Engine failure in a twin - how soon do you land?

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by RussR, Jul 8, 2019.

  1. RussR

    RussR Pattern Altitude

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    Hoping to have some discussion here to fill a gap in my risk assessment.

    Short version - your engine fails in a piston twin in cruise flight. Do you land immediately, continue to your destination, return home, or some other option?

    Long version:

    I have recently started flying a cabin-class piston twin, Part 91, for its owners, taking them to meetings and such. Typical flights are to places about 2 hours away.

    Until this point, almost all of my multiengine flying has been in a training environment - either as trainee or instructor. In that environment, for engine failure scenarios, you train on how to initially respond and then generally head for the nearest airport to land. The engine typically "fails" on takeoff, or on approach, or on downwind, or otherwise really close to the runway.

    But not a lot of time, in my experience, is spent on being up at cruise and discussing what to do after an engine fails. In training, in cruise you generally end up shutting it down, run some checklists, but then just restart it and carry on. So I admittedly haven't spent a lot of time thinking about "well, what now?" if I can't restart it in cruise. That is a shortcoming in my experience and training that I want to correct and am hoping for some discussion about.

    So, you're up at 10,000 - 15,000 - FL200 or whatever in cruise. An engine fails. You troubleshoot and end up shutting it down. Assume you can safely maintain an altitude that is still plenty high enough to not hit anything. And assume no fire. What do you do then? What's your thought process?

    Do you land at the nearest available airport regardless of size or facilities?

    Do you land soon, but try to find someplace close that might have appropriate maintenance?

    If you're on the outbound leg (to go to the meeting or whatever), do you turn around and go home (where you know there will maintenance and the inconvenience is reduced)?

    Do you continue to your destination (and possibly be stuck there)?

    If you're on the inbound (back to home) leg, do you continue on home?

    Do your answers depend on how far away you are?

    If so, how long would you be willing to fly on one engine?

    How heavily does the inconvenience of landing far from home, where there may be no maintenance or readily-available transportation, weigh on this decision?

    I'm mostly looking for opinions from the standpoint of being a paid pilot, in other words, I'm not flying somewhere for personal reasons.

    Thanks for the help!
     
  2. sourdough44

    sourdough44 Pattern Altitude

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    I had a hangar neighbor who flew his light twin for hours after losing an engine, for unknown(at that time) reasons. His reasoning is he wanted to get home or to a better maintenance airport, I think home it was. I thought his explanation was lacking.

    Even part 91, no need to be flying on one long. One also doesn’t want to rush things & screw it up. That airport you left may not be the best choice to land at.
     
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  3. bradg33

    bradg33 Pattern Altitude

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    Land as soon as practicable. What is "practicable" depends. How far away is home? How far is my destination? Is it VFR or IFR? Mountainous terrain? Do I know why I had to shut it down (catastrophic failure that isn't likely to be fixable in a reasonable period of time at a remote airport)? All of these factors get thrown into a box and shook up.
     
  4. Finnelly

    Finnelly Pre-Flight

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    Wouldn’t flying a twin on one be the same risk as flying a single engine plane?
     
  5. sourdough44

    sourdough44 Pattern Altitude

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    Why did that one engine quit?
     
  6. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I guess it depends on how you interpret the following.

    §91.7 Civil aircraft airworthiness.
    (a) No person may operate a civil aircraft unless it is in an airworthy condition.

    (b) The pilot in command of a civil aircraft is responsible for determining whether that aircraft is in condition for safe flight. The pilot in command shall discontinue the flight when unairworthy mechanical, electrical, or structural conditions occur.

     
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  7. EdFred

    EdFred Taxi to Parking

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    Like every other question in aviation...

    It depends.

    So many variables.
     
