Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Impossible Turn

Saw this at the AOPA air safety seminar in Tampa this evening. You could have heard a pin drop...and then at the landing, applause. The odds of making it back to the field in one piece after an engine failure on takeoff? Not good. Listen to his breathing. That is the breathing of a man who is terrified. I'd be crapping my pants if it was me.

This is some skilled flying by a pilot who knew his airplane and knew what to do. Kudos, pilot man...kudos.

The AOPA lecturer recommended that to practice for this scenario, you climb to a safe altitude and set a "floor." Practice taking off from the floor and simulate an engine failure, then try to maneuver back to your starting point. It will familiarize you with your plane and let you know how much altitude it takes to make "the impossible turn."

They call this "the impossible turn" because making a turn back to the airfield with no power from low altitude is usually not something that can be done with any expectation of survival. My training for power failure on takeoff is to pick a soft patch of ground and aim for it as gently as possible, which is entirely survivable; pilots die when they turn back or change plans midair. Pick a spot and try to be gentle, unless you know for sure that you have the altitude to go back.

The pilot in this video made the impossible turn and survived. He did it because he knew his plane, he knew his capabilities, and he had a plan and followed through.

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