It was a beautiful day and very cold. The skies were clear, making it a great day to fly. I was flying the company airplane, going to pick up the CEO and his wife in Alabama. I was allowed to take a rider along, and I filed for 11,000 feet. I picked up my clearance on the ground, loaded in all the particulars of the flight plan in the Garmin G1000, double checked the route and verified the departure, then finally contacted ground for taxi. It was nice having someone along to share the joy of flying in our new company airplane, a Quest Kodiak. It is a beautiful plane and a dream to fly, with a 750 hp Pratt & Whitney engine, loads of power and it climbs out with ease.
We departed and were on our way, being guided with radar vectors, as we were handed off to Tulsa Departure then a center handoff to Memphis Center. The flight was going well, with a smooth ride, and we were enjoying the view from my new office. Eventually, about two hours into our trip, my passenger told me that he was really cold and some cold air was blowing in on him. I made some changes on the cabin heat, increasing the temperature and making sure that the outside air vents were turned off.
About ten minutes later, he again said that it had helped but there was still some very cold air coming in from somewhere, but he could not figure where it was coming from. I felt fine and was wondering what could be causing this. The Kodiak has a door seal that inflates when the door is closed and locked, making it quieter up front and I wondered if it was the seal.
We both were checking, feeling the sides of the door, yet we could not find where this cold air was entering. Earlier I showed him where the main control lever/knob was and showed him how to make adjustments on the amount of air that would come in from the outside, mixing it with the bleed air from the engine. It was a reddish knob that could be pulled out to completely shut off the air. It was on the dash directly under the yoke on the right side. It was hard to see for the person on the right side, so you had to look off to the side to see it. Well, I showed him the lever and he pulled it out. This helped, I was relieved, and he was warming up.
Just as we were flying over Memphis at 11,000 feet, I was enjoying looking out at the city on my side when all of the sudden there was a huge forward surge as the engine quit and alarms, tones, and buzzers all started sounding! I immediately pulled back on the yoke and shouted, “What happened?!”
I feathered the prop as I watched the gauges, all indicating that the engine quit. I silenced the alarms and called out MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY with Memphis Center and told them that I had a flame out and immediately they gave me vectors to the nearest airport. I knew that the Kodiak would glide two miles for every thousand feet, so I asked them to give me something straight out ahead of me. They did give me vectors to a different airport. Then I started the process of getting the engine restarted.
I fell back to my yearly recurrent training that I must have for insurance requirements to fly the Kodiak and all the drilling and practice paid off. There is a reason that the insurance companies require you to go back through recurrent training every year and it is worth the money the company spends. Trainers have always said that we revert to what we practice and that is exactly what happened.
So, as I was pulling back on the yoke and trying to decipher what just happened, I looked at the passenger and said, “Did you do something?” And he sheepishly said “All I did was pulled out this red knob…”
I was shocked! He had pulled the FIREWALL FUEL SHUTOFF VALVE! I immediately pushed it back in and I knew what to do for a restart. It seemed like an eternity waiting to see the engine spool to life and all the gauges go back into the green as they were just minutes before. I was pretty puckered up, as they say, but I was glad to report that I didn’t have to change my pants. I didn’t have any extra with me anyway; neither did my passenger.
After the engine came to life, I looked at the altimeter and saw that I had lost almost 2000 feet. As I established a climb, I called Memphis Center and told them that I got it started and would continue my flight, canceling the emergency. Surprisingly they went on with my request without missing a beat. They bid me well after assuring that I was OK and continued with a handoff to the next controller. I never had to fill out any forms, but I did fill out a NASA report just in case. I was sort of concerned that the FAA would contact me and want to interview me, but nothing happened.
Needless to say, I could hardly eat at the lunch with the CEO and his wife after we landed. I was somewhat sick to my stomach, not interested in eating. I didn’t mention anything to him until we were back safe after a nice flight and it was just he and I. He took it well and to this day I still get a few jabs about passengers pulling knobs and levers causing me to flinch at the thought of that ever happening again.
- Keep your head and don’t give into being overwhelmed. Panicking makes it worse.
- Fly the plane!
- Practice, practice, practice.
- Before every flight, I show the passenger sitting in the right seat exactly what are my controls and I tell them, “Don’t touch nothing in this area.”
Oh, for those wondering if we ever found out what was causing the cold air, we took the plane in for a modification on the air dispersion unit and that seemed to end that problem. Even though the passenger was way out of line to pull anything before conferring with the pilot, as I explained it to the owner of the airplane, we both saw a similarity in the color and the movement between the two levers. But that placard that says in bold type “FIREWALL FUEL SHUTOFF VALVE” didn’t seem to describe danger of pulling up that knob.
The Kodiak is an incredible airplane, sturdy, stout, with some amazing performance qualities. It is roomy, air conditioned, has a huge payload, and has satellite radio, NEXRAD weather, and TKS – which makes the flights so comfortable with tools to assist the pilot to fly in some challenging environments. Even though an aircraft can have all the bells and whistles, the pilot must still fly the plane.
Editor’s Note: This article is from our series called “I Can’t Believe I Did That,” where pilots ‘fess up about mistakes they’ve made but lived to tell about. If you have a story to tell, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org