Only afterward did I get the shakes, probably as the adrenaline flow subsided and my metabolism returned to normal. The event in question involved a partial engine failure, at altitude, within sight of some long, beautiful runways.
The first sign of trouble also was the last one: a sudden failure of something producing a rough-running engine. No possible combination of engine-control settings could smooth it out. The engine monitor was of no real help, except to confirm I had a sick engine. Since this bird had only one, we were going to land. Soon. It didn’t take much effort to spot the best landing area within range: The former military base’s concrete runways were hard to miss against the darker terrain.
But how to get there? I had a bunch of altitude and wasn’t about to pull off all the remaining power and dive for the nearest runway numbers. Doing so would have made things much worse. Instead, I re-trimmed to slow down and maintain altitude until I got closer and felt I could glide to a runway if the engine totally failed.
On reaching that point, I gingerly reduced what power remained and retrimmed again for the airplane’s best engine-out glide speed. If the sucker quit now, I had it made, but didn’t want to pull off all the power until I was over the runway. Options.
Maneuvering to the downwind, I was several thousand feet high. Per my engine-out training and familiarity with this airplane, I wanted to be about 1500 feet agl at my so-called “key” point, abeam the numbers on the downwind. Two 360-degree descending turns worked out just about right. I maintained speed and power, but dropped the gear to initiate a descent. I stayed close to the runway throughout, ensuring we could glide the rest of the way after a complete engine failure.
I didn’t add flaps or touch the power again until I was over the numbers: flaps fully down, power completely off. I touched down about a third of the way down the runway. The engine was still running, and I taxied to the ramp.
Throughout it all, I did just as I was trained. You will, too.
A Special Note
If you’ve ever wanted to see something you wrote appear with your name on it in an aviation magazine, here’s your chance. Each month, this space is devoted to giving readers the opportunity to share with other pilots something they’ve learned about flying aircraft. We’ll always assure anonymity if you want it, but we’ll be happy to put your name on it, also.
Check the instructions by clicking the “Learning Experiences” link below, then write up what happened, how you dealt with it and what you learned. Be sure to let us know if we can use your name!