by Nate "Buster" Jaros
Probably the biggest and most trained upon emergency in all of aviation is the engine loss and engine out situation. Us military guys train to it exhaustively, and I know the airlines guys do as well. We here in GA train to it of course too…right? Don’t you train for this regularly? You know your engine failure procedures!
Admit it, if you’re new to aviation, or like a lot of GA pilots, you probably don’t have a solid engine loss procedure memorized. What’s the first step in your aircraft’s engine failure procedure? The last? Be honest. If you do have them memorized (and practiced) good on you. Regardless, I want to address items that will assist you in simplifying and dealing with any engine failure or engine problem…in any GA bird.
I don’t aim to be on my soapbox, especially if you’ve read my book Engine Out Survival Tactics. You know from reading that book that I take engine loss training to a new level, and am an advocate for continual training and keeping ‘current’ on your individual procedures. More specifically you know that I promote glide and sight picture training that needs to be imbedded in your skull for the day when your engine quits. All that notwithstanding, below are three key tips for helping you recall and more importantly, understand and internalize typical GA engine failure procedures, and will help you survive.
Engine Failure Procedures and Your POH
Let’s break it down into three key items that simplify this process. But before we dig into this, I want to emphasize one thing. Use your POH! I can’t emphasize that enough. Have a look at what it recommends and do it’s steps first and foremost. Memorize the critical items to every emergency checklist, just like the big guys and military pilots do. After accomplishing that, think about these three crucial aspects.
The Combustion Triangle
When we talk about procedures, what are the things in the cockpit that you should do, or think of when faced with a rough running, underperforming, or failed engine? “It depends Buster” you might say, and that’s true. It depends on your aircraft.
But does it?
Ever heard of the Combustion Triangle? Probably. It’s of course, the three things needed to make an internal combustion engine run (amongst burning other things too). It’s worth stating here that those three items are Fuel, Oxygen and Heat. Made even simpler for us pilots, you can think of these as Fuel, Air, and Spark.
When you really break down your aircraft’s specific procedures in the POH for an engine problem, take note. I bet you that you are troubleshooting the Combustion Triangle.
The V35 Beech Bonanza POH (mid 1960s) recommends the following steps for an engine loss:
1. Fuel Selector - Select other tank
2. Aux fuel pump - On
3. Mixture - Full rich, then lean
4. Magnetos - Check left, right, both
5. Alternate Air T-handle - Pull and release
The 2013 Cirrus SR-22 manual recommends the following:
1. Best Glide Speed - Establish
2. Mixture - As Required
3. Fuel Selector - Switch Tanks
4. Fuel Pump - Boost
5. Alternate Induction Air - On
6. Air Conditioner - Off
7. Ignition Switch - Check, Both
Notice any parallels? Yep, each critical procedure calls for troubleshooting the Combustion Triangle (Fuel, Air, and Spark) with the most critical and most common controllable failure in our aircraft being first. That being fuel and fuel delivery.
I wont bore you with the stats here (all are in my book) but it’s worthy of note that the 2010 Nall report stated that in that year 8% of all fatal accidents were the result of fuel mismanagement by the pilot/crew. Some sources place general fuel delivery (contamination, clogged lines, etc) as a cause for aircraft accidents at closer to 40% in aviation as a whole.
An August 2017 NTSB Safety Alert stated that “From 2011 to 2015, an average of more than 50 accidents per year occurred due to fuel management issues.” Either way, probably the most significant thing you can control in the cockpit with a misbehaving engine is the fuel and fuel delivery, and it’s likely to be part of the problem your engine faces.
Knowing that fuel delivery is a very high probability of being “the culprit” you face, at least statistically, note where these two above manufactures place their critical first steps in the procedure. Fuel is first! After that, both procedures troubleshoot the air entering the engine and the ignition system. If you really want to break down the above manufacture’s procedures you can think of them as the following:
I like to think of these engine failure steps as a flow in my cockpit. We do “flows” in military jets. If you’re not familiar with it, a flow is a sequence of buttons, switches, and actions really that you do in a certain order, every time. These flows match the checklist. You memorize the actions and remembering the flow facilitates that. Just like a pianist might remember a sequence of key strokes without referring to a music sheet. During an actual emergency, you accomplish your flow for that event, then go back and reference the checklist when time allows and confirm all the steps were done.
Go ahead, give it a try. Just get your gear sit in the seat, in the chocks, engine off and touch all the items, in order with your hands. Do this five or more times for your engine out procedures (amongst others) and you’ll have the beginnings of a cockpit flow. Do the steps your POH recommends. After that, when it comes to engine emergencies recall that combustion triangle and think:
With this you should be on your way to successfully giving your engine it’s best chance for a re-light. And as I’ve said before, always follow your POH first, but take note of what it has you troubleshooting, I bet it’s the fuel, air, and spark steps.
~ Fly Safe
Intentional engine failure, glide to landing. Nicely done, but too risky for me
Nate "Buster" Jaros
What is Engine Out? Relevant aviation topics, key safety techniques, war stories, and pilot tips from Fightersweep writer and the author of Engine Out Survival Tactics, Fighter Pilot Tactics for GA Engine Loss Emergencies.
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