There is always that moment of blank unbelieving frozen motionless nothing just after the engine quits…and then, if you have “over-learned” what you are supposed to do and practiced it before every takeoff until your hands just go through the motions you have done thousands of times before, your brain should kick into gear and make things better. Check-lists are invaluable at times like this. You know where to go and what to do without skipping any important details. The deeper the grooves of review run in your brian the better the chance that you will fall into them under the high stress of aircraft emergencies. The time you have to react is distilled down into seconds, maybe minutes at the most. So it is better to anticipate rather than react.
Our engine failure procedure check list in MAF for the Cessna 206 is “6 G’s”,
and we recite it to ourselves before every takeoff in anticipation of something going wrong.
Glide – (75 knots) Set the plane up for the best angle of glide speed. We call out this speed and look at the airspeed indicator to remind ourselves what it will look like. It is usually 1.3 times the stall speed of the plane and it gets you the furthest forward distance for how high you are.
Grass – Pick a spot on the ground that will allow the best landing. Not always possible to have something good, especially over the rain forest, but do the best you can with the choices you have. If you know the area and can have something picked ahead of takeoff time all the better.
Gas – See what you can do to get the engine going again. Hit the Boost Pump, Switch the fuel tanks. Hit the pump and hold it if it catches(Cessna 206). Check the mags. What ever time you have, use it to make things better.
Gab – Talk to people. MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY. Tell them a position. (You can get that quickly off the GPS). What the problem is, what the plan is. Maybe a pilot not so stressed will remind you of something important that you forgot.
Guts – Get ready for the landing. Make sure your seat belts are on. Crack the doors. Stow any loose items. Finish a pre-landing checklist. Shut the plane down if it is beyond starting again.
Get out – Once you are on the ground get away from the airplane. They can catch fire. Take the emergency kit with you.
It is simple, but that is what you need when things are stressful. Easy and thorough. I find that my students who are practicing emergency engine failure will get stuck in the middle someplace and bog down. Even quit all together as the ground is quickly approaching. So if you can keep going back to the list and see where you were and get started again, you can usually get all the way through the list before doing your “unscheduled landing”. You may not have time to get each thing done, so they are in order of importance.
I have taught this to pilots in their primary training who are teaching it to their students 10 years down the road. Nice to think that people are using the lessons learned from years of hard knocks, experience and the mistakes of others so as to avoid making the same ones over again.
I would like to incorporate these kinds of safeguards in other areas of my life, not just flying. Lord knows we will not survive long if we have to make all the mistakes ourselves! Maybe there needs to be some checklist for life: “How to live your life with purpose”, “How to stay married well”, “How to make good choices”, “How to be a man of honor”. Can you think of any others? Maybe you already have such a checklist. I would be interested to see some of them if you do.