Matt Dippé, Mark Haechler, and Alan Passero, Seattle Center
On the evening of November 1, 2014, a Cessna Skyhawk departed on an IFR flight plan from Klamath Falls airport en route to Boeing Field airport. The aircraft was making a return flight, having flown a VFR flight that turned into an IFR flight earlier in the day. The pilot was unable to maintain VFR and flew into icing conditions, but did not have to declare an emergency.
On the return flight, however, the pilot ran into more trouble, including icing, downdrafts, terrain, and deviating from his course. Mark Haechler, a trainee at the time, was assisting the pilot before conditions deteriorated too much. As the pilot continued having problems controlling the airplane, Al Passero and Matt Dippé both came to assist him in getting the pilot to land safely.
Haechler: N48E, report leaving 8,800.
N3048E: Uh, we are actually still at 8,500, so we will inform you when we leave 8,800, 48E.
Haechler: N48E, I’m showing you, ah, actually in a descent. I did show you at 8,600. Now I show you out of 8,400.
N3048E: Yeah, I think we were getting some downdrafts there. We’re trying our best to get it up, 48E.
Haechler: N48E, I need you to expedite your climb to 10,000 for terrain.
The trio declared an emergency and quickly began working together to help the pilot out of the inclement weather. The aircraft could not climb, so Haechler turned the pilot back towards lower terrain and Klamath Falls airport. Passero suggested one approach that the aircraft was already close to, but the aircraft was not DME equipped and therefore did not have the approach plate. Haechler, Passero, and Dippé quickly moved on to an alternate plan.
N3048E: Still getting some downdrafts, unable to climb. Can you give us some vectors around the terrain, please, 48E?
Haechler: N48E, uh, you are below my terrain and unable to climb, I am now declaring this an emergency. Turn right heading 0-2-0 for, uh, terrain.
N3048E: 0-2-0, 48E, roger.
Haechler: N48E turn right heading 1-4-0, vector for terrain, and once you climb to 10,000, I will have on course for you, sir, but my minimum IFR altitude in your area is 8,800.
Because the aircraft had become an emergency, the controllers decided to have the Skyhawk pilot fly the approach, while vectoring him to the final approach course. This would allow the controllers to step him down to the airport gradually while still monitoring his actions. Throughout this, the pilot repeatedly turned west and they would have to correct his course to get him back on track.
Haechler: N48E, I show you westbound, sir. You should be established on a 3-1-4 radial proceeding towards Klamath Falls VOR.
N3048E: You’re telling us to do the VOR DME Runway 1-4, right, 48E?
Haechler: N48E, affirmative, sir. I need you established on the Klamath Falls 3-1-4 radial.
Eventually, the pilot broke out of the weather and was able to see the airport. Haechler, Passero, and Dippé were then able to transfer him to the tower where the pilot made a safe landing.