Losing an engine

When I was a young buck taking my first couple of flight lessons here in the States, I also had a young brand-new flight instructor. I was pretty much her first student for a stuck-wing private pilot rating. One day while practicing traffic patterns at the quaint airport of Santa Paula, CA (KSZP) she decides to give me an engine failure. We were on downwind circa mid-field when she pulled the throttle back to idle and asked “Now what are you gonna do?”.
But the thing was, we had never even discussed practicing this emergency maneuver before and I didn’t really know yet it existed. It makes sense after the fact that, of course, you would practice a scenario in a single engine aircraft that deals if said only engine suddenly wasn’t working. But being this young fresh face just enjoying flying through the air in a prop plane for the second or third time the question surprised me.

So, while diligently trying to maintain my airspeed (poorly) I said, “Well, that’s an easy fix!” and shoved the throttle right back in. We were once again on our way around the pattern, yet it was eerily quiet aside from the engine purring once again. As I look over, I see her shaking her head not sure of she should laugh or be mad. “That’s not what I was getting at” came from the right seat and once again the engine went to idle. This time, with this “Ah! I see!” look on my face I set myself up for a power off landing. At this point it was pretty easy already since we pretty much had arrived at our base turn anyways. “That’s right, this is a SIMULATED engine failure” she said “I guess we should brief this next time, huh?!”.

We both learned something that day. I learned how to do a simulated engine failure and she learned to brief her slow yet crafty students a little better before each lesson. And later when I had my own students, I would always tell them before the flight “You might lose an engine during this lesson, so be ready.”

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3 comments on “Losing an engine
  1. karel a.j. adams says:

    Over here, whenever tested by an examiner and often even by an instructor, one simply KNOWS power will be cut sooner or later. Don’t know when, neither how, though. When I qualified for my license, the examiner cut both magnetos when we were just one metre high on take off – so I pulled back on the stick quite gently, settled on the ground somehow and rolled aside on the last remaining kinetic energy – which got me a rewarding smile. Rest of test was routine 🙂

  2. Keith says:

    You know, he does have a point. I mean, engine out is one thing. Engine falling off or otherwise exiting an airframe? That, that there is a whole other level. I know what I’d do. I’d be hoping I wore my brown pants.

  3. L says:

    Agree with Keith. “Losing” an engine is a bad misnomer in aviation. On smaller aircraft, it normally means certain death since the CG will shift so far aft, the elevator won’t be able to compensate and the plane won’t be able to sustain fwd flight.

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