LOTOT and the Impossible Turn

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Following last week's blog on fatal accident stats, Dan Gryder sent me a note offering a theory on stall-related fatalities. His view is that one reason for these otherwise inexplicable fatalities is that as part of the standard training regime, most private pilots aren't instructed to detect and respond to loss of thrust on takeoff—basically an engine failure. He uses the acronym LOTOT, for loss of thrust on takeoff. (That's a new one on me.) Read more on his Facebook page.

I'll have to except myself from the ranks of most instructors and private pilots, however, because I do teach this response—not that there's much to it. Some years ago, an instructor I knew and flew with had an obsession about this and I guess I must have developed a similar focus, reinforced by glider training, which has a rope break response in the standard PTS. The concept is simply this: Upon detection of loss of thrust (or power), simply lower the nose. Don't look at the airspeed indicator, don't check the mags or fuel, don't call the tower—push the pitch down. The right sight picture will put the nose slightly lower than the perceived horizon. (We had a big argument about this a couple of weeks ago. I maintain you can do this with a visual sight picture, while others insist you need an airspeed indicator to reliably avoid a stall. Take your pick.)

Would knowing this technique reduce the stall accident rate? It might. In reviewing all of those 2008 accidents, I noted that some occurred on takeoff and some clearly wouldn't have occurred if the pilot had just pushed. That doesn't mean the fatality would have been avoided, but if you don't stay in the game after the engine failure, you're not even going to get the choice of trying. And this gets me to a beef I have with the aviation press with so-called "evergreen" topics. One of these is the beat-it-death idea that getting a glider rating makes you a better power pilot and the other is the bloody dead horse of "the impossible turn."

While I think glider training does improve your skills generally and there is some transference, I think what a glider rating most does is make you a glider pilot. When Sully Sullenberger was asked if his Miracle on the Hudson landing was a result of his glider training, he shrugged. But glider pilots do know how to do the rope-break turnback because they have to demonstrate knowledge of it during the checkride. In powered aircraft training, it's all but an article of faith that the turnback is the impossible turn and, trust me, never try it.

I have always chafed at this dumbed-down, one-size-fits-all approach to training because I think it's built on the assumption that people can't think and analyze for themselves. The tendency in the aviation press is to pick up the conventional wisdom because that's what readers expect and who wants to have the argument? But there have been some good examinations of the topic and the best I've found was in Barry Schiff's The Proficient Pilot. I first read his essay on the topic in the late 1980s and incorporated it in my own instruction. After exhaustively experimenting with Schiff's methods, I concluded that the impossible turn isn't impossible at all. In fact, under the right conditions, it's quite doable.

In a nutshell, the turnback can work if you have enough altitude (no less than about 600 to 700 feet), you use the optimum bank angle (no more than 45 degrees, no less than 30 degrees) and the runway is long enough to preclude a high energy overrun from a downwind landing. And—key point—you need to have trained it before trying it. There are additional details that I don't have the space to cover here, but Schiff does in his book.

So since then, I basically make the turnback decision before I takeoff. As I roll, I tell myself the engine really is going to quit this time and I consider myself lucky if it doesn't. This might buy precious seconds to start a turnback or give me more options if I decide to land straight ahead. I also set a target altitude and take into account any crosswind, since you want to turn into the wind if you're making a play for the runway behind you. Although I haven't trained it in a while, I usually gave students the option of trying it, so they would at least understand the basics.

I still think landing straight ahead is the higher probability choice, but there may be instances when it won't be, in which case an option that many consider impossible would be worth having.

Click here to read the Navy study on turnbacks.

Comments (157)

This is an interesting article, as I've never heard the term lotot either. Speaking from experience (I once lost power in a c150 at 30ft on takeoff) I would propose something even simpler. Watch your airspeed. If you cant complete a maneuver and at least maintain best glide speed, you aint gonna make it, period. It really is as simple as that.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 5, 2011 6:53 PM    Report this comment

FREE DC-3 PIC type rating. Includes housing, food, airplane, instruction and exam fees. To be awarded to first AvWeb insider blog reader that can post in this blog the correct AREA and TASK from the Private pilot ASEL PTS that covers loss of thrust on takeoff for the new pilot. Hint, its in area X(b) (EFDT) and X(c) (EFALO) for multi-engine applicants. They have to do it because it happens. Its in area IV(G) (PLDT and TB) for new glider pilots. Because it happens to them too.
Statistically, LOTOT is the riskiest part of each takeoff, no matter what youre in. Its the highest fatality segment we got. Somebody win big and show me where it is in the FAA PRIVATE PILOT ASEL PTS. There it is. Push.

Posted by: Dan Gryder | June 5, 2011 10:07 PM    Report this comment

I'll bite. How about area X(a) Emergency Approach and Landing, Objective 3: [Determine the applicant] Establishes and maintains the recommended best glide speed +-10 knots.

There is no specific mention of LOTOT as far as I can find, but the sentiment is 'do whatever you need to at a safe airspeed'.

Where and when do I need to show up?

Posted by: Ted Meyer | June 5, 2011 10:39 PM    Report this comment

Hi Ted, Sorry - looking for a task that covers loss of thrust on takeoff just like multi and glider have. The area you mentioned is for approaching the airport. In LOTOT, you are in the departure/climb phase. Consolation prize, free dinner. Show up anytime.

Posted by: Dan Gryder | June 6, 2011 6:21 AM    Report this comment

Hi Ted, Sorry - looking for a task that covers loss of thrust on takeoff just like multi and glider have. The area you mentioned is for approaching the airport. In LOTOT, you are in the departure/climb phase. Consolation prize, free dinner. Show up anytime.

Posted by: Dan Gryder | June 6, 2011 6:21 AM    Report this comment

Area II(f)(6) Before Takeoff Check - Reviews takeoff performance airspeeds, takeoff distances,
departure, and emergency procedures
Pretty vague, isn't it?

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 6, 2011 6:30 AM    Report this comment

As with Josh, I also had a LOTOT for real, and I do teach this to my students (at altitude of course) and it's a required maneuver on any flight review I give (much to the chagrin of 182 owners - OMG shock cooling!). I just lowered the nose and didn't bother watching anything except where I was going to land. I let the stall alarm chirping prompt me into lowering the nose further. I was able to make a 90° turn and land on the perpendicular runway from about 200 feet AGL. BTW Warrior AFMs say 24 gallons usable. For a takeoff and climb it's somewhere around 23.6 gallons.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | June 6, 2011 8:02 AM    Report this comment

Thanks to Paul for bringing attention to LOTOT, and to Dan for pointing out this huge omission in the PTS.

Posted by: Julie Boatman | June 6, 2011 8:04 AM    Report this comment

"most private pilots aren't instructed to detect and respond to loss of thrust on takeoff—basically an engine failure."

WHERE did you get that information from? First off, it's pretty obvious if your engine dies so "detection" is a moot point. Secondly the "response" has always been drummed into new GA pilots to land(crash) straight ahead at glide speed.

What's NOT taught is to horse a plane around back toward the runway! That was done for good reason. Reason being is that it dramatically increases the opportunity for a deadly stall/spin.

The "impossible turn" was named that because it's usually deadly for new/novice pilots and to emphasis that it's not something you'd want to do without some serious experience. I seriously doubt if flight schools want to encourage students that the turn is "possible" and then turn their planes over to newly minted 40 hour PIC's.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 6, 2011 8:07 AM    Report this comment

"That was done for good reason. Reason being is that it dramatically increases the opportunity for a deadly stall/spin."

And how do you know this? You know it because you have been told it from day one. Yet no data exists. I saw one article that claimed the the argument against turnbacks was supported because few people succeed at it, but many fail. That's likely because the successes don't turn up in the NTSB accident reports. You don't hear about them. Bottom line: No data. It's similar to engine failures in twins. Airplane lands; no one is the wiser.

My experience on teaching what Dan calls LOTOT is from years of instructional experience. What's not taught--at least well--is that immediate response to dump the load factor and get the nose down. It's not a drill people do. As he points out, it's not in the PTS. I have seen this on flight reviews when I pull the power after takeoff. It is surprising how many people start with the engine restart drill, then they eventually think about best glide.

Forget best glide. Push the nose down. That's the immediate survival response. I know, I know...you're different. In another thread, you said you would be the guy who wouldn't get into a stall because you are super aware. You're probably right. But I suspect a lot of pilots had that as their lost thought when they were digging a smoking hole.

And I agree with the proviso about new pilots wisely being taught the straight ahead doctrine. But they aren't gonna be new forever.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 6, 2011 8:40 AM    Report this comment

I'd say Area X, Task B, SYSTEMS AND EQUIPMENT MALFUNCTIONS. Under Objectives, 2(a), Partial or complete power loss pretty well covers it. Doesn't specifically describe what to do in the LOTOT situation, but it is an energency, and you've lost power, and are expected to take "appropriate" action such that the outcome is never in doubt, and the general AREA presumably includes all stages of flight operations.

Posted by: Michael Armstrong | June 6, 2011 8:42 AM    Report this comment

Dan, I wasn't aware that loss of thrust on takeoff was the "highest-fatality segment." I believe you, but what is your source for that?

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | June 6, 2011 8:45 AM    Report this comment

Mark, I must disagree, engine failures are not often obvious. Probably best case is if the engine starts vibrating badly, you definitely know something's wrong. In my case, the engine spun a bearing, lost oil pressure, and smoothly lost power (in fact, on the ground, the thing would run, but only turn up 1500 rpm max) Loss of an engine is often not very dramatic, the prop will still turn, noise levels do go down, and of course you lose airspeed and climb rate. Sadly, most pilots figure this out when the stall horn goes off and it's in all likelihood too late. It's still a failure to monitor and maintain airspeed.

As for the PTS, the "emergency procedure" is the catchall the feds like to use to cover what they've missed. I believe a loss of power on takeoff would sure qualify.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 6, 2011 8:48 AM    Report this comment

Personally, I'd like to see specifically addressed in the PTS not only LOTOT, but also (within gliding distance and at a safe altitude, of course) a requirement to shut down and restart the engine in flight a la Bob Hoover (unfortunately, the Feds and insurers will not accept this one) Back when I was working on building multi time, an ornery college flight instructor in the back seat crawled up between the seats and shut off the fuel valve to my right engine. You should've seen the look on my face as well as the instructor in the right seat when we saw all the levers full forward and I was holding in left rudder and doing the dead foot, dead engine, identify, verify, feather routine for real! I could've killed the guy, but I believe it did prepare me for the real emergency I faced a couple years later.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 6, 2011 8:48 AM    Report this comment

Sometimes the "rote training" that too many instructors provide gets in the way of common sense and reasoning. My first instructor wasn't welded into rote training--and he did engine out drills every single lesson, sometimes multiple times, often in the pattern, and often on take-off. So I became accustomed to thinking about what to do without an engine, in all phases of flight.

In a pre-commercial phase check a year later, though, when I made a 30 degree right turn to land on an abandoned road after the engine was shut down, I was chastised because I "didn't proceed to land straight ahead"--yet the landing would have been completely successful had I been allowed to touch down. Later in the same phase check, I was chastised because I didn't lower the nose to best glide speed--but what I did was lower it only to 55-60 knots indicated, dropped full flaps, and easily landed on the remaining runway. The phase check pilot was clearly of the "rote training" school, and not of the "common sense" or "reasoning" school.

I agree that we need to get out of the "rote training" mode if we're going to properly teach students how to recover from unusual situations. Requiring students to think instead of memorize should be a priority.

Posted by: Cary Alburn | June 6, 2011 8:53 AM    Report this comment

When I teach my students, the pre-takeoff briefing goes like this. We are at 2200 ft. If we lose an engine on takeoff and we are below 2700 ft (below 500 ft) we pitch down and land straight ahead. If we lose an engine on takeoff and we are above 2700 ft we pitch down and turn back to the airport.

When a student is about ready to solo we go to the practice area and practice steep turns up to 55 degrees in slow flight. The student learns that in our cherokee 235 the stall speed at 55 degrees of bank is about 85 mph. We then go back to the airport and practice the turn back. We ask for any runway from the tower, when no one else is in the pattern, and then as we take off from one runway, at 500 ft the engine is retarded and the student pitches down and turns back to the runway. They are usually surprised that if they turn quickly they actually have to slip to land because they still have plenty of altitude.

There have been several that in the course of their flying have inadvertently switched to a fuel tank but not checked the detent and had the engine quit on take off. They have all made it back to the airport environment before the engine came back as they switched fuel tanks.

The impossible is only impossible to those that know no better.

Posted by: LYLE BROOKSBY | June 6, 2011 8:56 AM    Report this comment

FWIW, I turn crosswind at 400ft agl. If I'm established on crosswind, I consider a turnback to be a possibility. If not, I'm going to take what lies ahead, making slight corrections to avoid the biggest trees!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 6, 2011 9:03 AM    Report this comment

I seriously wonder why the "wingover" has been deliberately omitted (even by Schiff) as a possible maneuver to avoid a straight ahead catastrophy?

