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Rainy Night
05-22-2007, 10:35 PM
In my WIP I have a small plane (like a Cessna, w/ 4 passengers) that has a total power loss while flying over the Bonneville Salt Flats. I'm not a pilot so I need to know what would happen and how the pilot would bring the plane down safely.

I need the plane to be intact and no one to get hurt, yet I need to create some tension.

Any and all help is appreciated. :)

Higgins
05-22-2007, 10:55 PM
In my WIP I have a small plane (like a Cessna, w/ 4 passengers) that has a total power loss while flying over the Bonneville Salt Flats. I'm not a pilot so I need to know what would happen and how the pilot would bring the plane down safely.

I need the plane to be intact and no one to get hurt, yet I need to create some tension.

Any and all help is appreciated. :)

I've only pretended to fly planes in simulators on my home computer, but it seems like you could:
1) make sure you still have control to the control surfaces (all hydraulics or whatever moves the surfaces operating...if no control, you won't make it...)
2) get wings-level with the nose down to keep up your speed
3) feather the prop if possible (some planes keep a reserve hydraulic reservoir just for this possibility)
4) see how fast you need to get down (ie pick a place ahead to land)
5) get speed by going down as needed
6) put out flaps if needed
7) crank out gear manually if needed
8) land a bit faster than usual since you can't recover from any problems
very easily near the ground

The problem would be if you had to do much turning. You would have to be careful to enter any turns with plenty of speed. Assuming you have plenty of altitude, you could just err on the side of going a bit faster at all times...

PS: You might want to land into the wind...I'm not sure how much wind would make it worth the turning to get facing the right way...also yoiu could get a simulation program and do some pretend flying. There is one that is free in fact if you don't mind flying things like Gloster Gladiators: targetware. Some of the aircraft probably approximate modern civil aviation in many ways.

MidnightMuse
05-22-2007, 11:18 PM
I'll see if I can find Alleycat. He flew small planes. Not sure if he crashed any, but he told me a story about cow butts and wind once :D

alleycat
05-22-2007, 11:43 PM
Well, when you've got something like the salt flats in which to land, it would be a relatively simple matter to merely glide down and land.

When you're taking flying lessons, an instructor will sometimes reach over and turn the engine off (with a big grin on their face). The plane is still airworthy, only now it's a poor sort of glider. The instructor wants you to pick out a suitable landing field and begin to bring the plane down (and also not pee in your pants the first time he does it). In many areas this is tougher than it sounds due to the topography, power lines, ditches, houses, cows in the way, trees, and what-have-you. It would be a lot easier to do so on the Bonneville Salt Flats with ten or twenty miles of flat, open terrain in front of you.

As for tension, a nice little wind storm would make things more difficult. I have no idea whether there's wind storms at Bonneville or not however. Most small Cessnas such as the 172 have fixed landing gear, but there are some others with retractable gear. Another choice would be to have the landing gear jamb for whatever reason (to me, the stuck landing gear idea is a cliche). Yet another choice would be for the pilot to pick out a poor landing spot even on the flats (maybe he panicked a bit, or isn't very experience, or maybe he's still a bit far out from the flats when he loses power, etc); now he barely has enough room to land before hitting a rock outcropping or hillside (seems like I remember small mountains around Bonneville in the films I've seen).

Does that help you any?

And ignore Muse! That cows face downwind is old pilot lore from the barnstorming days. Hey, it's no worse than that placard they put in planes about what to do in case you get into a spin . . . like someone is going to read all of that while they're spiraling to their death.

triceretops
05-23-2007, 12:33 AM
Set yourself up for a long straight glide, keeping the plane above stall speed. This could be anywhere from 60-120 MPH, depending on the size of the plane and its weight. Avoid making tight turns, as this depletes altitude. Nice and easy. Flare out about 10ft before landing, that means pulling the stick all the way back (if it's a tail-dragger). Plop--you're down.

Tri

Rainy Night
05-23-2007, 12:53 AM
Thanks for the help, sounds like you know what you're talking about... so the plane is going to loose all power, like some one flipped a light switch and boom dead, nothing.. they're over the salt flats so no real having to search for a landing spot... I'm thinking I want to make the landing quick as the story's not really about the crash, that's just a device to get these people stranded, possibly some witty dialogue and some one peeing their pants...

If I upped the passengers to 6 what sort of plane would it be?

If the engines are dead how would they keep the speed up? whould it just be maintaining the glide and then pulling back the stick before landing?

Do all planes have to file a flight plan?

Anything else you can think of to make it all sound authentic?

What's the cow butt story?

cirite
05-23-2007, 01:17 AM
Above all, keep the nose up. You will fall like a led ballon and you don't want to hit the nose.

alleycat
05-23-2007, 08:16 AM
If I upped the passengers to 6 what sort of plane would it be?

If the engines are dead how would they keep the speed up? whould it just be maintaining the glide and then pulling back the stick before landing?

Do all planes have to file a flight plan?

Anything else you can think of to make it all sound authentic?

What's the cow butt story?
Something like a Cessna Stationair would work. It carries six.

If finding a landing area isn't a major concern, then it's really just going to be following a shallow glidepath down. The last leg of a typical airport landing is really just a glide; power is cut back. If the pilot need to lose altitude, they would be easy to accomplish. And it would be the yoke, not a stick, until you were in certain types of planes.

No, private planes do not necessarily have to file a flightplan. Most pilots do for longer trips; it's a relatively simple matter to do so for a private plane--you just pick up the radio and file it with the FSS. There would nothing wrong with having the pilot not file a flightplan in a story however. You can fly around all over the place without a flightplan (unless the rules have changed since I was flying; which was pre-911).

