July 2009 Issue

Power-Off Approaches

Managing your remaining energy for the no-go-around arrival—so you can walk away.

Takeoffs, as a friend and CFI likes to inform her students, are optional. Landings, however, are mandatory. Within the soaring community, the line was "Get one free landing with every takeoff!" And therein is the most sobering aspect of facing a power-off landing: the reality the old stand-by go-around option we enjoy for other situations is eliminated. So while making all the usual efforts to restart an engine after it stops, the savvy pilot must simultaneously make a quick assessment of available options—and adjust to flying the aircraft as a glider. That means trimming for best glide while working the restart prospects and looking for the best suitable landing area available. And you must take these steps quickly: Altitude equals time to touchdown; the lower the failure altitude the less the time available, and the smaller is the radius of territory you have to consider. Gravity will prevail; your job is to make the arrival survivable, maybe even a great landing that leaves the airplane ready to fly again—once the engine problem is fixed, of course. Ultimately, an engine failure in a single—or, say, flameout of both engines after flying through a flock of birds—presents a situation demanding the best of your stick-and-rudder skills along with all your top judgment and experience.

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