Posted by: saul hyman | June 6, 2011 9:18 AM    Report this comment

I am a hump pilot. Years ago I trained with a five different flight schools in my attempt to get my PPL although I was checked out for solo training in all five schools I never received real live LOTOT training. I was told what I should do but never actually did it. It wasn't until two years ago when I got my Sport Pilot ticket that my instructor demonstrated and had me perform a LOTOT recovery sequence to a landing. What impressed me was the amount of pitch over required to avoid stalling and how fast you need to execute the forward pitch over. He taught me to include as part of my pre-takeoff thought process,to expect and be prepaid to execute and recover from any LOTOT. The point is, this type of see and do primary flight training was only given one out of 6 times.

Posted by: Kevin ODonnell | June 6, 2011 9:26 AM    Report this comment

This is the result of good stall training: Pushing the nose down instinctively, NO MATTER WHAT, when you feel a stall approaching. And that is the primordial feeling at climb attitude with LOTOT. Then it is simply the cool of split second judging if you can do a turn with the altitude you have. And 2 things help greatly there: Having experienced best glide in YOUR airplane, .... and glider training.

Posted by: ROBERT ZIEGLER | June 6, 2011 9:28 AM    Report this comment

Pop used to tell me he'd seen it happen many times where pilots who have been trained over and over in the engine failure drill would forget it all when it happened for real and focus on the landing. The problem is we don't train people to THINK, we train for a forced landing. "engine failure below 700 feet land staight ahead". Paul's right, first response is lower the nose, get the site picture right, then trouble shoot the problem. Lots of times the engine isn't broken and it will run if you do the right things, but you have to LOWER THE NOSE first!

Posted by: Barton Robinett | June 6, 2011 9:29 AM    Report this comment

"That's likely because the successes don't turn up in the NTSB accident reports."

The "impossible turn" is an advanced maneuver! That's why it's not taught in basic flight training. New PIC's are taught to glide straight ahead. That puts a pilot into a FAMILIAR regime of stall recognition and prevention and the best case for a non-fatality.

It takes huge judgment and experience to pull off a low speed high-bank turn at minimal sink rate. That's not a basic maneuver so it RAISES the risk of a fatality if done imprecisely.

It's great to personally train AFTER getting your rating and learn advanced maneuvering and even aerobatics. It's just not something you have a lot of time for in a 20 hour dual certificate. Since it's something that dang few pilots are ever actually are confronted with then it's relegated to practicing after you get your basic rating.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 6, 2011 9:29 AM    Report this comment

Once had a partner in a J3, CFII, land short of a 2500 foot runway after an engine failure on downwind. He got so engrossed in the slipping trim cable, head down looking at the indicator, after he pulled power to idle and carb heat on, didn't notice till he was past the key point that it had quit. He pushed carb heat OFF, since that was the last thing he'd touched, the engine coughed and tried to run but by that time he'd turned toward the runway and focus was on landing. Landed about 100 feet short but bounced onto the runway with no damage to the airplane. When he calmed down he called me to tell me what happend and I asked him, what did it do when you opened the throttle? (Insert engine failure drill here: pitch nose DOWN, throttle full OPEN,carb heat ON, boost pump ON, switch TANKS as applicable to the aircraft) After a pregnant pause he addmitted he'd never opened the throttle! I suspected I knew what was wrong already and when I got to the airplane I started it with no problem after I opened the throttle sightly. Stuck float valve. How many times had he done the engine failure drill with students, yet when it happened to him all he could think about was landing the airplane. He got the first part of it right though, LOWER the nose so he gets points for that.

Posted by: Barton Robinett | June 6, 2011 9:30 AM    Report this comment

Mark F,I don't think anyone is advocating the "impossible turn" should be taught in the first 40 hours. Only that it isn't impossible, under the right conditions, with training. The other point to be made is there are a few hard and fast rules in aviation, but this isn't one of them.

Posted by: Barton Robinett | June 6, 2011 9:35 AM    Report this comment

"yet when it happened to him all he could think about was landing the airplane. He got the first part of it right though, LOWER the nose so he gets points for that."

There but for the grace of you know who go us all. Some years ago, I took a Navajo recurrent course at Flight Safety, which I also wrote about. On day two of this was a simulator drill in which the two pilots had to handle an engine out after takeoff, at about 200 feet. The instructor told them exactly what would happen and what to do. I was observing with him from the booth and he leaned over and whispered: "They'll crash. Most of them do." Sure enough, they did. When they switched seats, however, the observing pilot did not crash and there no further difficulties after that, proving that this training stuff may actually work.

Reader Eric Laing just kindly sent me a Navy study done on the turnback. I've posted it in the main blog. And just to clarify, I am not evangelical about the turnback, I just believe it's reasonable to train and consider it.

As for Schiff, he didn't push the wingover idea because he felt it was just beyond the capability of most pilots and is challenging even for good ones. I agree with that. I wouldn't try it myself.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 6, 2011 9:48 AM    Report this comment

The POINT is stall related fatalities. Stall prevention (in an emergency, LOTOT) is BEST handled by zero bank. As soon as you introduce bank, your stall speed increases. Also recognizing/preventing an accelerated stall is a tad trickier.

The best LOTOT procedure is to keep the plane as normal as possible. That means to "fly" straight ahead at minimal speed. The higher you get(pattern altitude or above)then you can do normal turns back if the power dies after takeoff.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 6, 2011 9:54 AM    Report this comment

One of the hard and fast rules should be, don't stall the frickin airplane!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 6, 2011 9:54 AM    Report this comment

Thank you each for your thoughts. OK Free dinner for everybody. The entry by the Hump pilot Kevin O'Donnel says it all, see above. Kevin we thank you for your service and what you did for our country. The LHF lies in the fact that for multi-engine trainees, the whole point of training is dealing with highly likely LOTOT scenario(called EFDL and EFALO by the FAA in the PTS for AMEL) So its a Lycoming IO-360 on a twin and we dont trust it to the point of hours of required engine failures on takeoff because its mounted on a light twin. Take the same dang engine and put it on a Cardinal and we dont even need to talk about it? The powerplant is either guaranteed reliable or its not. We are required to be train for and be ready for it for multi, but the ASEL guys dont get even an honorable mention? Folks its not if. Its when. There it is. Push.

Posted by: Dan Gryder | June 6, 2011 10:39 AM    Report this comment

There is a well-documented 30-second reaction time when power failure happens for real and is not expected. Those 30 seconds are rarely factored in the planned turn back exercise that demonstrate it as feasible. Not all airplanes have the same sink rate after power failure so hard altitude numbers are not a good way to go. Furthermore, some conditions such as nighttime or mountainous terrain may make it difficult to pitch visually.

My recommendation to avoid the stall after a power loss on takeoff is simple (but hard to do): "let go". An airplane in such an "approaching an unaccelerated stall" scenario will not stall unless the pilot holds the pitch attitude by force. Airplanes are not built to be suicidal. If the pilot let's go, stability will cause the airplane to pitch down on its own to maintain its trimmed speed (very close to best glide for smaller airplanes) on its own.

Straight ahead flight is always easier to handle than maneuvering flight especially under high stress. I guess the best advise is to minimize exposure by never delaying the turn on crosswind, which should take place between 500 ft and 700 ft AGL at most airports (300 ft below TPA). From the crosswind leg, it is easy to make the runway should the engine quit. Dealing with landing a possible quarterly tailwind is the most challenging part of that scenario.

Posted by: Flying Bug | June 6, 2011 10:44 AM    Report this comment


Stall does not increase with bank angle. Only a level turn with increased bank angle, and therefore higher wind loading and therfore higher AOA.

Teaching this stuff is like teaching someone to do a wheel stand on a motorcycle. Some got it some dont. Then lots and lots of practice makes you better.

Posted by: Brad Vaught | June 6, 2011 10:45 AM    Report this comment

One concept to the lotot scenario is mitigation. In my particular episode, I admit I was a little leery of the engine. It had low but acceptable compression, low but acceptable oil pressure. Something to think about come time for maintenance.

Dan, thanks for the topic. Perhaps I'll save my allowance and come over for a type someday. Oops, my wife just left to go shopping so forget that! Now off to take a final flight in that 150 to deliver it to its new owner (the new engine will add to my confidence somewhat!)

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 6, 2011 10:58 AM    Report this comment

"There is a well-documented 30-second reaction time when power failure happens for real and is not expected."

Documented where? Like to see the study. Schiff used four seconds, I used five in my trials. Thirty seems like...brain dead. That is a long time to remain in denial after takeoff. Wonder if it refers to emergencies in general.

The referred Navy study has two conclusions worth repeating here:

"100 percent of the straight ahead landings were successful."

"If there is no suitable landing area ahead, the pilot who has practiced and mastered the turnback technique will immediately know whether or not turning back to the airfield is possible (by the minimum turnback altitude) and will be able to perform the maneuver successfully. "

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 6, 2011 11:27 AM    Report this comment

One important point when pushing the nose down: resist temptation to start any turn immediately. Instead, wait a few moments while pushing the nose down until airspeed stops decreasing, starts increasing and reaches at least best glide speed. If turn is started at the apex of the upward glide, stall may be unavoidable. Why? Because lift of banked wings will be insufficient to support the weight and airplane will start sinking, thus instantly increasing the angle of attack beyond critical.

Posted by: Andrei Volkov | June 6, 2011 1:08 PM    Report this comment

Why does the bank angle change faster than the pitch attitude if control inputs are simulaneous? Just curious.

Posted by: Barton Robinett | June 6, 2011 3:09 PM    Report this comment

I don't recall spending a lot of time specifically training on takeoff loss of thrust. But among the chestnuts my primary CFI beat into my head was "think with your nose down." General guidelines sometimes (if they are correct, and if they are thoroughly ingrained) can be more helpful when things turn brown than detailed procedures for everything. From the low-time private perspective, at least.

Posted by: Glenn Killinger | June 6, 2011 4:02 PM    Report this comment

"the pilot who has practiced and mastered the turnback technique will immediately know whether or not turning back to the airfield is possible"

True, it's an ADVANCED maneuver. It also has to be practiced and MASTERED in each type of aircraft you fly. It's not part of the 20 hour dual requirement for good reason. It's up to the PIC to continue his education AFTER the certificate for such rare (yet demanding) situations.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 6, 2011 4:18 PM    Report this comment

I had an engine failure on climbout, very low. I have no ax to grind either way, but I made a 180 very quickly by unloading the wing, then very carefully pulling out of the nose-down attitude. I've done aerobatics for most of my life, just for fun. I believe that airplanes can be turned around very quickly with a stall turn, but that it would be unnatural to do without lots of aerobatic practice. Like I said, to each his own, but I would like to add that you can do a very steep turn at a low airspeed by simply unloading the wing...let it turn without holding level altitude...even quicker with rudder only, but that requires more altitude to get the wing up to speed after reversal.

On a big rudder, high drag plane, a stall turn seems to take less altitude than an official gliding turn, which really needs to be over 180degrees to get back in line with the airport.

One of my favorite old instructors advised me to drift left or right of the runway on takeoff (with any crosswind) to set up better for an emergency 180, instead of a buttonhook/question-mark shaped turn that takes longer.

By the way, I know this is not taught, and nearly everyone will flame this, but it's another succesful dead engine/takeoff incident that turned out OK.

Posted by: STEVE MORSE | June 6, 2011 5:29 PM    Report this comment

I respectfully disagree with the premise that this is an ADVANCED maneuver. As was noted above, the turn back maneuver is taught to every glider student and must be demonstrated to pass the private glider check ride. How “advanced” can it be? With 1500 hours in gliders I’ve probably had at least a dozen simulated rope breaks given to me, from 200 feet agl or less, on various check rides and checkout flights (for some reason CFIG’s love doing this!). Once you’ve had the simple training it’s really a non event. Of course, being taught to expect a rope break (or engine failure) is the key. Absent this experience, however, I’d probably be intimidated by all of the boogey-man talk about the “Impossible Turn”…Geez! IMO, this should be included in all SEL basic training…people will learn what their taught.

Posted by: William McClain | June 6, 2011 10:13 PM    Report this comment

So let me get this straight. It takes the normal person 30 seconds to realize that he has lost power. Responding to the loss of power and landing straight ahead is the safest thing to do. Learning to turn back to the runway where there are no houses and now backyards is dangerous and should not be taught to anyone other than a glider pilot.

I think I will just continue to prime my student for the turn back. I agree that an early crosswind turn then only requires a 90 degree turn to the runway if you lose an engine and is even safer.

I would postulate that those that do not prepare for this possibility also are those that believe that long drawn out patterns create a stabilized approach and are better. Yet when they lose their engine out that far they end up in a back yard instead of on the airport.

This is a safety issue, not just for the pilot, but for those on the ground. So let it be said, So let it be done.

Posted by: LYLE BROOKSBY | June 6, 2011 10:36 PM    Report this comment

@Paul. It's 3 seconds reaction time minimum. Sorry about that.

30 seconds was this morning before I had my coffee :)

Posted by: Flying Bug | June 6, 2011 10:56 PM    Report this comment

I have been lecturing on the subject of forced landings for nearly ten years (including as a featured speaker for the FAA at Oshkosh and Sun 'n Fun,) and the theoretical back-and-forth on this subject is frankly getting a little tiring.