  8. bobmrg

    bobmrg En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Funny you should ask. I have had two relevant situations. I was flying a 421 at 14000 feet approaching the Lewiston, ID VORTAC when the left engine lost boost (didn't actually fail but lost most of its thrust). With the luxury of time, I went through the shut-down-and-feather-the-prop procedure by the book, declared an emergency, and landed at LWS with one running and one prop feathered. Taxiing was no fun. Turned out that the plumbing between the turbocharger and either the intercooler or the intake manifold, I'm not sure which, had come loose. Easy fix.

    Second instance was in a P-Navajo taking off from OAK. All was well as I climbed into the base of a cloud deck at about 400 feet msl. As I pulled the left throttle back from takeoff power to climb power the engine quit. I told the tower and was cleared to land on any runway. I had pushed everything forward, by the book, but as i began the secure-and-feather procedure and pulled the left throttle back again the engine came back to life. All engine instruments looked good, and i had two operating engines, and by that time I was on top, so I told the tower that I was continuing as planned and flew on to Seattle and landed without incident. There was something wrong with the left engine fuel controller and the fuel-air mix had to be "just right." They pulled the left engine off of the airplane; it sat for a good six months and then disappeared. Meanwhile, I had become disenchanted with the maintenance folks and left for another job.

    Choose your poison: in one instance I landed at the nearest available airport, in the other instance I handled the problem and went on my way. YMMV.

    In THE COMPLETE MULTIENGINE PILOT I tell my readers to use what I call constructive paranoia: be ready at any stage of flight to lose an engine and have a plan in mind to deal with it. "I'm going to lose an engine on the takeoff roll before rotation;" "I'm going to lose an engine before I get to 100 feet;" "I'm going to lose an engine before I get to cruise altitude." Once you are in cruise you have time and altitude to work things out.


    Bob
     
  9. IK04

    IK04 Pattern Altitude

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    I once had to shut one down while on the last leg of a very long flight. I passed up two or three airports that would have been OK to land and deal with the issue, but I was light and had single engine capability, so I flew the last 25 miles or so and landed at my home airport.

    I also had a situation when one engine lost oil pressure due to a failed filter housing and the other engine had a low oil light. I landed within three or four minutes at an airport I didn't even know existed until there it was!

    The situation dictates the response to the emergency. Most important thing is to come up with a plan and stick to it until you land or come up with a better plan....
     
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  10. donjohnston

    donjohnston Cleared for Takeoff

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    I recall reading about a freightdog who departed a small, unattended field late one night (or early morning) for the return trip. Had an engine fail not long after takeoff. After considering a single engine landing at the unattended field vs. the larger, attended home field with emergency equipment on field, he elected to continue.

    IIRC, he was violated for not landing at the closest field.
     
  11. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    As a reference point, if you were Part 135, regulations require that you land at the nearest suitable airport with respect to time. So at 15,000 feet over the plains, the nearest with respect to time could be 25-30 minutes away.

    Personally, under Part 91, that’s what I’d go with as well...find someplace with an ILS and maintenance within 75 miles or so.

    My last shutdown was a 414 at 17000 ft, just about at top of descent for my destination. Since the weather was good, I opted not to divert. I didn’t know if maintenance would be available, but my pass ngers we’re willing to take the chance on alternate transportation home after their meetings.

    One of the things a short diversion would have gotten me was CFR, but this being failure/shutdown #7, I was pretty confident I wouldn’t botch it...also something to consider.

    Would I fly a couple of hours to my destination or home? There would have to be some pretty extenuating circumstances, like widespread weather below minimums.
     
  12. Tantalum

    Tantalum Final Approach

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    DA62




    ..the only answer
     
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  13. Radar Contact

    Radar Contact Pattern Altitude

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    I'm going with these two responses for me as the owner/operator.

    @RussR , as the pilot operating someone else's airplane vs your own plane MAY factor into your decision...it would mine.
     
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  14. Busflyer

    Busflyer Pre-takeoff checklist

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    No
     
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  15. Kenny Phillips

    Kenny Phillips En-Route

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    Much worse. The airplane's performance is greatly diminished, and your one operating engine may follow the fate of the other, depending on what caused the first shutdown.
    I would land at the first airport with good facilities if it wasn't much farther than the nearest one with a decent runway.
     
