergency descent even if in a nonoptimal area. As such, it is crucial that pilots are well familiar with the basics of emergency procedures, and are aware that different aircraft have varying steps and configurations for such operations. In this blog, we will provide a basic overview of emergency descent procedures for single-engine piston aircraft, those of which are the type that most pilots will train in.
When discussing emergency descents, one is referring to the rapid descent of an aircraft to reach a lower altitude, often used for the means of landing. While pilots are trained to carry out such procedures for any aircraft that they will operate, the real execution of an emergency descent is saved for the worst-case scenarios. These can result from various emergencies, including those such as cabin depressurization, uncontrolled fires, and other life-threatening situations.
During the attempt to rapidly reduce altitude with a descent, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) states that a bank of 30 to 45 degrees is the most optimal for quickly reducing lift while maintaining positive load factors on the aircraft. While rolling into a turn with the use of ailerons and no back-pressure, vertical lift can be dumped while horizontal lift increases. This is very useful for quicker descents as compared to other various methods.
Despite drag being an aerodynamic factor that pilots normally wish to avoid, it can be beneficial for achieving the stopping power for reducing forward movement. When a constant speed propeller is present on the aircraft that one is flying, they should set it to a low pitch position so that it may operate similarly to a brake. Maximizing drag is important for allowing the aircraft to quickly descend without building up an unsafe amount of forward airspeed. To assist in this endeavor, the pilot may also deploy the landing gear and extend flaps in accordance with manufacturer recommendations. As high speeds are very unsafe, the aircraft should never surpass the structural never-exceed speed, or the Vne value. If landing gear or flaps are used, pilots also must consider their individual maximum speeds.
If an emergency descent is being carried out due to the outbreak of a fire on the airframe or other aircraft sections, high airspeed descents may be carried out. Depending on where the fire is located and the amount of damage that may have already occurred, a descent may be used to put out flames despite the risk of losing structural integrity. As such, it is on the pilot to determine what is the safest procedure, and speed should be maintained to minimize the chance of overstressing the airframe.
While an emergency descent may commonly be used to execute a landing, there are instances where the pilot may simply level off into a recovery altitude. Based on the configuration of the aircraft and an adherence to emergency descent checklists, the pilot may begin to plan a level off approach. Generally, the procedure should be undertaken at an altitude that is high enough for a safe recovery to level flight. If there is not enough time or height to conduct such a procedure, then the aircraft should be carefully landed in a level and open area if possible.
Through consistent practice, pilots can better prepare themselves for emergency procedures so that they can remain safe. ASAP Fulfillment is a leading distributor of aircraft parts, and we can help you secure competitive pricing on propeller components, aileron parts, airframe products, and much more. Take the time to explore our expansive catalogs as you see fit, and our team of industry experts are ready to assist you through the procurement process however possible. Call or email us today and see why customers choose to steadily rely on ASAP Fulfillment for all their operational needs.
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