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   /Defining Speeds

Lift/Drag ratio chartLift/Drag ratio chart

Engine Failure Practice

Most aircraft accidents occur during the takeoff or landing phase of the flight. Collisions with obstacles during climb out, runway overruns on landing do occur every now and then. In this section of the site we will take a look at the various factors contributing to the performance of the aircraft in this part of the flight.

A pilot uses best glide speed when he needs to fly the longest distance per unit of altitude lost. It is also used when the engine fails and a suitable landing place must be reached. Best glide speed is at that point where the lift/drag ratio is at its highest.

For most pilots forced landings are usually practiced only near a suitable runway as engine failures are a rare occurrence. But as practice tends to make perfect in the end, it is time to review the finer points of this important exercise.

Forced Landing Without Power, FLWOP

This is a maneuver often practiced during training for the license and usually only when the pilot is up for their biannual flight review. We touch on this subject as it is intimately related to our best glide speed.

Basically it boils downs to this: always be aware of the wind direction and fly in such a way (with regard to altitude and ground track) that you are able to reach a suitable landing spot at anytime. And if the engine does fail then this is what you should do after converting excess speed to altitude and trimming for best glide speed.

First point of action

You really need to know the best glide speed for your aircraft. Some manufacturers also specify a minimum sink rate, this is a speed which gives you the most time aloft before arriving at the surface. This is helpful when you already are high above an acceptable landing site but wish to troubleshoot the problem.

During initial descent

  • Check wind direction
  • Select landing site and take note of obstacles
  • Plan the 1500' and 1000' downwind points
  • Choose 1/3 aim point on the runway
Aircraft Checklist

Trouble checks

  • Fuel pump on, change tanks / contents, primer locked
  • Mixture rich, carb heat on
  • Ignition BOTH-RIGHT-LEFT-BOTH checks, attempt a restart
  • Partial power checks

Monitor descent

  • Keep your selected field in sight / warm engine (during training)
  • Fly to the 1500' point, beginning of downwind

Mayday call

  • 3 times Mayday call to ATC, callsign, nature of problem, position, heading, altitude, intentions
  • Set transponder to 7700

Fly pattern

  • Fly from 1500' to 1000' point, maintain best glide speed, monitor descent, always keep an eye on your landing site to assess drift due to changing winds

Passenger briefing

  • Hatches closed, harnesses adjusted, check for loose items and nearest house for help
  • Emergency equipment: location of axe, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, doors

Secure aircraft

  • Fuel off, mixture lean, ignition off, master off (not if flaps are electrical powered)
  • Warm engine at this point during training

At 1000' point

  • Turn to landing area, keep field on wing tip
  • Check wind direction, maintain best glide speed, set the flaps as required
  • Full flaps when the field is made (master off, if flaps are electrical driven)


  • Land as short as possible, ground loop if required
  • Evacuate, secure aircraft, attend to injuries, obtain help
  • Inform aircraft owner, rental, authorities

Practice this regularly, as one fine day (or maybe not) you might need these skills and its best to be proficient and mentally ready for the challenge at hand.

More information

Being aware of the available emergency and search and rescue services for the pilot might be a life saver one day. Click the next link to continue reading of our article on Emergency Services.

Written by EAI.

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