Dual Engine Failure Leads To Off-Airport Landing


A rare dual engine failure is being cited in the injury-free off-airport landing of a light Piper twin (maybe a Twin Comanche) on Saturday in Kansas. Lane County Sheriff’s Department said the plane “lost both engines” and the pilot put it down on a field near Dighton. It being Kansas, it appears there were impromptu landing sites as far as the eye could see and the pilot and two passengers weren’t hurt. The Sheriff’s Department did not say what caused both engines to quit at the same time. The FAA and NTSB will be looking into it.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. What are the chances? And if the foto is the accident aircraft, none of the two engines seem feathered.

  2. Chances of losing both engines are pretty much 100% if you run out of fuel. That would be my first guess for this incident. At least hey managed o put it down without much damage.

    • Or a fuel selector problem, or plugged fuel vents, or water in the tanks finding it way back on climb out, switching to the wrong tank. Yea, it happened fast so glad it had a field right there.

    • I second Gunter. Dual engine failure is most always fuel starvation. The exceptions tend to be more obvious. (i.e. Cactus 1549 in 2009)

      And good job to the pilot putting it down safely.

    • The Twin Comanches that I have experience with are also extremely susceptible to water in the fuel, because the sumps are drained from inside the cabin. If a second person isn’t out there with a bowl catching what comes out, it can be very easy to make a puddle that looks good enough, while still not getting all of the water out. Combine this with leaking caps, a plane that is usually stored under cover spending a night or two in the rain, and it’s a real trap. Of course in this particular case, perhaps none of this applies.

      • This is why the drain tubes are supposed to be clear plastic so that you open the access panel to the selectors and watch what drains out.
        Many mechanics (or owners) stupidly put rubber fuel hose on the drains and the flaw is that you cannot see what is draining.
        The fuel selectors are designed to catch FOD in the bowl under the selectors which is evacuated with the fuel drain.

    • As long as the plane wasn’t fueled with Jet A.
      OTOH being fueled with Jet A would also be a fuel management failure.

      • It’d be quite an accomplishment sticking the larger Jet-A nozzle into a plane designed for Avgas.

  3. The landing gear certainly appears to me to be fully extended (Twinkies have pretty short gear legs) and the props are unfeathered and undamaged. If the engines quit at low altitude, the pilot may well not have had time to feather the props and raise the gear. Looks like he saved the insurance company some big bucks (assuming he wasn’t the cause of the engine failures).

  4. A dual engine failure in a Twin Comanche may be safer than losing the critical engine at take off. I loved my PA30 but low and slow after take off with gear down isn’t a good time for an engine failure. I briefed and prepped my take off as if it were a single engine airplane below 300′ and would rather take my chances landing straight and cut all power. Above that, and depending on weight and DA, there may be sufficient performance to climb away. Thankfully never had to test this line of decision making in anger. Kudos to the pilot for a safe landing.

  5. I’m not going to predict what happened here, but how many engine failures are related to folks turning the fuel selector to OFF at the end of a flight and mistakenly leaving it there on the next takeoff?

    I’m of the opinion that OFF is an emergency only position and not a means of dealing with a maintenance issue in the fuel system.

  6. Standard Twin Comanche fuel is 30 gal a side inboards, 3 unuseable, and 15 a side outboard, level flight only. Likely took off on aux tanks. Under normal conditions I always ran one aux tank for 15 minutes before switching to the other aux.
    The TC is a fantastic airplane. Incredibly fuel efficient and if you run 55% power your total fuel consumption will be less than single Commanche 250/260.
    The airplane go a bad reputation because single engine training in that era was done at “the lowest practical altitude”.

  7. Several items that I believe could be the cause of a dual engine failure… Simply put a Single Engine Failure and shutting down the wrong engine is very popular for some reason. Of course contaminated Fuel can do the same or lack of sumping. Somewhere along the line, I think they may find Pilot Error as the Root Cause.

  8. I think he pulled the mixtures back on both engines at the same time very rapidly.
    It’s been known to happen without warning.

  9. In regard to the comment above “Appears to be the airport right behind them”. Landing straight ahead with your nose into the wind is often the best solution when experiencing an engine failure on takeoff. Attempting to return to the airfield is often fatal.

  10. If they both quit at the same time, not much to decide other than how’s it look straight ahead and a brief WTF. No identify, verify, feather needed here.

  11. Ok – someone has to say it – might as well be me – someone should point out to the sheriff, that the pilot didn’t lose both engines. I can clearly see both of them right there in the photograph.