September 2008 Issue

Job One

When your single’s engine fails shortly after takeoff, you’ve got one chance to get the next landing right.

One of a pilot’s most dreaded scenarios—beyond, perhaps, the mid-air collision—is an engine failure shortly after takeoff. Even multi-engine pilots aren’t immune, since the pilot of the typical light twin at gross weight and little altitude often has little from which to choose—except exactly where the NTSB investigation will begin. In a single, at least, when the engine fails shortly after takeoff—for whatever reason—we know what’s going to happen. We also know to maintain control of the airplane, choose the most suitable off-field landing site and do everything we can to avoid obstacles. Of these maxims, maintaining control is always the most important and, depending on the terrain, sometimes the easiest to ensure. Over the years, much research and actual accidents have proven the likelihood of surviving such an event is much greater if the airplane touches down at minimum speed, in a slightly nose-high attitude and with its wings level. In other words, under control. Or, as legend R.A. "Bob" Hoover has been quoted, "If you’re faced with a forced landing, fly the thing as far into the crash as possible."

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