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Loose iPad Jams Pilot's Trim Wheel, Leading To An Emergency Landing

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Live from the Flight Deck

Have you ever dropped your iPad in the cockpit? What would you do if this happened to you?

Corporate Flight Crew Declares An Emergency

We found the following NASA ASRS report which details a jammed trim wheel leading to an emergency landing. This experienced crew was flying a light corporate jet...

Upon descent, between four thousand and ten thousand feet, an annunciation "Master Caution" illuminated with "AP Mistrim" illuminated. After the Master Caution switch was pressed the annunciation extinguished shortly after. The Captain (flying pilot) pressed and held down the AP disconnect button, disconnecting the AP. He then tried to manually trim the aircraft and the elevator trim wheel was jammed and would not move.

At this point, he asked me (first officer; non-flying pilot) to declare an emergency, request ground equipment to be standing by. He then instructed me to run the checklist. I proceeded to run the checklist for both AP Mistrim annunciation and then trim controls jammed. The Captain landed the aircraft safely and we taxied to the FBO. After deplaning the aircraft, the Captain went back in the aircraft to troubleshoot the problem with the power ON. First with the electronic trim then manually. Upon doing so the Captain noticed something was moving underneath the trim wheel. During the descent, an iPad got lodged underneath the trim wheel and jammed the trim wheel. To prevent this from happening in the future, I suggest having the pilot's side pockets to be utilized for iPads, and the pilots rear pockets used for the checklist. This would prevent an iPad from sliding underneath the trim wheel and jamming the trim controls.

Flying With Jammed Trim

What should you do if your trim is jammed? First, transfer the flight controls to another pilot (when able) and try to locate any FOD in the cockpit. Before continuing to test the trim, follow your emergency/abnormal checklist. If you continue trimming, you may stick the controls in a progressively worse, unrecoverable state.

You'll have to fly using more manual force than you may be used to. If you're stuck with too much nose-up trim, flaps will help lower the nose as the aircraft flies at a smaller AOA. With too much nose-down trim, adding flaps could have the opposite effect.


Danger Of FOD In The Cockpit

We've all heard the dangers of FOD on the runway. The posters of FOD debris and damage are a common sight in FBOs and flight schools across the country. But how about in the cockpit? Do you strap down all of the luggage? How about your flight bag and your iPad?

There's a lot that can come loose and interfere with flight controls, even your EFB. Thankfully, this iPad didn't manage to disable something as critical as the elevator or ailerons. If you can use a solid mount or kneeboard, that's a much safer alternative than holding your iPad freely.

Dylan Ashe

Have you ever had FOD in the cockpit or a jammed trim system? Tell us in the comments below.

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