Can the "impossible turn" be done? Obviously it can. Does that mean any pilot who is above his self-determined "turnback altitude" should always decide to turn back to the runway? Of course not - this is simply an issue that a prudent pilot must think about before departing - including an analysis of the local terrain and obstacles, wind conditions, etc. But while everyone seems to be divided into their intractable "pro-turnback" and "anti-turnback" camps, an important consideration is left out.

One of the caveats Paul puts on the turnback equation is whether or not there is enough runway to accommodate a higher-energy downwind return. (Another point most commenters seem to overlook in this discussion is that there may be traffic on the runway we just departed from.) This issue of the higher-energy downwind return really gets to the heart of the matter, in my opinion. We can banter back and forth all day long about the proper bank angle and turn technique to make an emergency return. Frankly, that is academic BS that is besides the point.

Posted by: ERIC BASILE | June 7, 2011 1:04 AM    Report this comment


We are talking about avoiding major injury or death here, folks. Too often the decision to turn back to the runway is prompted by the overriding desire to save the aircraft, rather than a clear-headed analysis of which action is most likely to result in pilot/passenger survival. The bottom line is that SURVIVAL in an emergency landing situation is inversely proportional to the aircraft's energy at impact. In other words - the higher the impact energy, the less likely you are to survive - period, end of story.

Aircraft structures and restraint attach points are designed to tolerate certain limit load factors. The easiest way to avoid exceeding these limit load factors - and hence, survive your "landing" - is (as FAA guidance like the Airplane Flying Handbook and plenty of other non-FAA resources suggest) to touch down at the slowest possible groundspeed. This means flying _into the wind_ and using all available aerodynamic devices.

Posted by: ERIC BASILE | June 7, 2011 1:05 AM    Report this comment


I respect that there are plenty of pilots who just won't rest until they've convinced themselves they could bring their airplane back to the runway if they had to. Unfortunately, these same pilots often have poor to no understanding of the role of energy management in forced landing situations.

If you have a wide-open airport behind you with little wind and no obstacles (as we saw with Dave Keller's incident in Anderson, Indiana) - then go for it. But please, let's be honest - would you rather crash into a hangar, tree, house, etc. while in a 30-45 degree descending bank (at higher energy) while making a desperate turn back to a runway, or would you rather have a few extra seconds to control that impact while remaining level, slow, and into the wind?

Posted by: ERIC BASILE | June 7, 2011 1:09 AM    Report this comment


I'm sure there are plenty of skeptics who will say "Well, what about a takeoff into some urban area where there just simply is no place to go other than to turn around to the runway?" As I noted above, the single biggest thing you can do to control your chances of survival is to reduce the aircraft's energy (groundspeed.) I would be happy to share my collection of photographs of forced landings that have been conducted successfully to baseball diamonds, busy urban streets, a schoolyard - even a storage yard full of Porta-Potties. Insisting that the only viable option is a return to the runway suggests the pilot has a poor awareness of energy management, and just how little room is necessary to execute a forced landing when the aircraft is flown in a minimum energy state.

The scope of this "turnback" discussion remains firmly entrenched in "Can it be done?" rather than "Why, if at all, should it be done?"

Posted by: ERIC BASILE | June 7, 2011 1:09 AM    Report this comment

Bottom line is you need to train/practice ANY maneuver before you can be expected to perform it on demand. The “impossible turn” is not really an advanced maneuver-it’s just not on the private PTS, so it is not taught everywhere.
We need to remember that EVERY flight is a real flight and that bad/unexpected stuff can happen. Just because this is a training flight or the some routine flight doesn’t mean the bad stuff can’t happen.
So if you want to be a better pilot make every flight a training flight, practice an engine out land when you come back home, or a go around, or a short field landing, or a steep turn ten miles out. Just do something to keep yourself sharp. Doing this on a “normal” flight home won’t cost a thing.

Posted by: Robert Zylstra | June 7, 2011 1:35 AM    Report this comment


Good points. What really kills is the sudden deceleration when you hit something, I would rather land wheels up at 100 knots on a paved runway than hit a tree at 50 knots, even though I have 4 times the energy to dissipate.

Most paved runways are 3 times longer (or more) than minimum required for landing and have a smooth overrun area, so as long as you can get it anywhere on the runway under control you won’t likely have the deadly sudden deceleration. We are also used to landing on runways with and without power, so it will have some familiarity, when compared to landing in a parking lot or ball field etc. Towered airports will also have better emergency response than someplace a mile away; try getting the first responders to find you in that corn field in less than 30 minutes! (Of course in the corn field you wouldn’t likely be hurt.)

If you are out of control it is likely to be a deadly crash no matter where you land. If you can get constant deceleration, you only need about 50 foot to land.

We also will need to start training on minimum energy flight, as you are absolutely correct that the slower the landing, the less you will get hurt.

Posted by: Robert Zylstra | June 7, 2011 2:05 AM    Report this comment

One of the most important underlying concepts to me is to teach pilots to avoid the substitution of dogmatic white-or-black doctrine for actual thought and analysis.

Most of my trials of this the turnback were done on a 5000-foot runway at Oxford, CT. But some on shorter runways, too. I distinctly remember that the problem was not so much turning around without stalling, but avoiding running off the end of the runway. We did some actual landings and some were pretty hairy.

In the real world, with a turnback, I'd probably land gear up in a retractable if an overrun looked too ugly. Or land diagonally across the runway and taxiways to lose the energy. I'm an adherent to the theory that if you're going crash, it's better to do it on an open airport than a city street or a housing development.

Then again, what about a parking lot with a few cars in it that will allow you land upwind at a slower speed? Further argument for making the decision before takeoff.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 7, 2011 6:56 AM    Report this comment

Eric Basile, great points about needing MINIMAL ground speed for survival and the oftentimes wrong impulse of most pics to instinctively want to save the aircraft.

I call it an ADVANCED maneuver because (as Paul says) it not only takes training, but is so full of variables so it's NOT SIMPLE. What few realize is that landing with the wind means you'll chew up a LOT of runway. As Paul said, the problem may not be making the runway but sailing off the other end! Actually the higher you are off the departure end(or the higher the wind), the harder it is to slow down enough to land successfully.

It's not a "simple" decision nor maneuver. It takes experience, judgment, and sometimes just situational luck. That's why you cannot condense that into a single lesson or two and expect a calculable reduction in fatalities. Teach the basics really well because every emergency is different.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 7, 2011 8:06 AM    Report this comment

Eric - just curious if you've ever had to perform the maneuver you've lectured on for 10 years.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | June 7, 2011 8:20 AM    Report this comment

With respect to the "impossible turn:"

The fastest way to turn an airplane is at 90-degrees of bank. That way all of the thrust vector is pulling the airplane around the corner. I've never been faced with the need to do an "impossible turn," but if I had no choice and absolutely had to do one, I'd roll to 90-degrees, pull the nose through the turn as quickly as possible, and then roll out to wings level. As long as you don't exceed stall AOA, even at 90-degrees of bank, the wing won't stall.

The airplane would be descending through the turn, but no faster than the acceleration caused by the force of gravity, and the turn wouldn't last long. I'd get the turn out of the way as soon as possible, and then back to wings level after the turn, and brake the rate of descent.

When flying fighters, I often used 90-degrees of bank to turn, and even climbed while doing it. The secret is to give the airplane upward momentum before rolling to 90-degrees, and the airplane will continue upwards, even at 90-degrees while pulling the nose through the turn. That was the best way to get a really tight closed pattern. Accelerate on takeoff leg, pull the nose up to 30-degrees of pitch, and as soon as the airplane had a positive rate of climb, roll to 90-degrees and pull the nose around at best turn AOA. If done right, the nose will have fallen back to the horizon, the climb rate will be back to zero, and you'll be traffic pattern altitude just as you've completed 180-degrees of turn.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | June 7, 2011 11:28 AM    Report this comment


Posted by: Dan Gryder | June 7, 2011 2:49 PM    Report this comment

Dan...stop shouting. We read you loud and clear....

Step away from the caps key....

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 7, 2011 3:10 PM    Report this comment


Are you saying there will be no power available if you lose an engine on takeoff? Do I understand you correctly?

True, there is no power available from the engine, but you do have the potential energy from whatever altitude you've gained. Altitude can be converted to airspeed (kinetic energy), and can be thought of as "thrust in the bank."

Bob Hoover's famous engines out aerobatic routine routine in the Shrike Commander is a sterling example of that. Of course, to do it, you have to have the "hands" and experience of someone like Bob Hoover.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | June 7, 2011 3:49 PM    Report this comment

Hoover was about at redline airspeed when he cut power. On climbout, you don't have too much kinetic energy when climbing at best rate. The point Mr Gryder is making is that if you don't reduce your angle of attack ASAP the resulting stall will have a very aggressive break - kind of like the student pilot days when you pull back way too aggressively in a stall and go weightless for a couple seconds during the break. To hold best glide, in a typical aircraft, you're going from something like 10% nose up in climb to 30% nose down after the engine quits.

I still train - find and hold the best glide speed. Looking out the window the sight picture looks quite freaky the first couple of times.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 7, 2011 4:16 PM    Report this comment


Dan, the entire discussion here is to not stall in the first place. You don't need anyone's "recovery technique" because the whole idea is to not let it decay so far that you need "recovery".

In keeping with the commenting rules that's the have to leave my response at that.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 7, 2011 7:13 PM    Report this comment


Posted by: Dan Gryder | June 7, 2011 8:46 PM    Report this comment

Part 1- I wrote about this in the previous discussion. I had a loss of power on takeoff at 400 feet AGL in a Mooney M20J. We landed in a salt water marsh with no injuries and only light damage to the aircraft. I estimate that it was only 7 seconds from the time of the engine failure to when we were landing in the marsh. Before this experience, I thought I would have some time to think when an engine failed. I DIDN'T!. The reaction to a power loss has to instinctual, in muscle memory. Barry and I traded a few emails on this subject. He was very interested in my experience. He was pretty blunt. Very few pilots actually survive a loss of power at 400 feet. He wanted to know what actions I took. Paul's training technique was essential to embedding the response. His training exercise was to distract the pilot then pull the power back to idle. If the pilot didn't immediately push, Paul would yell (and I mean yell) into the headphones and say "PUSH THE @#$% NOSE DOWN!". A couple of times of this and the immediate response to a loss of power was to push the nose down. When the real deal happened, I remember hearing Paul in my ears yelling "PUSH THE @#$% NOSE DOWN". The other thing to teach people is this. The ground comes awful fast. It takes all your will power, and I mean all, NOT to pull back on the yolk. All your senses are saying PULL BACK.

Posted by: DANA NICKERSON | June 7, 2011 9:04 PM    Report this comment

Part 2- My theory is this is when many stalls accidents happen. Another great piece of advice from a pilot friend who built and flew many experimental aircraft. He crashed a lot but always survived. He said, "Never stop flying until the crunching stops".

Posted by: DANA NICKERSON | June 7, 2011 9:04 PM    Report this comment


Posted by: Dan Gryder | June 7, 2011 9:42 PM    Report this comment

I was always taught that angle of attack causes stalls, not airspeed and "a plane can stall at any airspeed".

So it seems to me that you have to keep the turn rate high and the angle of attack low to make this work. CAP in NC Mountain Flying Clinic taught box canyon escapes by up to 60 deg of bank and low angle of attack; a 172 will seem to turn on a dime with surprising low altitude loss.

Posted by: Stephen Alexander | June 8, 2011 6:45 AM    Report this comment

1) "The time between the first engine splutter and the aircraft commencing a left turn was 3.5 seconds. The time between that first splutter and ground impact was 5.8 seconds. If VH-UNA was climbing at 50 kts, the rate of loss of airspeed after an engine power interruption is estimated to be 5 kts per second. The aircraft has a stall speed of approximately 40 kts. Therefore the pilot would have had just two seconds to apply corrective action before the
aircraft stalled."
2)"the high-nose attitude
and the low forward speed, any loss of power such as occurred on this flight would have led to a very rapid loss of
airspeed to a point where control would have been lost unless almost instant corrective action were taken. The most effective corrective action would have been to immediately lower the nose to maintain airspeed. It is not known why this was not accomplished."

Posted by: Dan Gryder | June 8, 2011 6:49 AM    Report this comment

You stall it and you're dead. You can take a lot more deceleration horizontally - drop it in vertically and you break your spine. Many ultralight pilots have died in crashes that did little damage to the aircraft due to stalls on landing.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 8, 2011 6:58 AM    Report this comment

Dan, I'm glad you agreed with Dana. Dana's training was right out of the FAA Advisory Circular 61-67C. When you find your glasses, you can read for yourself that they DO (obviously)address power-off stall prevention and recovery near the ground. Her training (using distractions) is right out of the FAA recommendation.

Personally I did not have to rely on anyone for this training. I broke enough CL and RC model airplanes as a kid to learn how to control things when the engine quits near the ground. I never needed instructor training or the FAA to "tell me" what works and what does not; I learned it years before I ever sat inside a plane...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 8, 2011 7:19 AM    Report this comment

"The next step in recovering from a stall is to smoothly apply maximum allowable power (if applicable) to increase the airspeed and to minimize the loss of altitude." I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHERE IN ANY FAA PTS OR AC IS THE RECOVERY DISCUSSION FOR LOTOT TAUGHT, CHECKED, ORAL, MENTIONED IN AN AC, ETC.? IM TALKING ABOUT A RECOVERY WITH PITCH ONLY AS A SOURCE OF ENERGY. THATS WHAT DANA DID. THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP AND DISCUSSION.

