Bringing an AN-32 Down on One Engine, A Rare Experience

M G Singh By M G Singh, 25th May 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>True Stories

Going on leave in an AN 32 was a great adventure. One engine of the aircraft failed and it was a feat to make it land.

Tryst With Destiny

I was posted at Shilling at the Headquarters of the Eastern Air Command. That’s the time I was sanctioned one weeks leave and I thought of going home to Indore.
“How will you go?” asked the SASO (Senior Air Staff Officer)
“By IAC” I replied.
The SASO puffed at his cigar and drawled “Dam it, man. There’s an AN- 32 on a ferry to Ozhar near Nasik. Take a hop in that “
I reached Gauhati and got myself manifested in the passenger list. A look at the list also showed that 22 soldiers of the Maratha regiment were also taking the airlift while going home. Their leader Subedar Kadam saluted me and asked “are you sir, the captain of the aircraft”
“No” I replied “I am a passenger”
The captain and co-pilot it turned out were two youngsters; both Flight Lieutenants and they were enthusiastic of the ferry. We took of from Gauhati and the flight was smooth and easy.
The AN- 32 is a Russian built transport plane and has very powerful engines. But its airframe is a wee bit weak and in case one of the engines flames out, the aircraft goes in a spin and invariably crashes. But its accident rate is the lowest in the IAF.
I looked out of the window and saw the passing clouds below as we cruised at an altitude of 20,000 feet. I had just dosed off when my shoulder was shaken and I an ashen faced captain faced me.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Sir, The port engine is showing low RPM. Could there be a flame out?
I understood the danger. One of the engines flaming out could land the aircraft in spin and sure death for all the occupants. I looked at the troops dozing and waiting to be with their loved ones and I felt a wrench in my heart.
“Don’t worry” I said “I will come to the cockpit”
I entered the cockpit and examined the meters.Yes, the port engine was running slower and from experience I knew it could stop any moment.
“Look “I said "there is no time to lose. I shall take over the aircraft”
I sat in the captain’s seat and adjusted the safety belt and then started lowering the RPM of the other engine. Suddenly the aircraft gave a lurch and the port engine sopped. I looked back at the troops and realized all of them now knew what had happened. One engine of the AN- 32 had flamed out and the only saving grace was that I had lowered the rpm of the other engine. The aircraft was losing height and would soon go in a tail spin. Those were dangerous moments as I remembered the great Guru. Believe me I did not pray for myself, but for the troops going home. Give me strength I prayed to the guru, let me land.
I maneuvered the aircraft down and all the time kept it as steady as possible with my joystick. The engine speed was being slowly lowered by me and very soon I would have to switch it off. I went on the TR and asked for direction. I was told we were 50 nautical miles from Varanasi. I contacted the ATC and informed
“AN- 32, engine flamed out. Coming to land in emergency. Make all arrangements”
The aircraft had now lost height and I could see the Varanasi airfield some distance away. This was the crucial moment; I switched of the aircraft engine to the lowest RPM and prepared to land the air craft. The aircraft stalled for some time and then began a rapid descent downwards. I watched the Speedo showing a loss in speed till I was just 100km an hour and at the edge of the airfield. The minimum landing speed is 200km.
But I held firm as I brought the undercarriage down and soon we hit the tarmac. The aircraft bounced, but I held firm and the troops at the back raised a cheer.” Jai ho captain sahib ki”.
That was it. I brought the aircraft down on one engine. It was a feat all right, but I never felt I did anything special. But the memory of that time will live for ever with me. It was the best part of my life. Something to be cherished for ever.


Aircraft, An-32, Mission, Pilot

Meet the author

author avatar M G Singh
A man who spent his early years in Air Force. An avid writer with over 6000 articles and 60 short stories published.Two novels on the anvil for publication.

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author avatar Retired
30th May 2011 (#)

A fascinating memoir. Thanks!

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