  16. Kritchlow

    Kritchlow Final Approach

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    Nearest suitable airport.
     
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  17. bradg33

    bradg33 Pattern Altitude

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    This is true. If it were my personal airplane, the "can I get decent MX at the X field" certainly figures into the calculus. I've been stranded, by my current airplane, at an airport with no maintenance facilities, 1000miles from home. It's not an experience I want to voluntarily repeat. My airplane is also old and quirky, so if I have a practicable option of getting it either home or to an airport I know has friendly mx facilities, that'll weigh into the mix.
     
  18. James_Dean

    James_Dean Pattern Altitude

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    When I lost one in the 310 I went to the closest airport with decent weather and a longer runway. I recently had an oil leak in the Conquest at FL270. I elected to keep it running and did a RTB which was 70 miles away. I had an alternate picked out that was closer with known MX services if I had to shut it down.
     
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  19. ircphoenix

    ircphoenix En-Route

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    I have no multi time (except for that one time I augered a CRJ into the ground in FSX) or experience with an engine failure.

    Common sense tells me you judge the circumstances and act accordingly, constantly evaluating your situation. If the reason your engine failed is because it exploded and you're now on fire, getting down on the ground immediately, airport or otherwise, seems to be the correct course of action.

    If, however, you're at cruise and one of the engines is running a little rough-ish, and you're in a plane with decent single engine performance, then maybe continue on while monitoring the bad engine.

    In my one and only instance of an inflight emergency, my engine was running a little rough at night. Nearest airport was LGB... I had departed TOA. I decided to RTB instead of diverting, but engine was just running weird, though instruments were all in the green.

    If I were in a twin and one engine quit, my mind would make all emergency planning as though the other engine were going to go OTL on me at any time. I wouldn't be planning for a long diversion if there were a long runway and MX nearby.
     
  20. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    My one experience.

    I was climbing through 11,000 at night when the oil pressure went to zero in the right engine. I looked at the gauge and thought that it must be wrong. Then reality hit that I could lose the engine any second now.

    I shut down and secured the engine, notified ATC as to what happened, and ATC asked me where I wanted to go. We were only 25 minutes from home, above all terrain and clear skies, so I asked the medical crew if they wanted to go home or return to Albuquerque. 2-1 for ABQ.

    Funny, after getting vectored back to the runway, it was 25 minutes from when I noticed the oil pressure drop to the time the wheels touched down. But it was downhill all the way.

    Again, a lot of variables, like what is closer, destination or home. How is the weather and/or wind, and is there emergency men and equipment on the ground? Determining the best option and executing it is why we get paid the big money.
     
  21. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    In my MEL training the CFI explained it this way. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of airplanes in the air right now flying with one engine. Don’t do something stupid just because you became one of them.
     
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  22. bobmrg

    bobmrg En-Route PoA Supporter

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    "...he was violated for not landing at the closest field."

    Has to be more to the story than that. Who wrote up the violation? I flew 700 miles after the hiccup out of Oakland and no one said a word....and ATC was aware of my momentary power loss.

    Bob
     
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  23. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot En-Route

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    Welcome to the real world of being a PIC. It’s awesome. Enjoy the ride.

    The answer. Whatever you think is best/safest.
     
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  24. donjohnston

    donjohnston Cleared for Takeoff

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    Pretty sure I read it in the AOPA mag or on AvWeb.
     
  25. Somedudeintn

    Somedudeintn Cleared for Takeoff

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    Im a single engine pilot but wouldn’t continuing on one engine allow you to burn off some fuel/weight which I’m guessing would be helpful during the approach and landing.
     
  26. Lance F

    Lance F En-Route PoA Supporter

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    One thing making aviation so interesting is that for so many issues there is no simple answer. This is one of them. The answer as previously stated is “it depends.” The weather, day/night, reason for first failure, suitability of intermediate airports, attitude of passengers, etc, etc. all should be considered.

