How to Counteract an Engine Failure in Flight

First, let me start out by saying that this article is for single engine flying. I'll write another one on multi engine plane engine failures in the future.

I had this talk recently with a fellow CFI I work with on the biggest issues we see in student training. Engine failures aren't taken seriously because they don't happen too often. It's also because in your typical general aviation planes you have a good glide ratio, so rather than being quick people take their time running checklists and securing the plane in simulated engine outs. 

I GUARANTEE you during an ACTUAL engine failure you won't be taking your time, but instead immediately going through how you trained it. Did you train it nonchalantly and running checklist super slow? I hope not. So let's talk about what to do:

The acronym you want to memorize for engine failures is ABC. Kinda comical how simple it is, but it could save your life one day!

A is for airspeed. The VERY SECOND your engine fails, pitch for glide speed. Glide speed is published by the manufacturer to be at the maximum lift/drag ratio to give the pilot the greatest gliding distance available. At this point, you're not gaining any altitude. But giving yourself the most horizontal distance available to find a good spot to land is key.

B is for best place to land. As soon as you start bringing the nose up or down for glide speed and trimming for it, take a look outside and see where you're going to land. If you're struggling to find an airport, glance at your GPS if you have a screen onboard. You might be right on top of an airport without knowing it. If not, then keep looking outside. Anything like a field, road, coastline etc. can be a good spot. Some tips on what to watch out for is if you can help it don't pick a field full of trees, a marshy area, watch out for power lines over the road, and of course the obvious always avoid buildings/structures. 

C is checklist. Yes, now that the plane is secured lets see why we lost that engine! Commit your checklist to memory and do it from memory first and then check yourself on paper after doing one run through. This way you aren't stuck reading one item at a time and wasting time as you're losing altitude. Commit your checklists and run them like a machine: no time is wasted that doesn't need to be.

The same CFI I talked with about this experienced a real engine failure once. He told me "wow, no one prepared me for how absolutely quiet it gets when that engine stops." And I guess that's something I never thought about before. What will it be like when it actually happens? A CFI won't be there next to you with their favorite "you just lost an engine" grin.....no, just you and some dead pistons. He immediately did ABC and once he switched fuel tanks and restarted the plane it refired. Turns out there was a clog in the fuel lines on one tank, and switching to another fixed the issue. He was able to do this from memory and pretty much had no need for the paper checklist, although he still went through after to verify everything was secured as called for. 

He stuck to his training, and it saved his life.

So to end this post I ask, how do you train for an engine failure? Do you think it would save your life the method you're using? Have fun with flight training, but also take it seriously and make sure you learn something valuable each time you go up!



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