Jump to content

# Engine failure turn back altitude

## Recommended Posts

One of the things I do every 2nd day or so is do a check of the many other aviation forums around the world to see if a topic of interest is raised there then maybe it is worth raising it here. This one has caught my eye:

We all know that if we experience an engine failure on take off that we DO NOT turn around and try and land back on the strip. An easy thing to forget as it is a natural instinct to do it.

I was wondering is there an altitude that would make it plausable to do it given "your" aircraft's glide rate etc. I would also presume though that the runway length, take off distance and wind speed would all play a part in it so a simple rule of say for discussion purpose, 600ft would not be the case in all instances. Can an altitude be defined to cover almost all instances and also if the altitude figure is to high then your position also comes into it i.e. straight out departure or a circuit departure etc.

Hope this will get our brains working

##### Share on other sites

My instructor had me demonstrate to myself exactly how much height I would need before considering a turn back.

Simply, at a safe altitude, note your alt reading and initiate a 180 degree turn with throttle closed. Make it as efficient as you can. Optimise as much as you want. You will still find what the very minimum height loss would be for a turn back if everything was ideal.

You can then try again simulating a climb out, then a power loss if you like - the height loss is likely to be greater - but you will probably already have scared yourself off trying to turn back at anything less than 600 feet.

I know I did.

Ross

##### Share on other sites

The interesting thing Ross is that say you are at 50ft at the end of the runway then a turn back would probably kill you, but say you were at 400ft at the end of the runway what then - you can see how the length of runway can also play a part which complicates the rule.

In the CT for example at say Shepparton I can be at 600ft, have an engine failure, just push the nose down and still land on the same runway without turning around BUT at Riddells - I would be running over the cliff on runway 20

Healthy discussion, thinks me!

##### Share on other sites

The "rule" is that straight ahead is the first option. If you have runway remaining, you don't have a problem. If you have a clear landing off runway, no problem.

The height issue is only to define the point up to which straight ahead (or thereabouts) is your only option.

##### Share on other sites

At the risk of over simplifying what is a very interesting question, the runway should not itself be a factor in the decision. In the event of an engine failure there is a procedure to follow, if it is an EFATO that procedure is to land within a 45deg angle of your heading, an EFATO ceases to be an EFATO after you commence your crosswind turn, which should not be at less than 300'. From that point it becomes a 'normal' engine failure, where you look 360deg around the aircraft and select the most suitable spot, (not forgetting to look directly below), in other words the runway should have no special place in that decision, it is just another possibility that should be assessed. I can see no circumstance where it would be safe to return to the runway while still on the runway heading within the circuit area, unless you are flying above legal circuit height within the circuit area. As an exercise, try making the threshold from mid-downwind at circuit height. Back when I was trained, we were taught to do PFL's all the way onto the active runway, from 2,000ft agl at 90deg to the mid-point of the runway, it was only possible if you were accurate and did not waste height or extend your circuit too much. Maybe I'm 'old school' but to me never turn back should mean NEVER.

##### Share on other sites

Turn-back.

If you are trying to gauge height loss from that determined by a 180 degree turn, you will be wrong. If you turn onto the reciprocal,.you will be paralleling the runway, but displaced the diameter of your turn from it..

You will have to turn further (say 30 degrees) to regain runway centreline, then align yourself with the runway centreline by turning the 30 degrees in the opposite direction, at the appropriate point. ( Draw it on a piece of paper ).

Fella's what you are discussing here should be done very cautiously, as a lot of people may read these comments and be influenced by them.

1 A turn- back is a dangerous manoeuver and kills even very experienced pilots. You should approach it as HARDLY EVER being an option you should even contemplate.

There are plenty of reasons to make this assertion.

There is NO safe height to turn back unless the aircraft has achieved a high angle of climb. If you have only a shallow angle of climb, you are too far away from the airport to make it back.

Sometimes a good climb angle is obtained by the fact that a strong headwind exists. If you turn back in these circumstances, you will land with a strong tailwind. Not much of an option really.

You would have to fly with absolute perfect judgement to pull it off even if it's theoretically achievable in some circumstances. I know it can be done, but let's leave it to the people who have cropduster type experience and who fly lots of hours near the ground, and absolutely know their aeroplane and its limits.

Most of the people I know of who have survived an unsuccessful ( insomuch as the aircraft failed to make it and crashed) turn-back episode, and most don't survive , did it for the worst of all reasons, They did it INSTINCTIVELY and have difficulty coming to grips with that fact even though they had been trained to do the opposite. Perhaps a good pre-takeoff assessment would have helped in these cases. N....

