The 180-Degree Power-off Approach

Learning to land without power prepares you for the unexpected.

Airplane on Approach

Airplane on Approach

One maneuver that has been added to the practical test standards since I earned my commercial and instructor certificates at the beginning of the millennium is the power-off 180-degree accuracy approach and landing. While this maneuver is not a part of the private or sport pilot curricula, it is a maneuver that is worthwhile for you to practice regularly with an instructor by your side.

The power-off 180-degree accuracy approach and landing is exactly what the name implies. You select a point on the runway, most likely the 1,000-foot markers, cut the power on the downwind leg abeam the target point (at or below 1,000 feet agl per the PTS) and leave the power off for the duration of the approach with the intent to land as close to the preselected point as possible.

Naturally, you will have to make adjustments for wind conditions in order to make your spot, so you may need to slip the airplane and use flaps as necessary in order to make it. But don’t be so focused on hitting your target that you forget to keep the airplane in a safe attitude. And make sure you become intimately familiar with this type of approach with an experienced instructor by your side before ever attempting it on a solo flight.

Since different airplane types have different glide ratios it’s worth practicing these types of landings in each type of airplane you fly regularly. When I practice accuracy power-off landings in the Cessna 170, for example, I need to make my base turn almost immediately after I cut the power on the downwind. Otherwise I will need to add power in order to make it to the threshold. However, if I make the turn at the same point in a Cessna 172, I would most likely end up way past my selected target even with a slip.

Accuracy power-off landing practice is a terrific challenge and it also prepares you for the highly unlikely, but not impossible case of an engine failure. Knowing how the airplane will behave without power and how the approach needs to be planned greatly increases the chances of a successful unplanned power-off approach.