Posted by: Dan Gryder | June 8, 2011 7:57 AM    Report this comment

A lot of very interestig reading here, but so far nobody has bit on the "lead" that Paul threw us when he first opined. The best results in the LOTOT situation are achieved when the pilot is prepared for and expecting an engine failure on takeoff. Before you even line up on centerline, brief that takeoff. If you're solo, talk to yourself. If you have a co-pilot or passenger, brief them. "If the engine fails on takeoff we will immediately pitch nose-down. If altitude is below X feet (600agl in my airplane) we will land more or less straight ahead. If above 600 feet we will turn back. Be prepared as both the pitch and bank angles will be aggressive - that's normal. If I call "engine failure" I expect you to unlatch the door. Your only other job is to get out of the airplane - if you are slow you will be trampled by me!"

As Paul mentioned, if you tell yourself the engine WILL fail on takeoff then your response time is reduced and you are prepared to get the nose down.

One last point... When climbing out, call "above 600 feet, turnback if able, wind is from the xxx so turn to the xxx" so you facilitate your brain making the switch to "turnback" mode, rather than falling into a state of paralysis.

Plan the flight and fly the plan, but most importantly, brief the takeoff.

Posted by: Mark Briggs | June 8, 2011 8:15 AM    Report this comment

Dan, AC 61-67C says that Step #1 is to LOWER THE NOSE and keep the airplane flying. Everyone agrees with that. Step #1 is to not stall. 61-67C then goes on to address all kinds of stalls so the (obviously) they mention common approach stalls where power would logically be step #2.

Dana did NOT need "recovery" at all, that's the whole point. Get out of Vx attitude immediately when you loose power.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 8, 2011 8:28 AM    Report this comment


In the 5 seconds it takes to properly react to LATOT most pilots really don't have the time to properly analyze the complete situation. It seems to me that a pilot could, as part of the departure briefing, set his minimum turnback altitude based on gross weight, altitude, temp, winds, & whatnot based on prior practice and training. So if she/he practices turnarounds at altitude and can do the maneuver consistently in, say, 500 feet then field altitude + 500 feet + desired margin gives the straight-ahead/turnback altitude point. Anything sooner than that--land ahead, anything beyond that you can turn around. It can be a simple go/no go decision you work out ahead of time.

Posted by: David Rosing | June 8, 2011 8:40 AM    Report this comment

"Dan, I'm glad you agreed with Dana. Dana's training was right out of the FAA Advisory Circular 61-67C. When you find your glasses, you can read for yourself that they DO (obviously)address power-off stall prevention and recovery near the ground. Her training (using distractions) is right out of the FAA recommendation."

Well, other than Dana being a guy, the other point you may be overlooking and that Dan is hammering on is that this stuff isn't in the standard PTS in detail. It's there in concept.

I don't know how much instruction you've given, but I can tell you not all CFIs dig into ACs for additional detail and recommendations. I do it selectively myself. CFIs try to train at least to the PTS and maybe a little beyond, time and money permitting.

Dan's saying the basic response is not in the standard doctrine in a way that's functional. It ought to be.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 8, 2011 8:47 AM    Report this comment


Posted by: Dan Gryder | June 8, 2011 9:27 AM    Report this comment

"Dan's saying the basic response is not in the standard doctrine...It ought to be."

OK, in 40 years and thousands of hours of flying, I've never had a SEL aircraft engine fail on departure. It's a very, very rare event. When you say "it ought to be hammered" you are ignoring the basic tenants of risk assessment.

Reality is that fatalities are down and engine failures near the ground on SEL departures are as rare as a friendly FSDO. Painting CFI's and PIC's and training with such a broad brush not only ignores the individual competence of most of us; it ignores that "training" only works on the willing.

Reality check: the sky(and us) are not falling no matter how many Henny Penney's are clucking imminent disaster. We ARE doing it right.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 8, 2011 10:07 AM    Report this comment

I HAVE had engine failures in SE aircraft on departure, 3 to be exact in 42 years. First was a PA12 with a glider in tow, engine seized at 400 feet, ditched the towline, pushed hard, landed on the crosswind grass runway with no problem but a large amount of adrenaline onboard. I was trained by my old dad who was trained by the RAF in WW2, he briefed every takeoff as an engine failure and pulled power on me numerous times. If you expect it, you respond appropriately, if you have never seen it, it takes some thought and response time is going to be a lot slower, ME and glider pilots do it every takeoff.

Third time was last year, Stinson 108, ate a valve at 500' on crosswind about abeam the end of a 6000' runway into a 20 kt Oklahoma wind. Didn't know the airplane well enough to know if I could make a 270 degree turn to land into wind on the departure end of the runway, so turned to land downwind, used up 5000' of the runway with full flaps in a hard slip.
Landing downwind with a 15-20 kt wind after a 180 deg turn may surprise you with how much space you need, probably should have gone the other way and landed into the wind either on the runway or the grass. Most airports are pretty flat and there are plenty of options other than the runway.

Short answer, if you think it will happen every time you take off, follow the altitude/options decision tree, and DON'T STALL THE AIRPLANE, you will probably walk away! (Also, don't fly so many old airplanes)

Posted by: Anthony Johnstone | June 8, 2011 10:53 AM    Report this comment

"OK, in 40 years and thousands of hours of flying, I've never had a SEL aircraft engine fail on departure. It's a very, very rare event."

Depends on what you call rare. Just because you or I haven't had an engine failure, doesn't mean they are rare. I do a safety review of an aircraft type per month and engine failures are usually the third or fourth leading cause, behind R-LOCs and fuel exhaustion or miscellaneous. But in some models--the Piper Arrow, for instance,--engine failures are the number one cause.

It's irrational to assume that engine failure is rare just because you haven't had one and to thus not do the best job you can of preparing to handle one. You can't judge the risk because you don't have the data. I do have reasonably good data and I wouldn't sweep engine failures under the rug as rare.

In any case, the failure on takeoff is one of the most high-risk scenarios in aviation, not involving weather. Five minutes worth of training to handle it better is a cheap investment.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 8, 2011 11:29 AM    Report this comment

Read what I said before mixing terms and then name calling. I said SEL engine failure on departure is rare; not "engine failure". I also did not say that engine failure on departure was not a high risk event, it certainly is.

Enlighten me with your data. What ARE the chances that the GA PIC population will experience a low altitude engine failure on departure in a SEL aircraft so that I can verify if I'm being irrational in my assessment?

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 8, 2011 12:07 PM    Report this comment

The PTS doesn't make a safe pilot. The PTS is a standards reference to qualify pilot candidates for certification and ratings. Just because the FAA says you're qualified doesn't mean you're safe or smart.

Posted by: William Wang | June 8, 2011 12:14 PM    Report this comment

Sorry. Did I call anyone a name? Can't see that I did, other than saying the idea of dismissing the risk as not worth worrying about is irrational. Because the way I figure it, as soon you think you've got it wired, you'll get whacked, because you really don't.

OK, data: This is just the Arrow, which is reasonably at hand. This is a study of 88 accidents. Of those, 17 percent were engine failures. This category lead the league for accident causes, which is unusual. Furthermore, when I did this study following the loss of our Mooney that Dana was flying, I found a lot of unexplained engine failures just after takeoff in these two airplanes. They share an engine type, the IO-360. Many were recovered, only to run normally later, as ours did.

I can't put an overall rate on it because I don't have hours flown data, but I suspect the rate of engine failure on a 100,000-hour basis is considerably above the 6.0 overall rate.
Some of those were fatal, too. All of the after takeoff were low altitude events.

The point is, if you scan all of the accident data, there aren't many scenarios that put the pilot and airplane in extremis quite as quickly as LOTOT does. And the curves are working against you, as is the clock.

When you read all this stuff, you can't help escape the conclusion that engine-failure after takeoff

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 8, 2011 12:40 PM    Report this comment

What worries me when I see statements like yours to the effect that "the sky(and us) are not falling no matter how many Henny Penney's are clucking imminent disaster. We ARE doing it right," I worry that people will begin to assume that this isn't a dangerous pursuit. It is.

I would never, ever consider leaving a student with that attitude because it softens the edge on the survival instinct. As soon as you think something won't kill you and you've got it all figured out, that's when you'll get bit. Happens all the time. The more you think you're immune, the more you probably aren't.

Adding specific stall awareness drills and other minor training improvements is hardly "Henney Penney" panic, It's basic survival awareness. It's preparation. Because when the s&^% hits the fan and you panic, you will fall back on your lowest level of training.

I know that any of these accidents we talk about can happen to me. Any of them. I would hope, for your sake, you think the same.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 8, 2011 12:50 PM    Report this comment

My fist engine failure was in a Tripacer on take off was out of a farm strip in Rhodesia. The farmer was miffed that I gouged a strip down his maize field. It was his plane and he never maintained it but that was besides the point the maize was money to him so everything else didn’t matter. Fortunately the RRAF training kicked in and I simply lowered the nose and had no time to do anything else. The event seemed to go by in slow motion and take forever but in reality it was only a few seconds.
The second time I was taking off with a casualty from a military strip deep in enemy territory when someone stepped out of the tree line and took a shot at me just as I was clearing the tree line he hit the engine which died instantly. Again it was very quick and you really do not have time to think about it. My concern at that time was the person on the ground who shot us as he would surely come after us after landing.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | June 8, 2011 1:11 PM    Report this comment

(...Continued) Third time was in a Bonanza 35 at Larseria South Africa when at abut 250 ft there was a bang and then silence. After the silence and still trying to reconcile what had happened I found myself having instinctively pushing the stick forward to land in the fields on the other side of the main road. Training does count. Only after the aircraft stopped and we took stock of what happened we discovered the remains of a Hawk lodged in the engine compartment. The Hawk had decided his dinner was in the grass just off the runway and he was diving to catch his prey and I was climbing to get off the ground. Neither saw the other until the collision and even then I didn’t see it.
My point is that training does count and practice make perfect

Posted by: Bruce Savage | June 8, 2011 1:12 PM    Report this comment

Paul, you called my thinking irrational (which is a derogatory word for a PIC). My long experience matches exactly with the general GA SEL pilot experiences, i.e. that SEL engine failures on takeoff are extremely RARE events.

Again, don't lump ALL 6 engine failures per 100,000 hours into the same "high risk" scenario of a failure on takeoff.

Point is:
If a GA pic flying 100hr/yr for 40 YEARS(4000 hours)then his statistical chances of experiencing a SEL engine failure on takeoff are just about nil.

That's why I asked if you really had any statistical data for SEL engine failures on takeoff that would show that my real experience was different than the statistical improbability of that event. If not, then my rational stands unassailed.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 8, 2011 1:16 PM    Report this comment

Hi All,

I joined AvWeb this morning because I heard of this discussion and I've read the comments with great interest. Besides being a math professor, I enjoy teaching spins and basic aerobatics in a Cessna 152 Aerobat in Sewanee, Tennessee.

During aerobatics as well as on flight reviews, I enjoy taking the student out at altitude above a railroad track to try the "turn back to the airport". Obviously, in a given situation, there is an altitude (dependent on a/c, pilot, wind conditions, airport conditions, etc.) below which the turn should not be made and above which it can. We go out on a mission to estimate it (with a healthy safety margin, of course, due to conditions that can vary). The basic ingredients are all issues that we do teach in the basic syllabus so it doesn't strike me as a particularly advanced maneuver. We vary bank angles too. Pilots walk away with a healthy respect for how much altitude it does take.


Posted by: Catherine Cavagnaro | June 8, 2011 2:20 PM    Report this comment

One misconception that pilots seem to have is the impact of thrust on stall recovery. Avoiding a stall (reducing the angle of attack) is purely about pitch. Thrust can help minimize altitude loss during the event but it will not help you recover. During LOTOT, you have a pilot who is overwhelmed and it's amazing what people can do with a plane when distracted. The temptation to pull back on the controls when approaching an object at minimal airspeed is considerable. Increased, realistic training is the best thing we can do to help make the best choice in an unfortunate situation. Whether it happens often or not, people still die this way! Honestly, specifically including LOTOT in the private PTS seems like a no-brainer.

As a side note, I had to chuckle at Dana's post above with his yelling instructor. My mentor was Bill Kershner and anyone who spoke with him knows his distinctive voice. We had a discussion on this very topic and to this day, I can still hear that voice, "You get that nose down -- you get that f***ing nose down!" I miss that guy!

Posted by: Catherine Cavagnaro | June 8, 2011 2:20 PM    Report this comment

Great discussion--but it has fallen victim to the same "you should ALWAYS....." dogma as the "always land straight ahead" meme.

I've had 9 engine failures in 30,000 hours. Only ONE was sudden and catastrophic--internal failure. The rest gave either warning signs or partial power before failing.

In twins, we practice the dreaded "engine failure on takeoff"--the sudden and catastrophic total failure just as the gear is coming up. It is something that happens so rarely that there are more accidents PRACTICING the procedure than from actual engine failures. The same thing happens (or doesn't happen) with singles. Most engine failures give at least partial power. A competent (and lucky) pilot can make the return under these conditions--but we should ALSO ask "SHOULD we?"