##### Share on other sites

When I did my BFR a few weeks ago the instructor made EFATO the main subject of the session with the main emphasis on when to turn back and when not to.

We did about 9 glide approaches from all kinds of altitudes and positions in the upwind and crosswind parts of the circuit, with a touch and go at the end of each one.

Now before this I probably wouldn't have considered turning back until approaching the downwind turn. Although I'm not sure how tempted I'd have been if it was real.

But I found that once the crosswind turn was commenced, there was enough room to get back to the runway and pull off a safe landing. That was much earlier than I expected.

Perhaps I've read so many of the "don't turn back after take off" stories that I got the message too well.

Or course this is specific to the type of aircraft, in my case the 182, and the crosswind turn may be too early for some aircraft to turn back.

This was one of the most intensive and enjoyable flying sessions I've had in a long time. But my point is that I no longer have to speculate, in the heat of an EFATO, when it's safe to turn back because I've practiced it.

So go out and practice, preferably with an instructor who's experienced on your type. It will be a very worthwhile exercise.

And like facthunter said, it you're still upwind it's not a 180 degree turn, it's more like a 230 followed by a 50. Which is why it doesn't work.

##### Share on other sites

Turn- back.

Flyer 40, let's make sure there is no confusion here . The situation I am describing is specifically the climb-out, where the aerodrome is behind the aeroplane and you are climbing away from it, essentially tracking on the extended centreline ,or nearly so.. This has always been the concept as far as I am aware. You are talking about reaching the aerodrome from various points in the circuit, which is another matter. Nev.. ..

##### Share on other sites

I think we're saying the same thing. My point in response to Ian's original question about turn back altitude was that for me in the 182, there's no turning back until an altitude equivalent to that at which the crosswind turn has commenced.

##### Share on other sites

It's great to have good ol' Nev here to keep us on the straight and narrow - and bring us back to earth as in this case of an engine failure

##### Share on other sites

I'm really concerned about this conversation. I'm really concerned because no matter how often you drill for this you will be gobsmacked when it happens. Primacy then becomes critically important. What you learn first is what you will play out.

I first learned to fly on winch launch gliders. I regularly had cable breaks and I can and do still repeat the mantra to myself: "In the event of a cable break lower the nose, if you can land ahead do so". I remember one day asking my instructor "what if you can't land ahead?" He said "you're dead".

Each time I have been given an EFATO by an RAA instructor they have been startled by my reflex response to bang the nose down, get the glide established and figure a paddock within 30 degrees either side, if not the runway. I cannot help my response and it requires no thought. That's primacy.

In this situation you must not be engaged in decision making. Decision making will kill you. That's one of the reasons I'm so concerned with this discussion.

Another reason is that if you are unwise enough to turn back you will likely stuff up the turn, pull a bit hard...because you just need to make that 210 or 220 degrees and get back and then bang you've stalled rolled under and hit the deck, killing yourself.

Mike Valentine, who Ian mentioned in another thread recently, spent some time demonstrating the repeatability of that outcome. As I understand it he demonstrated that stall/spin was a very reliable outcome. Anecdotal evidence is that the tiny proportion of people who do stall spin and miraculously survive almost unanimously don't know what happened to them!

I am one hundred percent with Chris on the pre-takeoff personal brief. But for me it is simply a review and reinforcement of where ahead I'm going to go. On initial climbout and most of crosswind I am never coming back. On downwind I start to think about it.

A couple of weeks ago I had half an hour of the most beautiful and enjoyable practice that I've had in ages. I put an instructor into the RH seat for ballast and about 40 minutes before dark we went off doing 500 foot AGL circuits and glide approaches. We needed to be well downwind before we could reliably get back in using normal circuit spacing. Even then we were generally rolling wings level as we prepared for the flare. A gentle touch and a keen sense of judgement as we all know is a great help in pulling it off.

Applying the "daughter test" to this thread I am also concerned. Her life may well depend on the primacy of what she has learned about EFATO. Some of the stuff in this thread has the potential to confuse and therefore to kill her.

Great topic.

Kind regards

Mike

##### Share on other sites

On this forum in another thread I describe an engine failure shortly after take off in my trike, as soon as I turned crosswind following a shallow climb out.

Obviously I made it, but the point for me was that I like to think Im reasonably intelligent and wouldn’t ever INSTICTIVELY turn back in a real EFATO situation. My experience now tells me that unless I consistently puts steps in place to ensure I wont, I probably will.

The landing I made after my failure ended up being across the cross strip because I didn’t have the height or momentum to line up with the centre line of the runway I took off from and yet I had already completed, under power, 90 degrees of the turn. The decision to actual land across the cross strip and to turn towards the field was instinctual and was not the result of a predetermined plan.