I suspect the biggest problem a pilot would have in this situation is a bunch of panicked passengers. That, or being too low when the engine quit. Of course, all of this would be scarier at night.

The one problem I see is being stranded on the flats. I don't know much about the area, but I would think there's people around that would see a plane go down. I'm guessing there's always people with cars and motorcycles out there seeing just how fast they can go. If you need the characters to be stranded for a few hours, then it's probably workable. I'm not sure it would be believeable to have them stranded there for days on end. Modern planes, even small ones, are equipped with good radios; you might think about having some sort of electrical problem that causes both the engine problem and the loss of the radio. I would have to think about this a little since there's dual everything in a plane.

The cow story is an old pilot ditty about cows pointing downwind on the theory that cows don't like having the wind in their face (well, who does?). A pilot likes to know the wind direction when he's landing, so he could tell that by which way the cows are pointing. I wish I had never told Muse this silly story. Women have memories like elephants.

MidnightMuse
05-23-2007, 06:29 PM
I wish I had never told Muse this silly story. Women have memories like elephants.

:e2poke: :D

Rainy Night
05-23-2007, 08:41 PM
I suspect the biggest problem a pilot would have in this situation is a bunch of panicked passengers. That, or being too low when the engine quit. Of course, all of this would be scarier at night.

The one problem I see is being stranded on the flats. I don't know much about the area, but I would think there's people around that would see a plane go down. I'm guessing there's always people with cars and motorcycles out there seeing just how fast they can go. If you need the characters to be stranded for a few hours, then it's probably workable. I'm not sure it would be believeable to have them stranded there for days on end. Modern planes, even small ones, are equipped with good radios; you might think about having some sort of electrical problem that causes both the engine problem and the loss of the radio. I would have to think about this a little since there's dual everything in a plane.

I hope my story isn't too predictable, the crash is at night (you guessed it), one of the passengers is 9 mo pregnant, about ready to burst. She's flying from LA to Salt Lake because of a family emergency and because she's late term the airlines won't let her fly so she hitches a ride on a private plane.

I used to drive through the flats about once a month, it's huge, a lot bigger than people think, and if I remember correctly it's a protected area, so with the exception of a few areas I don't think there's a lot of off-road traffic, still that's part of my research that I need to complete.

The story is more horror than thriller, so there are supernatural elements at play, the complete power loss to the plane is just that, complete, nothing electrical will work, sort of a Bermuda Triangle thing.

Thanks again and if you think of anything else to add please don't hesitate.

Terry L. Sanders
06-23-2007, 01:59 AM
[quote=Rainy Night;1353084]I hope my story isn't too predictable, the crash is at night (you guessed it), one of the passengers is 9 mo pregnant, about ready to burst. She's flying from LA to Salt Lake because of a family emergency and because she's late term the airlines won't let her fly so she hitches a ride on a private plane.

The night part will up the ante a bit, all right. Especially with an electrical failure. No landing lights. No instrument panel lighting. If the supernatural part is strong enough, not even a flashlight. Basically that means the pilot can't see a thing unless the moon is up. Including his instruments. Bonneville likely doesn't have a lot of lights on the ground.

I would suggest making it a clear night, but not much moon. If the pilot can't see the stars he probably won't be able to tell up from down. Not being able to tell up from down is probably what killed JFK Jr.--once you become disoriented the plane usually ends up in a "death spiral" in minutes. And a pitch black night with no stars over pitch-black earth would be about as bad as flying through a cloud.

Even with stars to orient by, it could be bad. With no lights on the ground, he'll have a hard time telling how high up he is. All he can really do is establish a glide, hold her level, and wait for the plane to touch down. Give him a match or a cigarette lighter to make sure his airspeed's about right (about 60-70 knots, depending on the model). Then just wait for the wheels to touch. It'll be a bit rough--he can't tell when to flare, so he'll touch down a bit fast.

If the wheels are down (most Cessna's are fixed-gear) it won't be too bad, but it'll be scary. Everybody--including the pilot--will have lost some water weight by the time it's over. (Sweat, of course--what did you think I meant? ;) )

As to types:

4-seater Cessna's:

172/Skyhawk (very common, 4 seats, but it'll have trouble if you fill them all)

182/Skylane (also very common, 4 seats, and you CAN fill them all)

177/Cardinal (less common, a sleeker, faster cousin to the 172)

180/Skywagon (bushplane version of the 182, if your pilot's the hairy-knuckles type)

177RG/Cardinal RG (retractable-gear version of the 177--If this isn't a big part of the story, don't go with RG's--they'll up the scare factor a LOT)

182RG/Skylane RG (see above)

Six-seaters

206/Stationair (kind of a six-seat Skylane--a real SUV of a plane, but flies more or less like the 182. Good if you really want six people.)

210/Centurion (more or less the retractable version of the 206--see above)

I'd recommend the 182 or 206 for what you're doing. Cast-iron reliable and easy to find. No need to get exotic...

Hope I didn't overload you...
Terry L. Sanders

jclarkdawe
06-23-2007, 02:06 AM
Depending on the time of year (and I don't know when but believe it's spring), and where on the Salt Flats you are, you can have a mud/water problem. Seems to me that a nice situation would be the tension of landing the plane, nothing goes wrong, they're rolling on the ground, when the nose wheel goes in the mud and then flip, the plane is upside down, fuel leaking, some minor injuries, miles from nowhere.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Sandi LeFaucheur
06-23-2007, 02:30 PM
I don't know anything about small planes, and I have no idea how far it is from LA to Salt Lake. (I don't know much, do I? :) ) But my thought is, would a small plane be able to make it that far without running out of gas?