Engine Loss at FL210

Engine Loss at FL210

Why Do We Do What We Do?

Losing an engine at FL210 and bringing in that aircraft to a landing on a 5,000 foot runway with clear skies and good visibility should not be a problem for a properly trained pilot. This happened to a 421C pilot with passengers on board (his family) in Alabama and yet it was not successful. This accident has troubled me for years and it is one of the reasons we concentrate on single engine situations mimicking accident reports in our training. This accident happened at night.

This aircraft had low engine times. The engine that started the problem was the right engine. The pilot was not a high time pilot but had received recurrent training, where and how we do not know. The aircraft was equipped with VG’s which gives you a benefit of a low Vmca speed for the 421. Everything was fine until the pilot tried to make the landing. Let me also note, and we teach this in our discussion sessions in aircraft operation, Cessna says if you have any vibration on a GTSIO engine and cannot cure it with adjustments from the cockpit you should SHUT THE ENGINE DOWN. The pilot in this case did the right thing.

One of the sessions in our full motion sim is to bring an aircraft in from a flight level on one engine to an airport. We couple this with how far the aircraft can go on one engine. It is shocking to see just how far it could glide with both engines at an idle but on one engine it can maintain a long distance to benefit the pilot to pick a more favorable airport both in weather conditions, runway length and emergency equipment. We also teach how to make a night landing with one engine inoperative.

What We Teach

The first thing we tell the pilot taking a recurrent or initial training is to understand that you can only get so much out of an aircraft on a single engine approach. For instance, too soon on the gear and too much flaps is a NO NO. In the 421, flaps after 15 degrees on one engine puts in more problems than help. The gear can be your friend in stabilizing the last part of the landing but your enemy if put it down to early. One of the things we consistently see is the gear being put down 2 plus miles out and flaps at the same distance. That is too far out for a single engine approach and when you realize it, it is too late.

In regard to the approach we always tell pilots to aim for the middle of the runway. Even with only half of the runway left you have enough room to slow down. In real life you will land short on one engine. Our approach is to get the gear first and stabilize the aircraft and the flaps are the last thing you do. The flaps are also done just before touch down and we mean like “just before touch down, no sooner.” Our theory is get it on the ground even with speed.

So What Causes the Problem?

One thing that is subconsciously implanted into a pilot’s mind is what they do when landing the plane on both engines. When we begin to work with the pilot we always do an evaluation of what they, the pilot, knows and how they apply the procedures. We then show what we think needs to be adjusted and why. Truly, a lot of the problems pilots have in emergency procedures is because the FAA curriculum is to light in that area. Think about your multi engine training. How many times did you actually make an approach in an aircraft with one engine shut down? It is all just simulated in the training aircraft. If you actually begin to shut down and restart engines it is not only dangerous but it can hurt the engine. The sim we have is more realistic.

What Else Went Wrong with the 421 Flight?

One of the critical things we talk to pilots about in an emergency concerns “is there a better runway than what you initially picked?” In the case of this 421 accident there was and it was only 40 miles away. It was a military field with a 10,000 foot runway and emergency equipment. So why didn’t the pilot pick this field? Close does not always mean the safest. Close does not always mean you can get a rental vehicle or a motel. Close means SAFE. Back to the sim shows that this pilot could have easily made the longer runway that was also wider and had emergency equipment. You pay taxes. Ask ATC for help.

Night Time

The night time added another problem. We all know that night adds a visual problem as far as depth perception is concerned. You also get a difference in a visual approach as it pertains to height above the ground. Needless to say you need to make night approaches on a regular basis to keep current especially in a twin. You can only create a total picture with a shut down engine in a simulator. One other thing about landing at night, age is against you. I am seventy and I have noticed in the last ten years I do not have the eye strength at night that I had in my thirty and forty’s. Also, if you are past sixty take more time doing practice at night with an instructor. We do that in the full motion sim with night time dialed in. We can simulate in our full motion sim night time just like it would be in the aircraft.

Systems Training

Why do we teach systems? In our opinion reading a manual to you is not what systems training is about. For instance, you land and apply the brakes and one brake goes to the floor. That is not in the POH from the standpoint of solving the braking action of an aircraft. We want you to understand there are actions that solve the braking action that would be heading to one direction and away from the runway. These procedures are also taught during a take off problem and how you “shutdown” on the runway. Understanding the systems and how to work with them to have a safe flight is what it is all about in training.

There were children on this Cessna 421 flight as well as a spouse who was following her husband/pilot lead. This is why we do what we do in training. It is for the benefit of the innocent parties in the back of the aircraft.

What We Teach

The following is an adaptive syllabus of some of the items we cover:

  • Single Engine Approaches both VFR and IFR
  • Single Engine Approaches – Correct Flaps and Gear Activity for Safety
  • Single Engine Critical Altitude
  • Single Engine Performance Descents
  • How far can your aircraft take you on what engine and with a heavy load.
  • Single Engine Emergency Descents
  • Engine Shutdowns and Engine Restarts on the gauges
  • Engine loss on the Takeoff Roll
  • Single Engine Loss on Liftoff and the Fours Steps to Stabilize Control
  • Engine Fire – Procedures to Get You Down Without Overload
  • Faulty Brakes – How Do You Stop It
  • Single Engine Control at Single Engine Maximum Altitude
  • Aircraft Control in the Flight Levels
  • Aircraft Operation at Gross Weight
  • Missed approaches. When you can do them and when you can’t.
  • Night landings with low ceiling approaches.
  • What can the ATC do for you and what you get if you declare an emergency.
  • Legal, when the FAA “knocks on your door.”
  • System “quirks” in your aircraft.

Please think about your passengers. They are the innocent people who depend on you.

Call for your training today. We gear it for you and your aircraft.

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