So in reality I only have Murphy to thank, for choosing to look the other way for that mistake.

I would also point out that your options should be continuously evaluated (this being before the EFATO). Don’t rigidly choose to land straight ahead if there is a survivable option, for you config and height, 60degrees to the right, for example. The only way you'll know if your config and height will allow that solution is to fully know your aircrafts characteristics and your own skill and experience (real ability, not the testosterone enhance perception, perhaps best judged by an instructor).

There are a couple of things that we can all do to lift our likelihood of a good outcome from an EFATO. Simple things that we are all taught yet as time goes by the odd shortcut might slip into standard operations.

1) Use the entire length of the runway. Landing straight ahead is much more likely if you still have a good chunk of runway in front. An intersection departure is a gamble. Know that and treat it as the risky thing that it is.

2) Always use the most wind appropriate runway. Same reasoning as 1) with the added benefit that any undesired contact with the ground will see the necessary energy that has to be dissipated being much less.

3) Know your best rate of climb and use it. In an EFATO situation only altitude below you is of use. In my case had I been doing that I may well have had the luxury of the runway length rather than the cross-strips width.

The other observation I would make from my experience is that there is no time to think alternates through. The time interval between the cough and getting out of the cockpit will likely seem like mere seconds to you after the event, after all, your 1st job is to fly the plane and that requires brain capacity that can’t be diverted to options analysis. My experience also showed that there wasn’t time to panic or to contemplate the afterlife, that all occurred after the event!

Andy

##### Share on other sites

Some of the stuff in this thread has the potential to confuse and therefore to kill her.

And thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the problem with the forums, in here we are all talking as equals yet from an experience perspective we are probably quite different.

As a child we are taught that a hot kettle will burn. No logic is provided as to why that is, or any of the science behind it. The message and its simplicity is appropriate for our life experience at that point in time. As we grow up more detail can be provided which will enhance our understanding of why it is so, and allow us to safely touch a hot kettle in latter life in a way that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do us any harm. The original simplistic message is still valid, but an experienced adult generally wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be able to take just that message without asking questions.

I think the forums are the same. Its good to question and discuss these things. If we do so but constrain ourselves to just the basic "kettles burn" because there might be a child among us then I'd suggest in a relatively short time the adults will have drifted away to other things because the necessary intellectual stimulation wont be present.

Andy

##### Share on other sites

As a child we are taught that a hot kettle will burn. No logic is provided as to why that is, or any of the science behind it. The message and its simplicity is appropriate for our life experience at that point in time. As we grow up more detail can be provided which will enhance our understanding of why it is so, and allow us to safely touch a hot kettle in latter life in a way that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do us any harm. The original simplistic message is still valid, but an experienced adult generally wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be able to take just that message without asking questions.

I think the forums are the same. Its good to question and discuss these things. If we do so but constrain ourselves to just the basic "kettles burn" because there might be a child among us then I'd suggest in a relatively short time the adults will have drifted away to other things because the necessary intellectual stimulation wont be present.

Andy

Hi Andy,

I don't disagree with you at all, I think that this is a good topic. But we also need to take care. I don't think this is confined to children either. You said in your previous post:

"The other observation I would make from my experience is that there is no time to think alternates through. The time interval between the cough and getting out of the cockpit will likely seem like mere seconds to you after the event, after all, your 1st job is to fly the plane and that requires brain capacity that canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be diverted to options analysis. My experience also showed that there wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t time to panic or to contemplate the afterlife, that all occurred after the event!"

I heartily agree with that. That;s primacy at work. So my concern was not that we shouldn't discuss this but that children (as we all are in the air for the whole of our careers:;)3:) do not need to be confused. There is no time to do calculations, what ifs and the like. Rather we are doing, in an instinctive way, what we are (I hope) trained to do. That's why we train so often.

From that point of view the "daughter test" is one that I still apply to myself: "What is the clear and unequivocal message that needs to be buried in the most primitive parts of Pelorus's brain when things get warm because the fan's stopped?"

Kind regards

Mike

##### Share on other sites

Perhaps we shoudl extend this discussion to private strips as well. I'm sure there are more than a couple of recreational pilots on this forum who, like myself, do most of their operations out of private airstrips which don't provide all the relative luxuries of a proper town/city airport.

In my own case I've already identified likely escape paths and paddocks I should be able to reach in an EFATO, reasonably confident that the ground there is smooth enough, hard enough and long enough for me to put down in an emergency without being flipped over, dug in or run out of space. Departure circuit is also well established as a right hand circuit which provides the quickest route to much larger, open, flat paddocks.

