Last week, two of my Civil Air Patrol (CAP) comrades were out on a training mission in the vicinity of the Laconia, NH Airport in our CE 182. About five miles from the airport at 3000ft MSL they experience severe engine vibration and a loss in power. They had just reduced power to 19in manifold pressure after level off.
They immediately turned back to the airport, declared an emergency, and prepared for a downwind landing. As they approached the airport, they realized they had enough altitude for a normal landing and turned downwind for RW 26. On downwind, the engine operation returned to normal and the landing was uneventful. Subsequent engine runs by maintenance were normal. Further evaluation revealed a bent push rod and evidence of a stuck valve. Apparently it became unstuck on downwind.
At our next meeting we talked about the possible causes……LEAD, LEAD, and LEAD.
We also talked about the actions taken by the pilots who did a great job.
It was on the way home from the meeting that I thought of the point I wish I had raised at the meeting. What action does the pilot take if this same situation occurs with no airports nearby? The engine is vibrating severely for unknown reasons and there is no apparent corrective action. Do you make a precautionary landing off airport with power or keep going until the engine quits and land off airport without power?
Our CAP unit does fire patrol for the State of New Hampshire and it takes us to some very remote areas of this beautiful state. There is lots of mountainous terrain and very few airports!
I asked the very experienced pilot who was flying the aircraft at the time of the incident what he would have done if the event had occurred in a remote area. After some thought, he said he would head towards the nearest airport, wherever it was, hoping to land on a runway, but always be ready to land if the engine quit.
What would your answer have been? It could happen to you! It might be good to have a plan!