AIR FORCE T-38 TRACK INTERMEDIATES
LOW LEVEL EMERGENCIES
Not every mission goes as planned. There are many factors beyond our control that can rapidly
change the mission. In this section, we will look at the following low level emergencies: Aircraft
malfunctions, bird strikes, weather, and lost.
The first step when encountering any type of aircraft malfunction at low altitude is to maintain
aircraft control by climbing the aircraft away from the ground. Once the aircraft is safely away
from the ground, we can devote our attention to analyzing the situation and taking the
appropriate action. The most serious aircraft malfunction we may experience is an engine
failure. In this situation, the aircraft should be zoomed to trade excess airspeed for altitude while
executing your low altitude power loss procedures.
Another major danger during low level operations is bird strikes. In the event of a bird strike,
the first step is to climb the aircraft away from the ground. If the bird penetrates the canopy,
both crewmembers should come on the controls and climb the aircraft away from the ground.
Once the aircraft is safely away from the ground, the next step is to analyze the damage to the
aircraft and the pilots. If one of the pilots is injured, the uninjured pilot should fly the aircraft to
the nearest suitable field and land. If aircraft damage is suspected, a controllability check should
be performed above 5000 feet AGL prior to landing. For any bird strike, the low level should be
terminated and the aircraft returned to either the home base or to the nearest suitable field if the
aircraft is damaged.
During the low level, we are required to maintain VMC. If the aircraft cannot maintain VMC
or inadvertently enters IMC, immediately execute a route abort by applying full power, transition
to instruments, and climb to your Route Abort Altitude. Do not attempt to re-enter the route
once the route abort is initiated. When able, squawk emergency and coordinate with the
appropriate controlling agency for an IFR clearance to the destination airfield.
If you become lost or disoriented, the first step is to climb to a safe VFR altitude and slow the
aircraft down to conserve fuel. From there, look for prominent land features or use nearby
TACAN stations to update your position. If unable to determine your location, contact a nearby
controlling agency and confess your status and request radar vectors to your destination airfield.
Bottom line, with any type of abnormal situation at low level, climb the aircraft away from the
ground first and then handle the problem. It is much easier to deal with emergencies once you
have achieved terrain and obstacle clearance.
Low level flying is an integral part of fighter and bomber operations in peacetime and wartime.
The low altitude environment is not only one of the most challenging areas to fly and employ
weapons; it is also one of the most dangerous. When flying low, it is imperative to develop solid
habit patterns to manage the multiple tasks within the cockpit and keep the aircraft safely away
from the ground. Once these skills are mastered, you can effectively take the fight down into the
enemy's back yard and put iron on target.
T-38 LOW LEVEL NAVIGATION 7-7