Practicing engine failures

Mixtures, props, throttles – full forward! Flaps up, gear up, boost pumps. Identify, verify, secure…
Everybody remember their engine failure training?
These engines sure like to “fail” every year during flight reviews and currency checks, don’t they?!

Is it just me, or does it seem like at Roost-Air, they seem to fail year-round for a variety of reasons, one of them being “discussed” in the second panel? Has anyone in here ever had an actual engine failure? I’m sure those make for good stories.

Here is my story:
I got to be part of an engine failure when I was a young mechanic on a test flight actually. We were just taking off, climbing through roughly 400 feet when the left engine failed on a Cessna 414. I don’t remember what exactly caused it, but it had something to do with the turbo and the ducting that caused the engine to roll back to idle and stay there. We were working on an entirely different issue at the time, that required a test flight, and I was tagging along to write down some numbers, and…well… to be in the air, of course.
The pilot, a high time ex-navy guy, reacted immediately, and correctly, and it took both of us to stand on the right pedal to keep the thing straight initially. He brought us around to downwind to land it back where we started. I remember using both of my feet and him yelling to not take my foot off the pedal. We made it, more or less sticking to the standard pattern, followed by a smooth landing that felt like any other. He then just jumped out, calmly said “yeah, you need to fix that”, and just walked back into his office.
It didn’t hit me how critical the whole situation actually was until many years later, when I did my multi engine training. Losing the critical engine, on take-off, in a Cessna 414, is considered one of the worst-case scenarios in light twin propeller aircraft flying. I guess, ignorance was bliss in my case.
But ever since my own multi training, I have always wondered if my pilot that day didn’t just walk calmly back to the office, closed the door, and then poured himself the biggest glass of scotch he ever had. I would have….


Tagged with: , , , , ,
9 comments on “Practicing engine failures
  1. Keith Gill says:

    Oh, I’ve had a few. 😉

  2. Fbs says:

    Well, next is dead foot dead engine, gently retard the throttle of the failed engine to make sure you have identified the right one, and then feather and shut fuel off on the dead engine. Now, find the nearest suitable airport to land before the other engine also quits

    Never had a real engine failure, and not in a hurry that it happens

  3. J Segal says:

    Won’t say how many for myself – call it a superstition, but not many – but of the people who are willing to talk about it, I know some guys who never had an engine fail in their careers. A fair number seemed to average 2-3. I knew one who had 6.

    The fun ones are the partial-power-on-takeoff stories, like yours. The best one I’ve got by far was taking off at night in a plane that had no good performance to start with; i.e. like how a stock J3 at full load in summer would act. So not a shock that it had a poor climb rate, but should have been plenty. Airport was just above sea level, and the top of the ridgeline and its tree-line was 80′ above that and a mile away. Didn’t expect that I’d eventually have to maneuver at Vx (and not a knot above or below) to clear a 20′ dip in the tree-line, and don’t ask how close the trees got, but they got close enough that it was impossible to pitch over to build any more speed without risking hitting them. (Rising terrain. We hear about it in the mountains all the time. Who knew I’d have to worry about it in lightly hilly country?) Had a bad cylinder; and by the time I realized it, it was too late to make a good choice, just the best of a few bad ones, but I got lucky. Some of the longest 30-45 seconds of my life. I’ll simplify and summarize the ILAFFT part by saying to fly as far into the crash as you can…by doing so, maybe you won’t.

    The insult to injury was that because it was late, the local places were closed for the night, so scotch was out of the question.

    [On a related note, and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong – you’ll never know exactly how you’ll react until it happens to you for real. Training improves the odds substantially, but there’s no substitute for good discipline.]

    On the other hand, I know one head-scratcher, too. I knew one student who started running the engine failure checklist in a half-panic. We had just shut down on the ramp after a flight…

  4. Bernd says:

    Low time PPL with just under 300 hours here, and never had an actual engine failure in flight.

    Once or twice I had to deal with carb ice and only recognised it after a while, but still early enough. Other than that, I once got our little Euro-LSA (Evektor SportStar Max) grounded, because it failed the mag check. The little Rotax lost some 800 rpm on the left mag (up to 300 is allowed), and then I got berated by (few) other pilots for entering it in the logbook (after checking the obvious: spark plug sockets, etc.), because now it required a certified inspector to return it to airworthy status. I still feel I did the right thing, as did most other pilots in our club.

    Here’s also a question to more experienced pilots: the mag check is to be done at 4000 rpm. Some pilots claimed that when it fails at 3000 rpm, but is fine at 4000 rpm, you can still go flying. Would you?

    (I wouldn’t.)

  5. Mo Davies says:

    I regularly flew an early Jabiru engined Microlight from a marginal length field. It got to the state where I just refused to do a go-around no matter how bad the landing was going to be. Any opening of the throttle resulted in a stopped engine. That did no end of good for my circuit planning skills. The engine only ever stopped in the circuit, despite my descending several thousand feet at other, safer levels to test the problem. One just could not apply power enough to warm the Carb because a descent to land was then impossible. Talk about trying to “square the circle!” Eventually we fitted an electric Carb heat in addition to the engine sump oil which was supposed to apply Carb heating, and which failed to work on low revs. After that landings became somewhat less interesting. Somebody else eventually wrecked the aircraft. He turned the carb heat off in flight “to save the battery”!!
    He restarted the engine three times within the circuit, but the fourth one got him, and even then he did not think to turn on the electric heater.

  6. Dom says:

    I had the turbo fail on take-off in the number 2 engine of a Seneca. It happened early enough that we got the plane stopped on the runway.
    I also had a mag fail in cruise while flying a 182. I was passing by an airport, so I pointed at it, and told my passenger we were landing there. He didn’t see the airport, but thought I was pointing at the lake. He was pretty scared for a moment until he saw the runway.
    My scariest emergency was an electrical fire while in bad weather. That’s when I learned that I tend to freeze up in an emergency. Good to know.

  7. Karel A.J. ADAMS says:

    I heard (quite informally of course) that the average is one engine failure per 10.000 hours of flight (ten thousand, yes). And indeed, one most famous veteran pilot in my area had some 40.000 hours logged, and had seen 4 engine failures – all brilliantly handled, and well survived, of course.

    So the lower one remains below that magical figure of 10.000 hours, in the total flying career, the better one’s chances of never facing engine failure.

  8. ThisGuy says:

    Never had an engine failure in flight, but did have a few cable breaks. Nothing spectacular as those are about as routine as one can get with an “emergency” situation.

    The more interesting experience was my canopy opening mid flight. Was in a DG-300 after about an hour and a half of flying at 1400 meters or so when I decided to return to the airfield and practice my sideslips in this plane as I did so. I put her into a slip and just as I get it nice and settled I hear a strange WHOOOSSSSSHHHHhhhhhhhhhh. Next thing I notice is my canopy taking off away from me and twisting in the airstream. I can still clearly remember thinking: “If that canopy mount breaks it’s going to come straight back into my face, knock me unconscious and I’ll die as the plane drops to the ground uncontrolled”. I managed to grab the canopy, pull it more or less closed and land the plane, but those few minutes between that happening and the plane being on the ground felt like an eternity. That much adrenaline in your system certainly does interesting things to your memory and body. I definitely needed a while to “collect myself” after that.

  9. ThisGuy says:

    Just noticed I apparently accidentally clipped out a bit at the start of my story above..

    I’ve never experienced an engine failure in flight, since I fly gliders and typically leave the fuel to noise converter on the ground.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *