Aircraft Engine Failure

This is a continuation from this post. It was all the same flight, but they’re really two different things to learn.

Engine Failure

I know of a lot of people who think, when the engine fails on an airplane, you instantly fall from the sky. Once you understand the aerodynamics involved you know that’s not true, but I don’t blame people for thinking this.

The truth is, if you lose an engine during flight, you don’t stop flying. Your airplane simply becomes a glider with no ability to climb. In other words, you’re about to land and you better know of a good place to do that.

The Lesson

We had just finished working on our steep turns and some hood work when my CFI reached over to the throttle and pulled it completely back to idle. This is meant to SIMULATE an engine failure. SIMULATE! I spoke with someone at my work who said they took a flying lesson and the instructor actually killed the engine. That is no longer a simulated emergency. It’s a REAL emergency. This isn’t what’s supposed to happen.

Ok, so now I’m flying along a couple of thousand feet in the air and I basically have no engine (idle isn’t near enough to keep the plane flying straight and level). The good news is, these little Cessna’s will glide a long way.

The first thing we had to do was bleed off some airspeed to get us down to 65 kts. This is done by pulling back on the yoke while being careful not to stall the plane. Some people wonder why you waste all that airspeed. But, you’re not wasting it, you’re using it to gain a bit more altitude until you reach (in a C-172) 65 kts.

The next thing I had to do was find a place to land. I was looking all over the place and didn’t see anything that seemed safe. Then my CFI said “don’t forget to look behind you”. That’s when I noticed the beautiful little private airstrip behind us. Wow! That’s convenient.

Ok, now I had to figure out which way the wind was blowing. My CFI pointed out the wind direction when we left the airport. That was a good place to start. As we began to descend, he pointed out some wheat fields and how the wheat was blowing exactly as we expected.

Now I had to set myself up on downwind leg just like a would in a landing pattern at a local airport. This is when my CFI pointed at the emergency procedure card for an engine out. Let’s see if I remember everything I’m supposed to check. Make sure the choke didn’t come out, the tanks both have fuel and the selector is on both. Then I check the lean mixture setting and put it to full rich. Magnetos are both on and still nothing. Simulate trying to start the engine and then come to the realization that we’re about to make an unplanned landing.

About this time we’re ready to turn to our base leg and then final. As I turn to final I get lined up with the runway and feel pretty good about things. We’re only a few hundred feet off the ground and I’m thinking “the guy who owns this airstrip is going to wonder what we’re doing”. My CFI says “ok, throttle in, let’s climb out”.

That was it. I handled an engine failure and learned a lot in the process. The most important thing is, the plane will glide a lot further than I thought and always look EVERYWHERE for a place to land, even behind you.

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