I still don't know, and probably won't until it actualy happens, whether I would persist with landing into a run-off area or if I would pull the GRS handle.

I'm just wondering, how many private strip operaters go through these preparatory processes?

Rgds,

Glen

##### Share on other sites

I tried it in the Jab from 280ft after takeoff from my 1,000 metre bitumen runway. Whilst I had time to build speed to 100 knots indicated and I was able to turn back safely and land in te reciprocal direction, there were far too many variables for me to consider actually trying this in the event of a failure. Turning on to crosswind at 700 ft, yeah sure I'd consider trying it but any less could end in disaster, particularly in a solid wind. It's an interesting exercise practicing the turnback, however probably not best practice and only something to do when you can be sure that nobody is around. When I was trying it, I had a ground party with radio watching.

##### Share on other sites

Very closely related to this discussion is a good article about the value of practicing your EPs.

You'll have to register to read I think but it's free and good value.

Regards

Mike

##### Share on other sites

I am curious as to how many have experienced a real EFATO and what transpired? Those who have will know that when it does happen you will not be expecting it, that it takes long moments to accept that it really is happening to YOU, that no matter how much you have trained and thought about it, it will never be as you imagined it, and that it is instinctive action born of deeply imprinted training that makes the difference between a successful forced landing and an accident. If you think you will have the time or spare mental capacity to contemplate 'improving' on that imprinted training, you are going to get a rude shock.

##### Share on other sites

Training.

You don't have any time to do anything but what should have been correctly trained into you, or briefed. A TURN into WIND IS A GOOD IDEA if YOU ARE UNDER CROSSWIND CONDITIONS ( topography permitting). If you are indecisive or take a while to act you will be relying on an exceptional amount of LUCK. Nev....

##### Share on other sites

I have been giving this a go with a 172 in (now don't laugh) Microsoft Flight Sim. Flight Sim is fairly accurate and if not exact it is pretty close to it.

There have been some interesting results but needless to say the safest bet is ALWAYS going to be to go forward within left/right 30deg but it is not always the best option. At Riddells there is another strip that runs parallel with 20 - a privately owned strip. There is also a huge canyon right in front of you so if you were only say 200ft then you would go straight down into the canyon - any probably never heard of again. If you were say 600 to 800 AGL you may just, but only just glide over the canyon.

I think I might move to Wallan

##### Share on other sites

Went for a fly on Wednesday and took Slartibartfast's (Ross) advice to practice EFATO's....As stated earlier, different aircraft different results...so know your aircraft well.

Fisher MK1 912 (Drifter type with 912)

Steep climbs 1400 fpm, at 2900ft say 3000ft to allow for ASI lag, into 20kt headwind....cut power sharply, wait a second to simulate the shock value, nose sharply down pinning best glide attitude mark on canopy (yes, got one of those) to the horizon, steep coordinated 360 degree turns both left and right, checking ASI for best glide, complete turn, level out, and check height loss....

All steep turns averaged 500 ft loss for the full 360 degree turn in air that was neither rising or falling (thermals).....not too bad for a high drag aircraft.

I've read somewhere that turns with reduced or no power should be more shallow so as to minimise height loss.....not so

Same circumstances as above, nice 30 degree turn, average height loss 700 ft.

Am I planning 360 degree turns EFATO ? No.

Once again..different aircraft different results.

Thanks Ian, Ross, and other contributors to this discussion ...another reason why these forums are invaluable.

Cheers

JL

##### Share on other sites

Am I planning 360 degree turns EFATO ? No.

Ok, just for the sake of discussion, lets say that your EFATO is not a total engine failure, what procedure do you adopt then? Is there a recommended procedure? I ask this question from more than just curiosity, this happened to me back in 1989 when I only had 404 hours under my belt, 9 on type, at less than 250' on climb out. I had the choice of a normal EFATO procedure or a variation thereon. I chose the variation, and to this day do not know if I was correct to do so, as I then flew into a 11Kv power line. I include below the official report of the incident for your delectation and discussion. What would you have done?

No: 10189 Ref: EWIG89108102 Category: lc

Aircraft Type and Registration: Stolp Starduster Too SA300, G-BPKS

No & Type of Engines: 1 Lycoming IO-360-B1A piston engine

Year of Manufacture: 1980

Date and Time (UTC): August 1989 at 1653 hrs

Location: Sywell Airfield, Northampton

Type of Flight: Training Reinforcement

Persons on Board: Crew -l Passengers –None

Injuries: Crew - None Passengers –N/A

Nature of Damage: Propeller blades, right lower mainplane, right aileron slave strut, and flying wires damaged.

