I was lucky enough to have a go at this session twice! We practiced a normal departure followed by VOR to VOR navigation where some emergency was given to us, including pilot incapacitation. The school has given me a couple of free sessions, which means I have time to do some general handling and flying on raw data (i.e. without the flight director or autopilot) as well.
At a critical moment such as take off or a few hundred feet from touchdown, the instructor cunningly asked the pilot monitoring to act incapacitated – i.e. not to respond at all. This was done without the pilot flying knowing or realising to simulate pilot incapacitation. In my case, the PNF was incapacitated during take off. As soon as this happens, the workload is significantly increased for the pilot flying, and so priorities had to be given to tasks – aviate, navigate, communicate. The first task was to fly the aircraft and set up the configuration correctly and engage the autopilot to reduce the workload and then navigate and maintain situational awareness. The next action was to call ATC and advise them of the situation and then call the cabin crew member to secure the incapacitated pilot, and so on. Incapacitation that takes over slowly is most dangerous, as it is not always easy to notice.
We were then given a set of engine failures, fires and generator failures…! In all of these, the pilot flying continued to fly the aircraft whilst the pilot not flying or pilot monitoring, investigated the problem and then went through the appropriate memory drills or checklists, confirming actions with the other pilot before doing them. This is especially important with items such shutting down the engine. Shutting down the wrong engine could end with disastrous results, as it did with the Kegworth air crash. These drills were never done in a rushed or hasty manner with hands flying around the flight-deck, but rather in a calm, controlled and careful fashion. Initially, when time permitted, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, <callsign> engine fire, standby” was transmitted, and after having dealt with the emergency, ATC were then updated and we requested radar vectors for an ILS approach. Tasks are divided and clearly defined between the two pilots during emergencies and each task has a priority and is done accordingly. A “NITS” brief is given to the cabin crew, passengers, ATC and company. This is a briefing in which the Nature of the problem is described followed by the pilot’s Intentions on dealing with the problem, then the Time frame in which the actions will take and any Special requirements such as asking the cabin crew to secure the cabin or medical assisstance required on landing. Another procedure we used was DODAR (something British Airways makes use of):
Diagnose – what is the problem?
Options – what are our options or solutions to the problem?
Decide – make a decision on what option or solution to take.
Assign – tasks are assigned to crew members, cabin crew, ATC, etc.
Review – make an evaluation of the situation, decision and tasks and make any changes that are necessary.