Thinking about the possible courses of action prior to departure give other options. One of the items I haven't seen discussed is simply making the turnback into the wind--it mitigates the number of degrees of turn required. We should also be thinking of our climb profile--a short field departure and a best-angle (OK, best rate is a good compromise) gives us altitude and options.

Posted by: jim hanson | June 8, 2011 2:28 PM    Report this comment

If the real stats are 6 engine failures per 100k hours, then I've had really bad luck. 1 that put me off airport as I mentioned before, and two other partial failures. I would agree with Mark that an engine shelling out on takeoff is rare, but that doesn't mean one shouldn't train for such a case.

That said, based upon the stats I've seen, we're still better off in a single than a piston twin, although I surmise that the losses of twins with a engine failure on takeoff stems from the same root cause - there are times where you have to make the uncomfortable decision to sacrifice the aircraft to walk away from the crash - the problem in the twin is there's the temptation to see just how close you can get to VMC and you just might make it, then . . . . in you go inverted. The laws of physics are unyielding and unforgiving, but predictable.

Bruce, engine failure in a Tri Pacer on takeoff - that's a scenario I wouldn't want - man I bet you had to push it over hard to keep it flying. Glad it worked out!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 8, 2011 2:33 PM    Report this comment

If you have SOME power left, consider bending it around to downwind rather than turning back or landing straight ahead.

Some high-performance airplanes climb so rapidly that options abound. I've done the turnback in a Cirrus SR-22 full-motion simulator--the high angle of climb before the engine failure left me so high on final that I would not have been able to get down and stopped on the runway. I highly recommend the full-motion simulator--located at Anoka County airport in Minnesota--also one in Atlanta and Las Vegas.

Some have mentioned not delaying the turn to crosswind--and that's a good idea. File a crosswind landing possibility in your takeoff planning. If on a crosswind when the engine failure occurrs, you are already on a low downwind for your landing runway--easy.

If you are in a really high-performance aircraft, consider this: After finishing a Falcon 10 recurrent sim session, the instructor gave us some "fun" items, including a dual engine failure just as the aircraft cleaned up. We tried a return--the turn radius was just too large. The instructor told us "pull up to the stick shaker, relax back pressure while turning downwind, and make a normal landing." The kinetic energy took us to 900', and we bent it around to land.

Posted by: jim hanson | June 8, 2011 2:35 PM    Report this comment

Been flying airplanes and helicopters for 45 years and have never had an engine failure (full or partial) or other engine problems in any phase of flight. Made it a point to fly newer, very well maintained aircraft. Except for a DC-3, none of this 40-60 year old stuff. For much of my flying history, the instructors simply said, "dont turn back to the runway - land straight ahead if possible." Boy was that wrong! When I transitioned to the Pilatus PC-12 I began doing recurrent training at SimCom every 6 months and we practiced the turn back in just about every possible scenario, including a turn back after entering low IMC. Every departure was briefed and the acft set up in advance, expecting an engine failure. The set up is especially important on a low IFR departure if you want to find the runway on the return. This was a great experience, and a real proficiencey and confidence builder. At about this point in time the PT-6 engine in the PC-12 was experiencing a few power roll backs to idle as a result of a leaking bellows in the fuel control IIRC, so this was a bit more than an acedemic exercise.

Posted by: R Boswell | June 8, 2011 3:13 PM    Report this comment

One must look at the entire scenario:
1) The chance of engine failure during takeoff is next to nil during the lifetime of a SEL GA pilot.
2) If it did happen, the environment is more important than the event itself (i.e altitude attained, obstructions, etc).

That makes it an extremely rare event that is then coupled to uncontrollable circumstances. That's like the idea of carrying a fire extinguisher in the cabin; fires are rare and extinguishing is less than certain. False safety...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 8, 2011 3:21 PM    Report this comment

Rare perhaps. But who among the group here who have had engine failures on takeoff have had other accidents?

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 8, 2011 3:52 PM    Report this comment

Heres a couple of guys that experienced LOTOT
for real and the aircraft that they were in.
Lets ask either of them if it is worth the trouble, or worth risking the "highly unlikely" engine failure scenario by refusing to acknowledge the problem.
Brock Senft - 400 AGL C-172
Leo Giles - 400 ALG Kitfox
(Both day VFR, perfect weather and long runway and golf course straight ahead.) If either one of them agree that LOTOT training is not worth the effort, and that "we are doing it right" I will rest my quest.

Posted by: Dan Gryder | June 8, 2011 4:52 PM    Report this comment

Of my 9 engine failures, all of them ended up on a runway. Only 1 was a catastrophic and sudden engine failure--I deadsticked it from 7 miles out.

Only 1 was on takeoff--a Baron that separated the cylinder barrel from the head (incidently, it was back to back with the one above!)

All the rest got rough, or would only give partial power--unable to sustain flight, but able to allow me to make the runway. Knowing where the nearest runway WAS was a big factor--especially before GPS.

Lest anyone think that turbines are the cure-all, 3 of them have been on turbines--1 on a Caravan, a Citation, and a Falcon 10.

In multi training, we too often teach students to "FEATHER!" at the first sign of a problem. My feeling--if the engine is contributing, let it take you to a point where landing is assured. The same should be said about engine failure on takeoff with a single--let it get you back.

Posted by: jim hanson | June 8, 2011 5:24 PM    Report this comment

Back to the engine failure on takeoff with a single--nobody has mentioned the importance of bringing the prop back. On takeoff, the prop is at low pitch, high RPM--a tremendous drag when the engine ISN't pulling. Bringing the prop back (when able) makes a HUGE difference.

In both single and multi training, we give "engine-outs" by cutting the power to idle. Is it any wonder that many pilots end up OVERSHOOTING the runway with a feathered prop on a twin, or end up short of a runway they could have made had they pulled the prop back--much like feathering the prop on a twin?

If you are going to train in a single or twin, you can simulate "zero thrust" either from a chart in the book, or the SWAG of bringing the throttle back on a constant-speed prop until the prop starts to buzz--then advancing the throttle until it doesn't. That means the prop isn't creating drag. A good multi instructor will actually INCREASE the power on the "failed" engine during a demo to simulate the LACK of drag of a feathered prop.

Posted by: jim hanson | June 8, 2011 5:33 PM    Report this comment

Eddy, you are correct. In my situation my pre-takeoff check list was BLTTE - Boost, Lights, Time, Transponder, Emergency. The (E) was from my glider training. Know exactly what you are going to do before you takeoff i.e. where you are going to land when the tow rope breaks or the engine fails. As such, I knew that the only place to land was a wide open salt water marsh to the right of the runway.

Posted by: DANA NICKERSON | June 8, 2011 8:55 PM    Report this comment

"Rare perhaps. But who among the group here who have had engine failures on takeoff.."

It's statistically impractical that a SEL GA pilot will have one on takeoff. It's only barely statistically possible that a SEL GA pilot will have any catastrophic mechanical engine failure anytime in their career. It's almost a statistical certainty that if you did have a catastrophic SEL GA engins fail that it's not going to happen between rotation and in the first 700" of climb.

That's why I called it "chicken little"; an irrational assessment of the risk and the need to be "saving people" from it. I'm really sorry to announce that he "boring basics" are still what's killing people, not the 1 in a 6-million chance of loosing an engine on takeoff...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 8, 2011 10:37 PM    Report this comment

Oh, yes, I forgot about the other one, I was asked to fly a 172 that had quit on another pilot. The owners mechanic had checked it out prior, and to be honest we concluded that it was likely carb ice as it ran perfectly on the ground. Powered up and started to climb and she quit at about 5 ft - turns out the carb float was leaking and flooding the engine in a climb. Neither of my lotot situations were reported necause there was no damage to the aircraft - not reportable under ntsb 830.

Mark - this happens more often than you think.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 9, 2011 6:40 AM    Report this comment

Oh, and by the way Mark, I had one catch on fire once too. That useless cabin fire extinguisher saved the aircraft from burning up.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 9, 2011 6:43 AM    Report this comment

"this happens more often than you think."

Thank you, Josh. You're on the right track. Now combine your statements with mine:
1) The fact that SEL Engine failure on takeoff are statistically VERY rare and
2) Your remark that "successes" are not in NTSB and so we don't hear about them.

So that means that not only is engine failure on SEL GA takeoff statistically rare but but that the pilot community is already coping successfully enough with this VERY deadly situation. Well done!

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 9, 2011 7:50 AM    Report this comment

When this topic is discussed, the effect of wind speed and direction is rarely, if ever, mentioned. Before take-off roll begins, every pilot should consider the effects any cross wind and what the strength of the head wind will be on "impossible turn." If you have to think about this after the engine fails, you are already far behind an effective response curve. And the "impossible turn" is a misnomer. It should be "impossible turnS." And, if it can be safely done, all take-off and departures should be initiated to minimize any adverse effects of existing wind on low level maneuvers needed to return to the field.

Posted by: Dan Vandermeer | June 9, 2011 8:15 AM    Report this comment

When this topic is discussed, the effect of wind speed and direction is rarely, if ever, mentioned. Before take-off roll begins, every pilot should consider the effects any cross wind and what the strength of the head wind will be on "impossible turn." If you have to think about this after the engine fails, you are already far behind an effective response curve. And the "impossible turn" is a misnomer. It should be "impossible turnS." And, if it can be safely done, all take-off and departures should be initiated to minimize any adverse effects of existing wind on low level maneuvers needed to return to the field.

Posted by: Dan Vandermeer | June 9, 2011 8:15 AM    Report this comment

When this topic is discussed, the effect of wind speed and direction is rarely, if ever, mentioned. Before take-off roll begins, every pilot should consider the effects any cross wind and what the strength of the head wind will be on "impossible turn." If you have to think about this after the engine fails, you are already far behind an effective response curve. And the "impossible turn" is a misnomer. It should be "impossible turnS." And, if it can be safely done, all take-off and departures should be initiated to minimize any adverse effects of existing wind on low level maneuvers needed to return to the field.

Posted by: Dan Vandermeer | June 9, 2011 8:15 AM    Report this comment

Statistics is an Analysis tool to try to show something when there is very little. A newspaper headline read “Switzerland had a 100% increase in unemployment” The data that produced that statistic was that there was only one unemployed person and now there is two. Statics is like Profit and Loss “What profit do you want and the account will make it happen”

Enough said. I’ve said this before Life is too short so loosen up and enjoy what you got. If you can do a U turn back to the airport then do it but if you don’t know how then don’t try when the engine has quit and you are only a few hundred feet from the ground at the end of a runway.

When I look back over my life I wish I had stopped been so serious and did more of what I enjoyed, which obviously is flying.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | June 9, 2011 8:39 AM    Report this comment

Keep the articles coming, great work guys:
Weight Loss Dieting

Posted by: Venice Pounder | June 9, 2011 9:13 AM    Report this comment

When I was actively instructing one nugget I always passed along came from my Comm/CFI instructor (ex-Navy airline pilot) He told me "Every takeoff is an abort until you get to safe alt, and every landing is a go-around until the acft is stopped". That puts you in the correct mindset, and is an essential part of my takeoff brief. I've read of too many accidents where a perfectly good airplane got mangled because the pilot was fixated on landing, for whatever reason. As far as the impossible turn, my safe alt is 1000' AGL even though it can be done a bit lower.

Posted by: Will Alibrandi | June 9, 2011 9:31 AM    Report this comment

There have been some excellent points made here. I am floored, though, at the intensity of disagreement over what I thought was one of many piloting skills each of us should be able to pull from our tool kits.

Human nature is such that we prefer things that we can precisely define. We like checking a box in order to move on to the next thing. The problem with an aircraft emergency (be it LOTOT or anything else) is that the event will be a unique blend of pilot, aircraft, weather, etc. Sure, a pilot with a professional mindset will have initial response actions ready to employ, but I profess that each emergency is a fingerprint; unique. For one to say that the impossible turn is doable and for another to disagree ... well, they're both potentially correct. And that doesn't sit well with the human desire to define things and move on.

Posted by: Ken Holston | June 9, 2011 10:06 AM    Report this comment

The military assigns BOLDFACE steps, i.e. initial action items, for time critical emergencies. When I was actively teaching C152/172 students, my power loss steps for them were; "GLIDE, CARB HEAT, PICK A FIELD" and my advice to them was that, if they could accomplish nothing else beyond those steps, they should survive. I also included LOTOT demos, simulating both full and partial loss of power. As you guys know, "GLIDE" was key. The biggest take away was always the amount of dirt in the windscreen at low altitude - that is, the illusion that the nose was lower than it needed to be. Something I would add, as Paul stresses, is the attitude that "it will happen on this takeoff". This hands-on training is invaluable.

I would stress that there is no "one size fits all" answer in aviation. Judgment, and a willingness to accept a good plan (landing straight ahead) might trump an attempt at a "perfect" plan (returning to the runway) ... including the willingness to begin a turn back and knock it off if it looked like it wasn't going to work out. Well planned practice of these maneuvers is certainly a valid skill builder and not time wasted on a "it'll never happen" event. I would say the same with partial panel IFR, cabin fire, or any statistically unlikely event ... because when it happens to you, no matter your opinions, gravity and Bernoulli will be the final judge.

