Aviation In Canada

Monday, January 17, 2005

Turning Back on Take-off

The latest edition of the Aviation Safety Letter, found in this month's AIP amendments, focused on the idea of turning back to the runway used for take-off upon an engine failure on take-off. Current wisdom drilled into people's heads during training says that unless a reasonable altitude has been reached, a pilot should never consider this. Case in point, in one incident talked about. The pilot of a float plane attempted this, and in classic style, ended up in a stall condition and contacted a marshy area of the lake he was attempting to land on, with the plane coming to rest inverted. Have you ever tried this? How high is a "reasonable altitude"? I haven't yet seen an aircraft manual that describes this. Nor would I expect to, given the number of variables involved.

Take any flight sim and get in your favorite single engine aircraft(for some, this may require backtracking a few years in their flying career) and set up on a runway. Add 5-10 knots of wind to the equation, for a greater challenge. Get airborne, climbing straight out, and as soon as you think you have enough altitude to make the turn back, do it. Don't just cut the throttle, kill the engine altogether. Pull the mixture, shut off the magnetos, whatever is quicker. When the engine has died, not before, make the turn back. See just how capable you are from the altitude you've chosen. Don't make this easy and say you'll do it from 3,000 feet AAE. Make it more realistic by starting from the lowest altitude you would really try this from. I'd be interested in hearing your results. Include, if you respond to this, aircraft type, airport elevation (since that makes a difference), runway length, altitude chosen and the success or failure. Don't fly to the end of a long runway before turning back, either. Kill the engine as soon as you reach what you think is a "reasonable altitude" and start the manoeuver. Be honest, now. Learn from it, too. Maybe flying straight ahead really is the best option.