Simulated Engine-Out

A great way to "lose" an engine

SimEngineOut
SimEngineOut
Below video taken with Contour HD A/V-ator, available at lightsportgroup.com.

During one of my Sport Pilot lessons with First Landings Aviation’s Chris Esposito, we had just finished up practicing stalls and steep turns off the north shore of Lake Apopka on yet another gorgeous morning. I had been wondering when we would be practicing engine-out scenarios and asked Chris out of curiosity if one of the grass airstrips, Orlando North, just a mile or two north of the shore would be makeable if we lost an engine in that moment given the airplane’s 17:1 glide ratio. He informed me that I had just made a typical error … the kneejerk reaction to head for an airport. Chris advised that unless there is one right out your window or darn close, the best practice is to always look for the very first possible spot to land — and it doesn’t mean runways only. With that he pulled the throttle back. We were still over water at 2,000 heading south away from the shore, but behind us I knew there was farmland riddled with landing opportunities. I immediately pitched for best glide, 70 mph (yes, the Remos instrumentation measures in mph and not knots!) and gently turned to the north where several long dirt roads traversing the vegetation-rich acreage lay. Roads a lot closer than the aforementioned grass strip. Once I pitched to best glide, my first reaction was to start troubleshooting, but Chris pointed out first priority should be to immediately find the first landing option and navigate toward it. Once that is established, and only then, should one can troubleshoot. Aviate, navigate and communicate. It’s as simple as that. The remainder of the story, including another surprise (for me!) engine out, unfolds in the below video. But what the video might not reveal is how valuable this kind of practice truly is to people like me who need to do to learn. And that it can be simulated in a more realistic way than at some schools, due to congestion and procedures, where simulated engine-out only goes as far as the instructor pulling the throttle back and the student establishing best glide, pointing to where he would land and announcing the emergency checklist, all at 1,000 feet or more … exercise over. In my case, because of the practice area being uncongested/free of structures and people, I was able to get close for a realistic view and feel of what it would be like, especially with altitude as it relates to the chosen landing area. Yeah, it was an easy location with plenty of opportunities and if I ever lose an engine while flying, it likely won’t be in an environment as friendly. But it took textbook words — things that don’t always translate smoothly the first time to real life situations — and put them into action. Now that I’ve bridged the gap, I’ll be better off in a more complicated practice scenario (Read: one with less landing choices and unfamiliar grounds) — and should the real thing ever happen.