Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Engine Loss: How Will You React?

When an aircraft engine loses power, the pilot’s initial response can mean the difference between life or death

You also should have at least the critical items on the emergency checklist memorized. You won't have time to look them up. But, the fact is that if you lose an engine at a very low altitude, it's unlikely you'll have time to restart it, so remain focused on flying the airplane to a safe landing. Once stopped, turn everything off and depart the aircraft immediately. The engine failure may be the result of a fuel leak, or the landing may have damaged the aircraft, so a fire is entirely possible.

If you choose to land on a road, for the most part, the aircraft will likely be overtaking ground traffic from behind, so consider leveling 10 to 20 feet above the pavement for a short period so that the traffic will have time to slow, allowing room to land.
Always fly the airplane. Keeping the aircraft under control until it's stopped will maximize your chances.
There's one thing you can practice every time you fly that will improve the chances of emerging unscathed from an engine-out emergency. Since an emergency landing may well be in a small or confined area, learn to touch down on a specific spot by practicing pinpoint precision on every landing until it becomes second nature. That will pay for itself should you ever need the skill.

If you realize that you're going to impact something on the ground and you have options, choose the softest thing to hit. Also, if necessary, aiming between trees or the like can shear the wings, slow the aircraft and may keep the cabin intact. Finally, if you're in IMC conditions, you may have only seconds of visual ground contact before touching down. Instinct may drive you, but your best chance of survival is always to continue to fly the airplane.

This article doesn't contain all of the instruction you'll need to be able to locate the best off-airport landing sites. Instead, it provides ideas to keep in mind when planning for this emergency. The final recommendation is that old standby that has proven itself over and over, no matter what: continue to fly the airplane until it has stopped moving.

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