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80 FTW Pilots overcome flight control malfunction
Capt. Frank Baumann, 459thFlying Training Squadron instructor pilot, and 2nd Lt. Derek Olivares, Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training student pilot, pose for a photo after expertly landing the stricken T-6 Texan II aircraft on Sept. 13.
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80 FTW Pilots overcome flight control malfunction

Posted 10/31/2011   Updated 11/1/2011 Email story   Print story


by 2nd Lieutenant Sara Harper
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

10/31/2011 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- On Sept. 13, an 80th Flying Training Wing flight, call sign Blade 46, took off as a standard T-6 Texan II training sortie to practice aerobatics and spins in Sheppard's practice airspace. But when the aircraft experienced a serious flight control malfunction, the flight became a fight to bring the aircraft home safely. 

Second Lt. Derek Olivares, a Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training student pilot, was on a routine training flight with his instructor pilot Capt. Frank Baumann, 459th Flying Training Squadron, when he experienced flight control problems during recovery from a spin maneuver. Olivares said he knew something was wrong when he felt the control stick jump during the spin.

"When I looked at the flight instruments, they were indicating a left bank even though I had full deflection of the control stick to the right," he said. "That's when I told Capt. Baumann there was something wrong with the controls."

Baumann calmly yet immediately took over the controls and confirmed that the stick felt different; he did not have control of the elevator, which provides the aircraft with the ability to climb and descend.

"It took about three minutes to recover the aircraft to level flight just by using the trim and ailerons alone," he said.

The ailerons control the bank of the aircraft, and trim is normally used to make minor stabilizing adjustments to elevator inputs.

After recovering to level flight and realizing the severity of the situation, Baumann told Olivares to double check all his gear in the event they would need to eject from the aircraft.

"I checked my harness about three times to make sure that everything was tight and good to go," Olivares said.

Baumann reported the in-flight emergency to the supervisor of flying, who directed him to the T-6 operations supervisor, Maj. Gary Greicar.

Greicar immediately gathered wing leadership, safety and maintenance personnel together to think through possibilities and come up with a plan.

"The people on the ground were acting like another crew member. Our job was to support the pilots with ideas and solutions to safely recover the aircraft," said Greicar.

A chase-ship support aircraft piloted by Capt. Wade Maulsby, 459th FTS instructor pilot, joined up with the stricken aircraft to provide assistance and perform an exterior inspection, looking for anything unusual. The communication with the team on the ground and the chase ship reassured the pilots that they were not alone in the skies - it was truly a team effort.

The team on the ground recommended the pilots conduct a controllability check in the practice airspace to determine if the aircraft was controllable at landing speeds and configuration.

Through the controllability check, the pilots learned that each seat in the aircraft had control of different functions. Olivares in the front seat had no control of the ailerons to turn the aircraft, while Baumann in the back seat could not control the elevators to make the aircraft climb or descend - flying the aircraft would require both pilots.

After deciding it was possible to land the aircraft, the pilots practiced five or six simulated landings in the airspace with the gear and flaps extended. They reviewed contingency plans and thought through worst-case scenarios while practicing the landing.

"We didn't know what else was wrong with the aircraft, so we had to prepare solutions if other things went wrong," said Baumann.

Racing against the clock and the deteriorating visibility, the crew worked together to bring the T-6 home - Olivares controlled the aircraft's descent with the elevators, while Baumann controlled the ailerons, rudder and power. Through impressive crew resource management and coordination, they were able to successfully put the aircraft on the runway with a surprisingly smooth landing.

"There was lots of celebration and relief when the aircraft was safely on the ground. We were all excited, and it was an awesome feeling," stated Olivares.

Baumann attributed the flight's success to communication between key players and the training he has received.

"Having a smart wingman, a student who kept his calm and the support and experience on the ground were the main contributors to our success," he said. "It was the whole crew concept. We were getting information from a lot of different sources, and it was important to take advice and find the crucial information that was applicable to us."

Olivares attributed their success to the trust and confidence that he has in the instructors at Sheppard.

"I was glad that it was Capt. Baumann in the back. He is my assigned IP, and I had flown with him before. I know him and how he flies and was very confident in his abilities. Having Capt. Maulsby on the wing was very encouraging as well."

A post flight maintenance investigation revealed that a critical component of the flight control system failed, causing the control sticks in the front and rear cockpits to function independently rather than in unison as would normally be the case.

As a result of the mishap, the T-6 fleet of 446 aircraft across all Air Education and Training bases went through a 100 percent maintenance inspection before returning to flying operations.

11/10/2011 3:41:11 PM ET
The un-sung hero is the student in the chase ship. Great job Christian.
Matt, SAFB
11/1/2011 8:15:38 PM ET
Steve Case, Wichita Falls
11/1/2011 7:02:56 PM ET
Way to go Derek glad you made it back down safe buddy.
Ryan P, Det 157
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