Posted by: Ken Holston | June 9, 2011 10:06 AM    Report this comment

"The military assigns BOLDFACE steps, i.e. initial action items, for time critical emergencies."

Good point Ken. Something all GA CFIs should adopt as you did. There are critical BOLD FACE emergencies, and less critical non-BOLD FACE emergencies. Loss of an engine immediately after takeoff is a BOLD FACE emergency,and the immediate action steps should be committed to memory, and the pilot should be spring-loaded to perform them. A tip of my hat to you as an instructor for drilling that into your students.

Most of my flying time is military and if you didn't know the BOLD FACE steps cold, you didn't fly. In operational squadrons, on Monday mornings we had to take a BOLD FACE quiz before being allowed to fly, and woe to anyone who flunked -- they made a quick appearance in front of the squadron ops officer.

As a military instructor, I could and did ground students for not knowing their BOLD FACE. Each day at Air Force pilot training we started with a mass briefing for the students, going over the weather, the plan for the day, a flying safety review, and would describe an emergency and call on one of the students to stand up and tell the rest of the class how to handle it. If the response was to recite the BOLD FACE steps and the student faltered, or couldn't do it, we would say, "You're grounded." and the student couldn't fly that day.

The students quickly learned their BOLD FACE steps. (They also fervently hoped they wouldn't get called on at the daily briefing.)

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | June 9, 2011 11:45 AM    Report this comment

I have practiced this manuever at altitude (2,000 AGL) and feel confident that if I am at 600 ft AGL, and react in 4 secs, I can make the turn back. That said, I fly in Ohio and the midwest where there are lots of fields off the ends of runways to pick from. These would be my first choice, because I have insurance.

Posted by: Richard Mutzman | June 9, 2011 12:04 PM    Report this comment

I think this entire discussion is symptomatic of what is wrong with flight training. The issue is not to turn back or not turn back, it is not to have the engine fail in the first place. This sounds facile but it is not. I researched the accident databases and it appears to me that around 80% of all engine failures are DIRECTLY caused by the actions or inactions ot the pilot. The LEAST likely scenario is for a properly maintained engine which has sufficent uncontaminated fuel correctly selected, has a normal runup and smoothly accelerates to full static RPM at the beginning of the takeoff run......just up and quits with no warning. The flight training industry IMO does a very poor job of educating students in the signs of engine distess because engines almost always give you some warning before failing.

IN the event of an actual engine failure to me the accident data is clear. As long as the aircraft is approximetely wings level and in a near level flight attitude when it hits the ground the chance of survival of all occupants is very high (around 93% if you believe the accident data). The killers are hitting at very nose down and or at high bank angles. For this reason I believe the rote reaction to a EFATO should be go to the glide attitude and fly straight ahead turning as little as is necessary and only to avoid major obstactles, as this will IMO will be the most likely to lead to a survivable crash, the only criteria that matters after the engine fails.

Posted by: DAVID GAGLIARDI | June 9, 2011 12:40 PM    Report this comment

"80% of engine failures caused by the pilot?" I find that hard to believe--short of mismanaging fuel. Here are mine:
Cessna 210--threw a counterweight, broke con-rod, punctured case, knocked mag off.

Cessna 120--carb float sank

Bellanca Cruisemaster--Franklin engine--broken crankshaft.

Beech Baron--cylinder separated from head.

Cessna Caravan--engine fuel pump disintegrated, send debris downstream and trashing the fuel controller.

Cessna Citation--factory loaner engine from big-name shop rolled back to idle thrust.

Falcon 10--recent factory overhauled engine--oil fitting installed backward. Factory replaced lines--happened AGAIN before problem solved.

Falcon 10--recent factory overhauled engine threw 5 fan blade segments.

Nine engine failures in 30,000 hours--all ended up on airports. Do you think that flying recently overhauled engines innoculates you from engine problems? Consider this: The HIGHEST time since overhaul engine that failed had 600 hours on it!

Posted by: jim hanson | June 9, 2011 1:02 PM    Report this comment

Wow, lots of opinions here.
So, let me get this right. If you have an Angle of Attack indicator, and your engine fails, you calmly push the nose down till you are flying your optimum Angle of attack. No big deal, this correctly establishes your proper airspeed for your Gross weight and configuration. Oh, yea, the published airspeed for engine out flight in your handbook is a ball bark number because it doesn't know your gross weight or if the flaps are up or down. If your airplane is commonly flown with say 5 degrees of flaps for take off, but the book publishes only clean wing best glide speed then what is you best glide speed? Oh yea you don't know.

Your thinking now, i just might try and turn back to the runway, so you start your turn as you are trying to turn on your fuel valve and go thru the restart procedure. If you have an AOA gauge you know EXACTLY your correct, angle of attack to fly to achieve the smallest rate of descent, if you need it, and this gauge will give you the shortest turn radius, with the confidence that you will not stall. Lets say you need tighten up the turn to make a landing spot.

So all you "Experts" tell me what is the correct airspeed to fly, in you airplane, at 30 degrees angle of bank with a dead engine? Quick, tell me in two seconds or less. Couldn't do it could you? if you can't instantly recall then you are dead. Your going to stall because all of a sudden your going to increa

Posted by: Carter Boswell | June 9, 2011 1:24 PM    Report this comment

Wow, lots of opinions here.
So, let me get this right. If you have an Angle of Attack indicator, and your engine fails, you calmly push the nose down till you are flying your optimum Angle of attack. No big deal, this correctly establishes your proper airspeed for your Gross weight and configuration. Oh, yea, the published airspeed for engine out flight in your handbook is a ball bark number because it doesn't know your gross weight or if the flaps are up or down. If your airplane is commonly flown with say 5 degrees of flaps for take off, but the book publishes only clean wing best glide speed then what is you best glide speed? Oh yea you don't know.

Your thinking now, i just might try and turn back to the runway, so you start your turn as you are trying to turn on your fuel valve and go thru the restart procedure. If you have an AOA gauge you know EXACTLY your correct, angle of attack to fly to achieve the smallest rate of descent, if you need it, and this gauge will give you the shortest turn radius, with the confidence that you will not stall. Lets say you need tighten up the turn to make a landing spot.

So all you "Experts" tell me what is the correct airspeed to fly, in you airplane, at 30 degrees angle of bank with a dead engine? Quick, tell me in two seconds or less. Couldn't do it could you? if you can't instantly recall then you are dead. Your going to stall because all of a sudden your going to increa

Posted by: Carter Boswell | June 9, 2011 1:24 PM    Report this comment

Jim Hanson these are an account 3 failures I have personal knowledge of

C 150 - carb float sank (aircraft destroyed pilot gravely injured). Turned out the float was the old style and should have been replaced years ago but was not(he used a shade tree mechanic). It also turned out that the engine had not been running properly for at least a month. This IMO is a 100 % pilot caused engine failure.

C 172 with the Franklin engine mod. It too suffered a catastrophic crankshaft failure after takeoff but at about 1500 feet AGL (Aircaft destroyed no injuries). But again the owner had not changes the oil in over 3 years because he had not flown 100 hours and was too cheap to at least change the oil at every annual, and in general the aircraft had years of minimal maintainance and was frankly a complete heap. This one is a tougher call as even if the engine had had excellent maintainance it could still have failed but the years of neglect still IMO had a part in this accident.

Baron cylinder failure although in this case the cylinder separated at the base. (Engine was shut down and the aircraft was landed with no damage). When the repair facility looked at the engine it was obvious that the cylinder had been loose for awhile had and there was significant oil residue the on cowl side panel edge and on the bottom of the nacelle. I again put this down in the pilot caused column because he should have noticed the oil on the walk around and investigated further.

Posted by: DAVID GAGLIARDI | June 9, 2011 2:07 PM    Report this comment

Further to my last post

I think this fixation with mechanical failures is a flight school red herring. The most likely, and preventable cause of engine failures, is making sure there is sufficient fuel on board, it is not contaminated, and the right tank is selected. Emphasizing that in flight training rather than advocating for training the hero pilot turn back manoever would IMO have the biggest benefit in reducing accidents.

Posted by: DAVID GAGLIARDI | June 9, 2011 2:11 PM    Report this comment

LOTOT AND THE IMPOSSIBLE TURN. 1)LOTOT AND 2) THE IMPOSSIBLE TURN. In conclusion, (2)if you can turn back and you did OK, then you did OK. I guess it was possible for you that day. Fine. Done. Now back to (1)LOTOT: 1) Takeoff is a high risk phase of flight. 2) There is great room for accident data improvement (fewer fatals)in this phase for ASEL aircraft. 3) At this time, FAA printed information, required training, or required checking, or scenario guidance for new ASEL private pilots is non existant and ominously missing from FAR 61 and the PTS. 5) This gross oversite will be corrected in the near future. 6) I found my glasses. Anybody seen my car keys?

Posted by: Dan Gryder | June 9, 2011 2:20 PM    Report this comment

I have had 3 engine failures on takeoff. All 3 fuel related although there was sufficient fuel aboard. Mostly vapor lock issues in hot conditions.

1. I was already downwind near the end of the runway climbing at about 2Kft/min. Approximately 800AGl, I immediately feathered the prop(its a mooney missile single). Turned base and landed.

2. In a Beech Sierra it quit at about 200AGL just off the end of the runwas. I banked right at about 60-90 degrees of bank toward the more open areas and began the impossible turn. Power was restored in about 10 seconds while completing the emergency checklist(the one burned into my brain, not the one in the back seat).

3. After a full performance takeoff at a short grass strip I lost power in a mooney at 100 AGL with about 1000 feet of runway left. I put the gear back down and headed for a small break in the trees just to the left of the runway. While flaring and immediately after my emergency checklist was complete I got power back.

In none of these circumstances did a stall even become a thought. The pitching down thing comes largely with the loss of power and the rest is supplied by knowing the airplane. The airplane stalls when I want it to stall not when it sneaks up on me.

Posted by: Brad Vaught | June 9, 2011 2:26 PM    Report this comment

I should clarify in scenario #1 I took off in about 800Ft, climbed to 50ft and began a 180 degree climbing turn as I leveled out my turn, still in the climb, I was at the aforementioned altitude opposite the direction of takeoff and parallel to the end of the takeoff runway.

Posted by: Brad Vaught | June 9, 2011 2:29 PM    Report this comment

I'd like to address several points here...

First, there are times (common in soaring depending on the speeds of the glider and towplane) that you are climbing out at an airspeed higher than your best glide speed. If you find yourself in this rare circumstance during LOTOT, then it is OK to continue climbing (turning or not) until your speed drops to best glide speed.

Second, as some have already pointed out, glider pilots (even students) practice rope breaks (the equivalent of LOTOT) on takeoff regularly. It is drilled into their heads to KNOW what their aircraft is capable of and to audibly call out the climb altitude in hundreds of feet up to the minimum altitude for a turnback. Calling out the altitude not only keeps you cognizant of how high you are, but it also serves to keep you in the mindset that the rope IS going to break, therefore, mentally ready with reduced reaction time. If the rope breaks before your decision altitude, then you know a full turnback is out. Second, the pushover. A firm pushover from climb after an engine failure IS a good thing. Not only does it get you into a nose down attitude faster, but unloading the wings completely (zero g) means that you lose less energy (speed) in the process and the wing will not stall while at zero g.

(continued in next post)

Posted by: BRUCE MCJUNKIN | June 9, 2011 4:03 PM    Report this comment

(continued from previous post)

Third, I taught in ultralights and would teach two types of stall recovery (as well as how to fly the plane in a sustained stall). I taught the method of relaxing the backpressure and I taught the hard pushover and explained the application for each. Before turning a student loose for solo, I would do a surprise test as they were taking off, pulling the power at maybe 50-100 feet. The ultralights climbed at a very steep, nose high angle, and if they didn't have the stick full forward in the first second, I did it for them. Several more drills like that showed them that they needed the hard pushover to retain enough energy for a landing flare.

Lastly, some have mentioned the wingover option. The traditional wingover starts with excess energy which is converted to altitude. Following the turn, the altitude is then converted back into kinetic energy (speed). During climbout, speed is low and there is very little excess energy to work with. You are already neaar stall and pulling the nose up drives you closer to stall. Furthermore, propwash from the engine thrust aids the rudder in turning the plane at the top of the wingover, but in LOTOT, you do not have any prop blast over the rudder.

Posted by: BRUCE MCJUNKIN | June 9, 2011 4:04 PM    Report this comment

One other thought...

A friend of mine had his engine throw a connecting rod on take-off from an uncontrolled field. He was able to keep the engine running enough to get him back to an auxilliary strip off to the side of the main runway. The noteworthy thing here is that while he flew, the passenger (a CFI) picked up the radio and made a distress call to a nearby tower that they had just been talking to.

When they listend to the recorded playback, they found that the violent shaking of the engine (and plane) made the entire transmission completely unintelligible. The lesson is, in that type of situation if you are able to make a radio call (without distracting from your flying), speak very clearly, slowly, and strongly, and don't assume you have been heard.