Commander's License: Private Pilot's License

Commander's Age: 40 years

Commander's Total Flying Experience: 404 hours (of which 9 were on type)

Information Source: Aircraft Accident Report Form submitted by the pilot and AAIB inquiries

The pilot flew in the Sywell local area for 35 minutes, practicing slow flying, stalls and forced landing descents, before returning to Sywell Airfield to conduct touch-and-go landings on Runway 25. No problems were encountered on the flight until climbing out from the fourth touch-and-go. At 200-250 feet agl major power loss was experienced. This occurred just as the pilot slightly coarsened the propeller pitch, a normal procedure on this aircraft to prevent the engine from over speeding. Reselection of full fine pitch did not cause the engine speed to increase, and the aircraft began descending at around 500 feet/minute.

The pilot selected two fields, separated by a thin hedge, for a forced landing, transmitted a Mayday RT call and attempted to find the cause of the problem. He found that by gently opening the throttle from closed he could obtain very short bursts of almost full power. The aircraft was leveled at around 25 feet agl, at which point there was a flash and a violent yaw to the right and the pilot realised that the aircraft had struck a power cable that he had not sighted. This proved to be a single 11 kVpower line whose failure caused electrical power supply failure on the airfield and prevented the control tower from receiving the latter part of the Mayday.

It proved possible for the aircraft to continue flying, very low, using short bursts of power obtained by gently working the throttle, and the aircraft made a successful emergency landing on the crosswind Runway 33, with no further damage.

Subsequent checks showed that the engine behaved normally until the throttle was opened beyond the1700-1800 rpm setting. At this point the engine misfired and died to a rough idle. It was found that the flexible (SCAT) hose connecting the air cleaner to the engine had detached from the air cleaner.. The hose consisted of a single fabric tube,approximately 2 feet long, with a spiralled internal wire to maintain the circular section of the hose when internal pressure was less than external pressure. The wire was stabilised by a string wound tightly around the outside of the hose between the wire spirals. A number of turns of the wire at the engine injector system end of the hose had been deformed, apparently during hose fitment, and were found partially displaced from their normal position between successive turns of the external string. It was reported that this damage was not apparent when the hose was attached normally. However, tests after the accident showed that with the air cleaner end of the hose detached and allowed to drop down in the engine bay, the damaged portion of hose twisted and partially collapsed, causing severe throttling of the airflow to the engine. In this condition the engine symptoms leading to the accident were duplicated. With the hose in a normal condition the engine ran normally.

Given its close proximity to the airfield, it was recommended that the 11kV single strand power cable struck by the aircraft be fitted with two or more conspicuity markers, as it proved very difficult to see, even from close proximity on the ground. This was exacerbated by the fact that two of the nearest three adjacent support poles are hidden amongst trees.

##### Share on other sites

Different aircraft different results indeed - had a session of EFATO and Forced Landing (engine out) practice at Goulburn a few weeks ago in the CT4, from these training experiences and the very bold statements made in the flight and training manuals I am in no doubt that any deviation from the prescribed emergency procedure for any situation will end in a crumpled orange and white mess.

The glide speed in the CT4 is 80kts which will give a 'glide' (if it can be called that) with a descent rate of around 1000fpm. This compares with our last aircraft (Sportstar) which was 55kts/400fpm - there's now a lot less time to think about things in a power out situation!

EFATO and glide approach training in the Sportstar was comparitively comfortable given the low airspeed, descent rate and aircraft attitude. The CT4 is the complete opposite, the attitude to maintain 80kts without power requires about 25-30 degree nose down (the windscreen is effectively full of ground)...this sight has a reasonable psychological impact in a 'power out' emergency situation and takes a little getting used to.

Regarding JL's point about "turns with reduced or no power should be more shallow to minimise height loss" I've not heard that one. The normal teachings relate to angle of bank and it's impact on stall speed i.e. greater angle of bank = greater stall speed and turns should be limited to 60 degree AOB in a power out situation.

##### Share on other sites

EFATO

Hi Guys, When you practice this be aware there is a MAJOR difference in performance with the engine in "idle" mode and a real engine stop mode. There is also a significant drag penalty if the prop is windmilling instead of stopped dead. If you think practice in idle mode will give you an indication of performance in stopped mode you are mistaken. Get a good instructor to show you performance in a real stopped mode.

JMcK

##### Share on other sites

Thank you JMcK,

You are spot on..

The late Mike Valentine demonstrated to me just how quickly the ground could rise to meet an aircraft (Drifter) engine out....practise at idle is certianly more casual than complete silence.

JL

## Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

## Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

## Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
• Create New...