Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Engine Failure During Cruise in a Bonanza

Engine Failure During Cruise in a Bonanza

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During most of my training for private pilot and commercial certificates, the majority of my engine-out training consisted of simulated engine failures in the traffic pattern or below 3000’ AGL. Although an engine failure on takeoff is the most critical, we spend most of our time in cruise and train less for this emergency.

In the FAA publication: Airplane Flying Handbook, they describe and illustrate a recommended procedure for descending from altitude to a forced landing. It consists of a spiral to a key position (usually base leg) and landing. It is my experience that it can be very difficult to judge altitude, airspeed and distance while practicing this maneuver. We have a more complete procedure that I find works better for the average pilot.

When an engine fails in cruise, there are three things to do initially and immediately:
1. Trim for best glide airspeed (usually 100-110 KIAS in Bonanzas)
2. Switch fuel tanks. If your tank ran dry or is contaminated, we can bring the engine back to life.
3. Pick your spot of intended landing

After those items are taken care of, we can try to re-start the engine.
a. Check your mixture, enrichen as necessary
b. Try using your boost pump. If your engine-driven fuel pump has died, high boost will restore fuel flow and get your engine running again. If the engine comes back to life, it will probably run rich and you will need to lean in order to keep the engine running smoothly.
c. Switch magnetos to left and right to see if that can re-start your engine.

If all fails, now take your prop control and pull it all the way aft for the most coarse pitch condition. This gives an astonishing amount of reduced drag and can extend your glide substantially. The important aspect during this situation is to continue flying towards your intended landing spot and maintaining best glide airspeed. Most fatal accidents are a result of allowing the airspeed to deteriorate and the resulting stall/spin. If you keep flying the airplane, it can be survivable even if you fly your Bonanza into a building or terrain. It is never survivable when you stall/spin the plane into the ground.

As you continue towards your landing spot, plan on entering an upwind leg @ 2500’-3000’ AGL. While on upwind, keep the landing spot/runway slightly on your left side so that you can continually keep the spot in sight. While approximately half way down your runway, make a 90-degree crosswind turn to the left. Once your wings are level continue turning another 90-degrees left to downwind. At this point, lower your landing gear.
Your desired touchdown spot should be one-third the way down the runway/landing area. This will help to assure that you don’t undershoot or overshoot your landing spot. When you are abeam this desired spot, you want to be 1500’ AGL. If you find yourself higher or lower, you can immediately adjust your base leg by turning earlier or later. I suggest no flaps until the landing is assured. Once on final, use flaps as necessary (full flaps are preferred if you have enough altitude). Come over the fence at recommended airspeed (usually 85 KIAS) and touchdown smoothly. Following this procedure remarkably simplifies the emergency landing. These procedures more closely follow a “normal” traffic pattern and help us to determine our altitude and distance from the runway/landing spot. Our usual cruise altitudes in Bonanzas are between 5000’ and 9000’ AGL. This gives us enough time to pick a suitable landing spot and maneuver to enter upwind between 2500’ and 3000’ AGL. I suggest practicing this with your CFI and once you are comfortable and have it all committed to memory, you can practice it on your own.

Paul Gretschel BPPP
10. 2009

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