Posted by: BRUCE MCJUNKIN | June 9, 2011 4:16 PM    Report this comment

I have had two engine failures on takeoff in over fifty years of flying in small and antique airplanes. On one, I was about 500 feet AGL just past the end of the runway. I turned back, flew a normal downwind and base. I wound up doing S turns on final to lose excess altitude. Landed 1/3 down the 4000 foot runway. No problem. Clogged fuel line caused the failure.
Second, a Bellanca with an IO-470 engine. It had a substandard airduct to the engine air inlet. The duct collapsed on takeoff and killed the engine due to lack of air! I was a 100 ft AGL and 140 mph and 3000 feet down a 4000 foot runway. I pulled straight up to get rid of the excess airspeed and then did an extreme slip to get back down without picking up additional airspeed again. When I was low enough I took out the slip and landed on the remaining runway. I did run about 40 feet into the grass overrun at the end of the pavement.

In neither incident was there any damage to either the airplanes or the occupants. The problem causing the engine failure was corrected in a way that would prevent a similar problem in the future and both airplanes are still flying with no subsequent problems.

Posted by: JOHN JOHNSON | June 9, 2011 4:32 PM    Report this comment

At least we see respectful dialog here. From the Glider CFI-G perspective, I'd like to suggest a couple thoughts. Rote glider training is no better than rote ASEL training. I hope to train pilots to think and act. I train beginning students to fly pitch attitude for speed control (I have no supplemental thrust.) I also train beginning students to consider their takeoff situation before rolling - for length, wind, traffic, and exterior landable surfaces -- and develop a plan before they roll. They must address a balked launch for inside the premises, externally available prioritized landable spots, and the factors involved in a return to the premises (either downwind landing, or abbreviated pattern). I often launch in high wind conditions, and downwind may be an unacceptable landing choice ( >20~25 knots). Students must audibilize the changing abort-option while in departure climb, after they are in command of normal climbs. This situational awareness could be required in ASEL operations, but seldom is seen. In glider launchs, a LOTOT also requires a pitch over. I ask the students to audibilize also "Attitude 55 kts, bank 45 degrees, Check Coordination" (A-B-C)as the mneumonic that will prompt them to quality control themselves (say and do) in the turn that may be Very Possible and desirable.

Posted by: Cindy Brickner | June 9, 2011 4:48 PM    Report this comment

Students rise to the expectations that CFIs set for them. I expect them to have departure climb safety in mind until they tell me they can achieve a normal pattern and landing. (Tower directed departure paths introduce another level of complexity beyond this discussion.)
I have had several launches with LOTOT or what we call Premature Termination of the Tow (PT3). One bad mag, one failed cylinder port, one window blown open & tug released me and perhaps 6 poor rope attachments or rope failures for real in 30 years. I have never had any airframe damage from these events, due to the vigilance during launch. So my events don't reach into any databases.
Other glider CFI-Gs' mileage may vary.

Posted by: Cindy Brickner | June 9, 2011 4:49 PM    Report this comment

As both a CFII & A&P, I have an interesting thought in regards to David Gagliardi's post. He's right - the issues were pilot/owner issues. The OWNER or OPERATOR is primarily responsible for airworthiness of their aircraft. As a mechanic, there's nothing I can do to make you comply with an AD that comes out between inspections, or an AD based upon calendar or aircraft time that comes due between inspections, or to make you comply with a service bulletin at all. The carb float issues I've seen lately are all service bulletins - the mechanic could legally have signed off the aircraft as airworthy.
I see way too many owners with the impression that the continued airworthiness of their aircraft is the mechanic's responsibility. I try to educate them the best I can, but in reality the responsibility for that aircraft finally rests with them.
Many manufacturers offer free service bulletin support to owners, and AD's are free to everyone via the FAA website.
Just a thought - but I think it's relevant to this discussion.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 9, 2011 5:05 PM    Report this comment

A figure of 80 percent of engine failures due to the pilot is not supportable in the data. If it is, show me the data. Could we then hang most of Jim Hansen's failures on him, too? After all, he should have known the fuel fitting was on backwards because he's the PIC. And how slow is this guy not to check for incorrectly installed turbine blades? I don't think so.

What is supportable is about half of the engine failures you do see--that's from memory from the 2008 data--were caused by inadequate maintenance of some kind. In a few cases, the pilot was aware of squawks, but I don't think any reasonable person would say it's the pilot's fault that a maintainer used the wrong carb float, didn't secure the cam point plate correctly or used the wrong induction hose.

We blame pilots often enough without going there.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 9, 2011 5:16 PM    Report this comment


The 80% figure is necessarily subjective as it depends on what what you define as "pilot caused". I have taken a very literal view on this. So for instance my reference to the Baron cylinder failure is pilot caused because I think the pilot should have had the reason for the sudden appearance of oil on the cowling, investigated. If he had he would have not had the failure. To some people this may be too harsh....

I do feel strongly though, that flight training spends all its time on the "all of a sudden the perfectly working engine just stops" scenario which I will continue to insist is IMO the least likely engine failure scenario.

Fuel mismanagement continues to be among the highest causes of engine failures and are so easily preventable. But when Joe pilot graduates with a fresh PPL and has never had a flight longer than about an hour, always took off with full tanks and never leaned the engine (typical flight school policy)and he then runs out of fuel is it all on him or does his flight training have a piece of the problem ?

Posted by: DAVID GAGLIARDI | June 9, 2011 5:36 PM    Report this comment

Excluding Big radial engines, I have personally had 3 engine failures, 2 pilot caused, one not

The first was in a Twin Comanche. The fuel selector failed so that when I selected aux tanks the selector stayed on the mains. The engine stopped just after I got established on the ILS, so I just feathered the engine. But this one was all on me because the fuel selector did not feel right when I turned it but I did not clue into what the aircraft was telling me. When the main tank was showing empty on my prelanding checks I thought "oh it must be wrong there was plenty when I dipped the tanks".....This one was 100% prevent able by me

The second was a turbo and waste gate failure in a grossed out Navajo departing a mountain valley unlighted strip at dusk. The engine rolled back on the shuttle climb at 3500 AGL and I ended up descending to a NDB minimums circle to land with the very last of the usable daylight. It turned out that the previous pilot had put a total of 6 litres of oil in the last 4 hours of flying and did not think this was worth putting in the logbook or reporting to maintainance........

Continued on next post

Posted by: DAVID GAGLIARDI | June 9, 2011 6:03 PM    Report this comment

The last was a failed oil pump drive in a c 150. On this aircraft the oil pressure needle always sat exactly on the mid range white line of the oil press gauge. One day shortly after takeoff I noticed the gauge was a solid needle width below the white line. I watched it and the needle made a little jerk so I immediately turned back to the airport. The oil pressure slowly rolled back to zero but I now had the runway made so I shut down the engine.

So bottom line my personal experience 66% of my engine failures were IMO 100% pilot caused because they would not have happened if the the pilot had been paying attention.

Posted by: DAVID GAGLIARDI | June 9, 2011 6:04 PM    Report this comment

Regarding 80% of mechanical failures are caused by the pilot or inadequate maintenance. I would have loved to know what we could have done to prevent the engine failure on takeoff. For future flying, I'd love to know what caused the failure. We never found a cause. The airplane had impeccable maintenance, fuel was checked and found good, switches checked and found in the proper position.

Paul asked for people who have a LOTOT incident. There is a large group of people who can't answer. They didn't survive.

Posted by: DANA NICKERSON | June 9, 2011 6:09 PM    Report this comment


I guess you were just in the unlucky 20 %. Good job in surviving a very nasty situation

Posted by: DAVID GAGLIARDI | June 9, 2011 6:16 PM    Report this comment

I used MS Flight Simulator and then flew my Mooney at a safe altitude, to find a safe turn back altitude, using the Jett technique of drop nose - best glide- 30 to 40 deg bank turn back - drop gear & flaps when safe. It's 600 ft AGL, so I use 1000 ft AGL as my decision height. Pulling the prop full aft significantly improves glide. I usually climb out at Vx as well.

Posted by: Gordon Hughes | June 9, 2011 8:54 PM    Report this comment

@Dan Gryder - Would love to read your note on Facebook - but seems only friends are able to get to it?

Posted by: JAMES MCDUFFIE | June 9, 2011 9:25 PM    Report this comment

JT - (or any other pilot interested in the topic) Just do a friend request on Dan Gryder and I'll approve it. The stall spin video, the PDF and about 40 comments about it are on my page. The reporter in the video assumes that the low altitude stall and subsequent drop of the left wing is the pilots attempt to return to the field. The accident review PDF is most interesting as they discuss the pilot climbing out at low speed and the amount of reaction time that would have been required to push hard if thrust was lost with the additional drag of a wing walker on the top wing. The private pilots PTS allows a climb speed as low as Vx-5. I wonder what the acomparison in knots is between that speed and Vs1. I think across the board if you climb out steep at Vx-5(perfectly acceptable to the FAA) you are very close to stall upon LOTOT.

Posted by: Dan Gryder | June 10, 2011 6:32 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I readily agree that maintenance is responsible for improper assembly, etc. The turbine blade would be virtually impoasible to blame the owner/pilot for, however the carb float scenario wasn't. It is up to the owner of a part 91 aircraft to decide if they want to comply with a service bulletin to change a carb float (hint - most owners say no). Same with the slick 500 hour mag inspection. I've seen tweaking the internal mag timing double the spark output, however once again this is not mandatory. The point I'm trying to make is, like it or not, how you choose to have your machine maintained is your primary responsibility. Yes, the mechanic has a lot in it too, but the FAR's put the final blame with the owner.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 10, 2011 6:50 AM    Report this comment

Dana said: "Paul asked for people who have a LOTOT incident."

No, Paul stated that he heard a THEORY on stall-related fatalities and the need for LOTOT training.
I sent Paul data showing that engine failures on takeoff are extremely rare; so rare in theory and in fact that they don't even make a blip on yearly fatalities.

It's also a "theory" based on a theory that such training would have actually reduced past fatalities in other engine emergencies. It's a true form of Monday morning quarterbacking; once the chaos is over then others in comfortable chairs will say "if they had just done this, then....).

Every bit of training is good; but the reality is that most fatalities are due do people IGNORING what they were told to do OR being very rusty on what they were taught. That negates the certainty that specific LOTOT training is key to reducing accidents...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 10, 2011 7:38 AM    Report this comment

Hi Mark - Lets say that I have a Lycoming O-360 engine. 180HP that could be mounted on a Super Cub towing a glider. Or it could be the right engine on a Twin Comanche. Or it could be the only engine in a Cessna Cardinal. If this engine is so reliable that Specific LOTOT training and checking should not be required, do you then propose removing it from the Glider PTS (Super Cub towing a glider LOTOT) as well as the Multi engine PTS? (Engine failure during takeoff and Engine failure after liftoff) By your theory (thats the first Ive ever heard this suggested), engine failures of any kind are no so rare that they no longer make a blip on fatalities and should no longer be taught. Which is it? Do we train all pilots equally regardless of what airframe the engine is installed on with the assumption that it could fail at the worst possible time, or do we assume that we got this scenario whipped and remove it from all training? Pick one and tell the rest of us why LOTOT training is acceptable to you for the other two categories but not necessary for ASEL.
With all due respect, Dan Gryder

Posted by: Dan Gryder | June 10, 2011 8:32 AM    Report this comment

"but the reality is that most fatalities are due do people IGNORING what they were told to do OR being very rusty on what they were taught."

This doesn't follow. When carrier pilots deploy, they have to requalify. It's called recurrency. Under your theory, they should just "remember" what they were originally taught. Problem solved.

What Dan is saying is that the stimulus-response training isn't there to begin with and what I am saying is that recurrency is necessary for everyone. And those who think they need it the least may very well be the ones who need it the most.

The notion that pilots in stall accidents "ignore" what they were taught is equally non-sensical. In a panic stall scenario or any panic situation, there is unlikely to be a conscious decision to "ignore" anything. What's more likely to happen is no response at all or the wrong response. In these situations, you fall back on your lowest level of training--it needs to be a nearly automatic response in some scenarios. Not all.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 10, 2011 9:02 AM    Report this comment

All of this is well proven in many types of training--shooting, cycling, team sports--all sorts of stuff where a basic response forms the first action to higher level decisions later. As for LOTOT, you think it's too rare to even worry about. The obvious extension of that argument is to believe the reason it won't happen is because it hasn't happened to you.

But people with a higher level of survival instinct will want to think about it and have a response, because the consequences of low-altitude stall/spin are deadly. For the tiny amount of training effort Dan is talking about, the tradeoff seems worth it for people who don't want to sweep small risk factors under the rug.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 10, 2011 9:03 AM    Report this comment

I have followed this discussion since it started. Kudos to Dan Gryder. First for figuring out the missing element, and second for having the nads to beat it into the rest of us until the rest of us figure out what he's talking about. He is dead on the money with this one.

Posted by: Frank Peters | June 10, 2011 9:13 AM    Report this comment

Josh, while I agree that the pilot is ultimately responsible for everything, what about the practicalities? Where do you draw the line?

The carb float incident I mentioned is an actual event, not the one mentioned here. The unit came from the rebuild shop with the wrong float. Here's another: One of our contributors had an O-540 overhauled. He was about to take off on the first flight when the engine abruptly quit. Reason: one of the rod bolts wasn't torqued.

