Engine Failure on Takeoff

by Josh on May 13, 2012

An engine failure is a pilots worst nightmare, but that’s why we train for them right? But an engine failure on takeoff is a whole different ballgame. With an ordinary engine failure, you would normally have a couple of thousand feet to play with, but on takeoff when you’re so low and so slow there are very few options. Here I am going to teach you about how to deal with an engine failure on takeoff.

The impossible turn. What is the impossible turn? Well it is when you have just taken off and are very low and attempt turn 180 degrees back to the runway you just took off from and land safely. There is a good reason why they call it the impossible turn. Not many people have successfully completed it under 1000 ft safely. So my rule of thumb is that if you do have an engine failure on takeoff, do not attempt the impossible turn under 1000 ft because there is a very good chance you will not make it. The most you are going to want to turn under 1000 ft is 30 degrees to the left or right. Going straight ahead and attempting to land on some trees is better than trying the impossible turn, stalling at 400 ft, and then falling to the ground like a rock. Every time I takeoff or land I am always scanning for a safe place to land if the engine quit right now.

Above 1000 ft, you might be able to accomplish the impossible turn safely, but it all depends on the winds, traffic and weight. Avoid gear and flaps until you know you have your landing area made. Remember you are the pilot in command and you have to make the decision best for you at the time. I personally would take a little more risk by myself than if I had passengers or family onboard. The best thing to do though is to Practice, Practice, and Practice! It can only benefit you and possibly save your life one day.

Remember, if you do have an engine failure on takeoff one day, do not attempt the impossible turn below 1000 ft and only turn 30 degrees to the left or right. Even if your CFI doesn’t require you to practice engine failure on takeoff techniques, mention it to them the next time you fly because remember it can only make you a safer more confident pilot!

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