Stay Sharp: Practice Deadstick Landings

Proficient pilots regularly vary their landings by alternating between normal, soft field, and short field landings. However, there is one important landing that is commonly overlooked: the deadstick landing. Think back; when was the last time you chopped the power and glided the airplane all the way to the runway? Do you feel proficient enough to stick it in a small bean field should the engine fail on your next flight? If the answer is no, then it may be prudent to practice those emergency procedures.

Engine failures in single-engine airplanes are responsible for an overwhelming number of fatal aircraft accidents each year. This does not have to be the case.

With a failed engine the airplane will still fly, however a descent and landing become immediate and mandatory. It is up to the pilot to maintain control of the aircraft and fly it to the best available landing field. Sometimes that field will not be an airport.

Although the engine failure event is rare, the high stakes of this situation demand proficiency and confidence. Consequences can be dire if the pilot overshoots or undershoots the intended landing point.

So how does the average pilot maintain proficiency with engine failure procedures? The answer is quite simple: practice simulated engine failures regularly.

How To Safely Practice Engine Failures On Your Own:

  1. Fly a normal traffic pattern and enter the downwind leg.
  2. Abeam your intended landing point (say the 1’000 foot mark), reduce power to idle.
  3. Treat it as an actual engine failure:
    1. Airspeed: Best Glide
    2. Best field: Select (although you have already done this, always go through the motions)
    3. Checklist: Simulate performance your engine failure checklist (time-permitting, of course)
    4. Declare the Emergency: Simulate declaring an emergency.
    5. Engine: Simulate securing of the engine and pretend to crack the airplane door open.
  4. Maneuver and configure your airplane to ensure a touchdown at your predetermined landing point.
  5. If at any point the landing is in doubt, add power. Better safe than sorry.

Always consider area traffic when practicing simulated engine failures. Make your normal radio calls and keep your eyes and ears open for local traffic.

If you are having difficulty landing close to your intended touchdown zone, request a lesson on 180° power-off accuracy approaches from a CFI. All commercial pilots are required to demonstrate proficiency in the 180° power-off accuracy approach and landing, which is a deadstick landing beyond and within 200 feet of a designated point. Pilots are required to perform this maneuver in order to develop the judgement and energy management skills required to fly the airplane to a safe landing without power.

It is always a good idea to mix those landings up, but don’t neglect the deadstick landing. This is the sure fire save-your-life maneuver, and you ought to maintain proficiency with it.

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About the author
Pat Flannigan is a professional pilot and aviation blogger. He has been flying for fifteen years and is currently working as an airline pilot in the United States.

2 Replies to Stay Sharp: Practice Deadstick Landings

  1. Good message. So many sel pilots seem to forget what happens when ther one engine quits. Some mels aren’t much better with two.

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