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ATSB campaign - training for partial engine failure

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This article can be found on the RecFlying site under News from both the ABC and ATSB




ATSB launches campaign to prevent deaths from plane power loss in midair


Many pilots lack training about the deadly risks of midair power loss in small planes, the national transport safety investigator has warned.




The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has launched an education campaign about partial power loss in single-engine aircraft, which caused the death of nine people between 2000 and 2010.




In contrast, total power failure in those planes did not cause any deaths during the same period.




The ATSBhas found that the high number of deaths could be partly explained by insufficient training and a lack of pilot preparation and planning.




The causes of partial power loss in midair include lack of fuel and problems with plane systems, including spark plugs, pre-ignition and the carburettor.




The ATSB has released an online video and booklet reinforcing the need for pre-flight checks and contingency plans.




ATSB research manager Stuart Godley said a partial loss of power could be more problematic for a pilot than a full power loss.




"The dangers are that compared to a complete power loss there are a lot more complicated," he said.




"They give the pilot a lot more decisions to make and it's that sort of decision making, and the fact that they are often not practiced, (that) makes it more dangerous."




Partial power loss 'not specifically trained for'


Dr Godley said pilots and flight instructors should take note of the the high number of deaths and serious injuries that resulted from partial power loss.




"Historically, the simulated total loss of power and subsequent practice forced landing has been the core of a pilot's emergency training," he said.




"However our accident data shows that for single aircraft, a partial power loss during and after takeoff is three times more likely to occur than a complete engine failure.






Video: Australian Transport Safety Bureau's Youtube video about partial power loss after take-off.






"It's not something specifically trained for, but the other thing is there's lots and lots variations of a partial power loss, everything from a nearly full power loss to nearly full power being available.




"A pre-flight briefing for both a complete engine failure and partial power loss is the key to a pilot maintaining control of the aircraft."



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The link to the ATSB publications with downloadable booklet (7MB) and video:





"This ATSB booklet aims to increase awareness among flying instructors and pilots of the issues relating to partial power loss after takeoff in single-engine aircraft. Accident investigations have shown that a significant number of occurrences result in fatalities or serious injury due to the aircraft stalling and subsequent loss of control resulting in a collision with the ground or water."



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From the ATSB Factsheet:-




How to manage partial power loss after takeoff in a single-engine aircraft




1. Plan


Acknowledging the possibility and establishing different strategies to deal with a partial power loss before flight will give you an advantage. By planning your response ahead of time, you reduce your mental workload, mitigate some effects of decision making under stress, and give yourself the confidence to carry out positive actions in the emergency situation.






2. Check your aircraft before you take off


Many partial power loss incidents occurring after takeoff could have been identified and prevented during pre-flight checks. Aircraft physical inspection, engine run ups and on takeoff engine checks can significantly help prevent partial power loss occurring. Many instances of partial power loss have been found to be fuel and spark plug related, which can exhibit physical symptoms such as:



  • an rpm drop higher than the maximum prescribed by the manufacturer during run-up checks;
  • a lower than minimum static rpm on application of full power on takeoff;
  • the engine not 'sounding' or 'feeling' normal, such as general rough running during the takeoff run.




3. Maintain control of your aircraft


If you still experience a partial power loss you need to respond immediately. Taking no action is not an option. The first priority is to maintain control. Pilot actions have included turning back to the aerodrome or conducting an immediate forced landing on or off the aerodrome; however, the height of failure, wind speed and direction, traffic and terrain are all factors which will influence this pre-planned option. Maintaining glidespeed and no more than a moderate bank angle will ensure you maintain control. Arriving at the ground with wings level and with the aircraft level with terrain, rather than after a stall and or spin can make all the difference.






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Partial engine failure has been catching pilots since the dawn of time. The following was written by a Camel pilot after World War 1., in the best flying book ever written, Winged Victory by VM Yeats. (you can get it on Kindle).


lt was bumpy and unpleasant up.docx


lt was bumpy and unpleasant up.docx


lt was bumpy and unpleasant up.docx

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The statement that there are 3x more 'partials' to 'total' engine failures has rung bells here.


Memo to FTF: increase emphasis on 'partial' power loss situations.


happy days,



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I'm really glad I saw this. In training I always practiced simulated engine loss, but nothing was ever mentioned about partial power loss. Now I realize practicing simulated engine failure was practicing partial power loss. It does make sense you would follow the exact same procedure as full engine loss. The most important being FLY THE PLANE. I like to study airplane accidents and I do find it scary how many deaths have occurred because the pilot just forgot to fly the plane. It shows how important it is to not just learn checklists for certain emergencies, but to learn problem solving skills to be able to handle a problem that doesn't have a checklist.


Thanks for posting this. I like anything that reminds me or makes me think about safety.



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