Sunday, November 29, 2009

Engine Failure Emergency Practice

I just practiced an emergency engine failure on my last biennial flight review for single engine airplanes. I did it in a way I really liked, and I would recommend it to other pilots to practice.

The Engine Failure Practice Setup

We were south of the airport and supposedly flying on our way back to a practice area north of the airport. We were flying at 7500' MSL which is 2500'AGL for our airport. When we were about to pass over the airport, he pulled my throttle and told me I had an engine failure. He announced to CTAF that we were practicing an engine out from 7500'; there was time for some landings and takeoffs before we landed.

Why This Method is Good

Emergency practice is always good; always make sure you make time to go practice. But one thing that has made me a little uncomfortable is that most of my emergency practice in the past has been in the middle of nowhere, trying to make it to a field, and going to low altitude in some farmer's back yard. I like this new method better.

Having your emergency field be an airport made it so we could take the emergency practice all the way to the ground. If I was short or long, it would be obvious, but still safe even at low altitude. For good practice, he still wanted me to put it down at the beginning of the runway even though it is a relatively long runway.

If something somehow happened for real when the engine was put to idle at low altitude, we would still be safe. There have been accidents where emergency practice turns into real emergency, and what better place to be if the unlikely happens than approaching an airport.

For my commercial certificate, I had to practice and show the power off 180 degree accuracy approach and landing. On the commercial maneuver, the power was pulled to idle abeam the touchdown point. In the emergency practice, the power was pulled at 2500' AGL which had me practice something a little different and closer to a real emergency. I would recommend getting good at the pulling the power on the downwind first before trying 2500' AGL.

The last big reason I like this method of emergency practice: This setup is something that all pilots should feel fairly comfortable with. You don't need an instructor in the plane to feel comfortable. All the low altitude operation is near a real runway with this method.

What to Remember

Remember to practice your favorite acronym during your emergency practice. My favorite for this is ALARMS.
  • Airspeed (Best glide speed)
  • Landing Site (remember to look straight down for sites)
  • Air Restart (carb heat, throttle, mixture, primer, fuel tank switch and indicator, ignition L/R checks, etc)
  • Radio set (7700 on transponder, 121.5 if not talking on another frequency)
  • Mayday
  • Secure (Final flaps, then Electric off, fuel off, mixture off, tighten seat belts, crack the door)
Maneuver so that you end up around 1000' AGL in a downwind abeam your intended touchdown point. This might be S-turns or wide turns or full 360 degree turn, but remember that 360 degree turns take a fair amount of altitude. Since I had to descend 1500' and was not above my downwind entry, I did not do a 360. If I needed to descend 2000' and I was above the downwind, I probably would have done a 360.

Don't put the flaps in until the runway is made. Once you put flaps in, you should not remove them. And remember a C182 will drop fast with flaps in. Remember you can always do a foward slip and remove it as needed. This can be better than flaps in this situation.

Think about the entire emergency procedure on the ground occasionally along with all your other acronyms. Maybe make your own list of your acronyms. If you don't know them quickly, quiz yourself and think of what other acronyms you have forgotten. Here is one site for pilot acronyms. I am still searching for some others. I thought I had found other places in the past. If I can't find a good additional list, maybe I will add a post with some.