Another example from the 2008 stats: Engine fire in a twin. Reason: wrong O-ring installed on a fuel sending unit. It had gotten through several annuals that way.

So what is it reasonable to expect the pilot to do? With a fresh overhaul, should you disassemble the engine and check the torque settings on the rods? Checking the documentation seems reasonable, but it lacks the granularity to check for bolt tightening.

The FAA certifies A&Ps and IAs for a reason--so pilots can rely on their specialized skill sets. Trust but verify applies, which is why I uncowl every post-annual airplane I fly. But I don't think it realistic to breakdown the fuel unit and check the o-ring specs, nor necessarily check two dozen part numbers against the microfiche.

No easy answer to this.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 10, 2011 9:16 AM    Report this comment

"engine failures of any kind are no so rare that...should no longer be taught.

Dan, Engine failures ARE being taught for SEL, REALLY being taught for MEL. There is training. The only "theory" and assumptions is that different training will reduce future fatalities.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 10, 2011 9:19 AM    Report this comment

"the notion that pilots in stall accidents "ignore" what they were taught is equally non-sensical."

Paul, I did not say that. I said most fatalities are due do people "ignoring" what they were taught or just "rusty". As far as just stall accidents, those are usually at the end of a chain of already bad decisions. Bad preflight, rusty skills, ignoring W&B, etc. The STALL is commonly just another indication that they've already let the situation progress to being out-of-hand.

Example: Stall training and recovery is fine; but if a 10hr/yr PIC that's overloaded the aircraft on a summer day on a short strip with obstructions, then subsequent "stall" accident to avoid the high tension wires would not have been prevented by 5 minutes of LOTOT training...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 10, 2011 9:44 AM    Report this comment

I said most fatalities are due do people "ignoring" what they were taught or just "rusty".

Mark, that is why we have these discussions. So that people will be "refreshed" on what they were taught and see the value of recurrency so they will not, as you seem to, assume that everything is just hunky dory because nothing has happened to me yet.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 10, 2011 10:04 AM    Report this comment

"No easy answer to this" You're absolutely right. I just wanted to mention it because very few aircraft owners think about their ownership responsibilities at all.

Owners need to be very in-touch with the maintenance performed on their aircraft. It is a great idea to pull the cowling and look over the aircraft after an inspection. Also, make sure your shop is qualified to be working on the accessories they are signing off - I don't do carbs because I don't have a flow bench and the overhaul manual from Tempest is $1400/yr. It doesn't make economic sense for me to get qualified to do 3 carb overhauls a year.

One thing for certain, if there is a passenger fatality and it's blamed on maintenance, the owner will be scrutinized as well as the mechanic. If the owner overflew an AD, or failed to correct an unairworthy situation that develops after an inspection, it's the owner's responsibility. I see it all the time - IFR & transponder certs expired, ELT batteries due, AD's exceeded, improper and undocumented owner maintenance, illegal parts.

I'm not trying to scare anyone, and I'm not exaggerating. Get in touch with your maintenance! It's your butt up there! I'd suggest, pay for an hour of your A&P's or CFI's time to quiz them, buy one of the books on owner maintenance, or get into one of Mike Busch's seminars. You'll stay legal, be safer, save a ton of money in the long run, and be a much better pilot once you understand your aircraft.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 10, 2011 10:38 AM    Report this comment

Paul, people "like us" already do refresher training, discuss techniques, attend WINGS and local safety meetings, and even practice such things on own because we are curious and/or safety minded. we KNOW the value of being current and doing refresher training; that makes it darn tempting to tell others to be more like us.

Reality is that fuel an rentals are expensive, the pilot population is aging, and young people are busy. It's not "hunky dory" in the GA world because time/money is tight. That means JUSTIFICATION. So far, no one has produced hard data (cost/benefit). Of course every idea to improve safety is a good thing; just "how good' for "how much" has to be worked out.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 10, 2011 10:55 AM    Report this comment

Here's something to try with power at idle and only if wearing a parachute, and at a safe altitude:

At 90 KIAS, roll to 70-degrees of bank and pull 3 g. (3.8 g is the limit for a normal category aircraft). Don't try to maintain level flight, but use the lift vector to pull the airplane around the turn, while trading altitude for airspeed.

At 3.0 g and 90 KIAS, you should be able to turn 180 degrees in ~ 4.6 seconds, while the acceleration of gravity causes the airplane to fall ~ 340 ft.

If I lost an engine, and immediately lowered the nose to maintain airspeed, rolled to 70-75 degrees of bank and pulled 3.0 g, I should be able to reverse course in roughly 5 seconds, while losing about 350 ft.

I wouldn’t recommend this without lots of practice at altitude.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | June 10, 2011 2:05 PM    Report this comment


a) To state the obvious, this will only work if your level stall speed in this configuration is less than 52kt

b) I think you'll need to allow for some room to arrest the descent. Taking your 4.6 seconds as a given, if your rate of climb has fallen to zero by the time you unload the wings in the roll, and you stay at zero vertical "g" through the turn, your sink rate will be 8,832 fpm by the time you have reversed direction (32 fpsps x 4.6s = 147 fps = 8,832 fpm). (If you unload the wings while still going up at 800fpm, call it 8,000 fpm down.) That is close enough to 90kt vertically downward...

I look forward to your report on the experiment!

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | June 10, 2011 3:06 PM    Report this comment

On the topic of what good glider training does a power pilot, one thing it helped me do is analyze the prevailing winds and look for sources of lift and sink when flying power. Many of the SEL we all fly have marginal performance near gross and at high density altitude (common in Utah summers). If I can find a thermal to use, or the updraft side of a ridge, I can often double my rate of climb, or trade updraft for speed. Plus I think it does make you less fearful of an engine out landing since you do one every time in a glider. A little more composure in a crisis can often make the difference.

Posted by: Unknown | June 10, 2011 4:01 PM    Report this comment


Yes, I'm looking forward to trying, but I'd be surprised if the sink rate gets that high.

I think I'll first roll to 60-degrees and without trying to turn, let the airplane fall for 5 seconds and see how much altitude I lose and what sink rate develops. I'd need to find a parachute to try it at 90-degrees.

I do know that at 45-degrees of bank, I lose 800 ft turning 180-degrees at idle power. Doing practice forced landings, I like to work to a point at 800 ft AGL abeam where I want to touchdown. Then a curvilinear, descending 45-degree bank turn gets me right to the touchdown point.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | June 10, 2011 4:17 PM    Report this comment

Paul, the discussion seems to focus on technical factors for the turn around. I am interested in the decision making factors involved in turning vs a straight ahead landing (out landing in glider terminology).
I will begin by attempting to summarize the factors as I see them.

- type of aircraft, ie spin characteristics,, loading speeds, climb attitude vs glide attitude, climb performance
- environment, - winds, vertical air movement, wind sheer/wind gradient
- airfield, - runway length, obstacles at the end(s) of the runway, familiarity with the specific airfield
- training, - experience on type, specific training/practice in turnaround the maneuver
- currency/recency on type
- downwind landing considerations – experience, training, type experience
- altitude/energy/position from the runway at the time of failure,

More to follow about the decision to turn back.

Posted by: LARRY MORROW | June 11, 2011 7:40 PM    Report this comment

Josh--"The turbine blade would be virtually impoasible to blame the owner/pilot for, however the carb float scenario wasn't". In my carb float failure, the old-style copper float had been replaced by a "fibre float" required by FAA Airworthiness Directive. The fibre floats (the kind that sank) were found to take on fuel and sink. They were mandated to be removed by ANOTHER AD.

Somebody mentioned a maintenance-caused fire. I had two of those, too--a 414 with 15 hours on a new RAM engine--a fuel injector was cross-threaded and spraying fuel on the engine. Also an Aztec with 2 hours on a factory overhauled heater.

Do you see a common thread here? Almost all failures were on new engines or accessories. A possible new thread for Paul--post-maintenance test flights. I'm VERY leery of filing IFR with new engines or accessories--I always make post-maintenance check flights before departing on a trip--and I raise my IFR minimums for a while. Perhaps Paul could expound on his thoughts on post-maintenance flights.

Posted by: jim hanson | June 12, 2011 7:53 AM    Report this comment

As noted, I always do an exceptionally detailed preflight on an airplane coming out of annual. Worst I've had functionally is a dead CHT--disconnected wires. Found a set of pliers sitting on top of an engine once and an oil filter that wasn't saftied. Biggest surprise was an adjustable wrench that fell out from beneath the panel on climbout. Missed that one on preflight...

"learning that takes place outside of awareness."

That's another way to describe muscle memory responses and really the core of this discussion. Can you really teach it? You can, but maybe not to everyone in all situations.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 12, 2011 11:36 AM    Report this comment

"As noted, I always do an exceptionally detailed preflight on an airplane coming out of annual."


In the military, we do something called a Functional Check Flight (FCF) when an airplane comes out of either scheduled or unscheduled major maintenance such as engine changes, phase inspections, etc.

An FCF pilot (one of the more experienced and specially-trained pilots in the squadron) would fly the airplane's first flight following a specific test profile and check that all the systems were working to specs before the airplane could return to combat status.

The biggest in-flight emergency I've ever had was on a an FCF test flight when an engine exploded on takeoff as I brought it out of afterburner. One of the maintenance people had left a wrench in the compressor section of a J-79.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | June 12, 2011 4:44 PM    Report this comment


The tower started yelling over the radio, "Aircraft on takeoff, you're on fire. Aircraft on takeoff, you're on fire." Of course, I already suspected that because every warning light on the annunciator panel was on as well as the left engine fire light. I pulled the throttle for that engine to OFF, the warning went out, and I immediately circled back to land. Total flight time was about three minutes.

Fortunately, it was an F-4 with two engines. I later learned it cost about $350,000 to fix the engine that had exploded because of the wrench left in the engine compressor section -- a wrench that was impossible for me to see during the lengthy pre-flight inspection that is part of an FCF flight.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | June 12, 2011 4:52 PM    Report this comment

Jim - absolutely spot on with being very leery of any aircraft coming out of mx. I had one of the copper carb floats leave me without power once, stupid thing wore a hole in it and flooded out the engine. It wasn't my airplane, and wasn't an AD so not much I could do about prior compliance.
In your case, technically you operated an unairworthy aircraft due to that aircraft being in non-compliance with an AD. I know this is anal, and I certainly would hope any FAA or NTSB judge would throw it out, but I've heard stories to the contrary. All I'm saying is just CHECK and BE AWARE of what maintenance is being done and what needs to be done to your aircraft. And for heaven's sake, if an aircraft just comes out of maintenance, go fly it yourself for an hour before you put a passenger in it (or better yet, take the mechanic with you)

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 12, 2011 7:13 PM    Report this comment

"You don't know if you will panic or choke in a LOTOT situation unless it has happened to you."

Correct. That is the 3rd reason why such additional training cannot show any benefit over what's being currently taught . If one believes in risk assessment then one need real assessment of both the risk and the reaction. Unless there is a cost/benefit analysis done then it's not risk assessment; it's wishful thinking and "sounds good". Get real numbers or it's make believe.

It's much more important to tell new pilots to do a thorough preflight and that mechanics DO make mistakes. Flights after an annual are far more dangerous than the chances of LOTOT. Don't get me started of all the annuals I've had where my aircraft came out of the shop in an un-airworthy condition.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 13, 2011 8:05 AM    Report this comment

Friend of mine did a study once on the rates of engine failures. It's a very bi-modal distribution. Lots of failures in the first 100 hours or so SMOH, and again once you get beyond TBO. If your engine isn't making metal, compressions are good, and there's nothing else showing signs of needing a major, then based on the data he showed me you're safer to just keep on flying that engine than overhaul it just because it's reached TBO.

Posted by: Andrew Upson | June 13, 2011 4:38 PM    Report this comment

Josh--you must have missed this--"the old-style copper float had been replaced by a "fibre float" required by FAA Airworthiness Directive. The fibre floats (the kind that sank) were found to take on fuel and sink. They were mandated to be removed by ANOTHER AD. "

The aircraft was in full compliance with the AD--the fibre floats mandated by the AD were problematic and ended up being replaced AGAIN.

Posted by: jim hanson | June 18, 2011 4:12 PM    Report this comment

Andrew--Most of my engine failures have had about 500 hours on them.

Regarding running past TBO--yes, I'm much more comfortable flying a REGULARLY FLOWN engine past TBO than I am departing with a low-timer.

Regarding TBO itself--When I was learning to fly back in 1962, it was in a year-old Cessna 150. We were doing night flying, and the instructor warned me that "we don't want to get too far from the airport--after all, this engine is almost at TBO!"

The aircraft and engine had 750 hours TOTAL TIME on them. The TBO at the time was 800 hours--later revised to 1200 hours, 1500 hours, and 1800 hours. The point is, THE ENGINE didn't change, but our expectations and comfort level did.

TBOs are often extended by the SALES department in response to competition, rather than the ENGINEERING department.

Posted by: jim hanson | June 18, 2011 4:18 PM    Report this comment

I don't teach either, visual sight picture or airspeed for a turn back. If I don't have an AOA indicator on the plane and I loose power prior to turning crosswind my option is what I have in my visual field forward of the wings.

Posted by: Dirk Diggler | June 23, 2011 2:18 PM    Report this comment

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