    I had to do precautionary shutdowns twice in May. First was in my 414. Six minutes into an 1100nm planned flight at 6,000’ I started losing oil pressure in left engine and immediately shut it down and feathered prop. Easy call. I turned around and went back to my home airport. A few weeks later I was flying a 414A back from a demo flight I was doing for a broker. Noticed a lot of blue stain running out of the right cowl. Shut it down and feathered prop. Was only about 40 miles from where I was returning the plane. Again easy call to go to the destination.

    Had I been 500 miles from home in the first case I would have opted for the first airport where I could expect maintenance. In the second with the altitude I had going to the destination was as good a choice as any.

    One big reason for having a twin is that second engine. Just automatically going to the first suitable is too simplistic for me.
     
  27. Kritchlow

    Kritchlow Final Approach

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    If you continue, you just better pray it was not fuel contamination the killed the first engine.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2019
  28. mirage00

    mirage00 Pattern Altitude

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    I had a friend who lost an engine over the Hudson doing the skyline tour. He didn’t declare and flew 75 miles back to his home airport. He told the tower that he had and engine failure and feathered the engine. The FAA called him and grounded him until a 709 ride was taken. Their reasoning, he didn’t declare an emergency and flew past 3 airports he should have landed at.
     
  29. schmookeeg

    schmookeeg Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    My default plan of action is to land at the nearest Class D airport.

    Rationale:

    1. Maintenance services likely.

    2. Possible "equipment" if things take a turn for the worse.

    3. Flight Following (or 121.5) plus tower controller can ensure continuous comms throughout the emergency/urgency should I brick the landing.

    4. Possible services to get me home after I leave the smoldering wreck in the hands of the A&Ps, or rental cars and hotels likely if I'm waiting for them to fix something stupid like a foulled plug.

    5. Runway length is likely to be reasonable, saving me a fish through the AF/D or Garmin Pilot to weed out McBlappablap Municipal with their 1800x35' strip and zero services.

    6. A selection of bars is assured so that I can rinse and reflect on my crimes, or the crimes of my whip.

    7. Likely will have an airport within 100nm or so, and zero mental drain in figuring out what to do. I'll pan the map and find a blue circle I like.

    The above is all thrown out if I'm on fire. Then I'm landing on the best looking thing directly under me, with promptitude

    $0.02

    - Mike
     
  30. PilotRPI

    PilotRPI Line Up and Wait

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    My grandfather use to do aerobatics in a Mosquito on one engine.
     
  31. woodchucker

    woodchucker Pattern Altitude

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    Yes but when the Germans are trying to shoot you down that’s a damn good reason to be doing aerobatics on a single engine. :D
     
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  32. jsstevens

    jsstevens Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    It does change the risk equation.
     
  33. mryan75

    mryan75 Cleared for Takeoff

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    Whatever you do, DON'T do this:

    https://app.ntsb.gov/pdfgenerator/R...tID=20110710X31135&AKey=1&RType=HTML&IType=FA

    Short story, guy in a 421 with his wife and 5 of his 6 kids, lost an engine in good weather at 20k in cruise flight, chose a 5k strip right below him surrounded by trees, circled down, came up 0.8 NM short of the threshold in the woods, all dead. Could've made any number of class C or B airports. I'll never forget this one.
     
  34. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    I thought that's why we have engine instruments, and in many cases now engine monitors...so we can diagnose, before it becomes necessary to revert to prayer.

    Having said that, it can happen. Years ago one of the pilots at our airport and his wife were badly injured in a two-engine flame out in the mountains. His piston twin had "Turbocharged" lettered down the sides of the engine nacelles, and was topped up with kerosene on a fuel stop. Not that long ago the owner of a turbocharged piston Malibu lost his life in Spokane for the same reason. Be careful out there.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2019
  35. kgruber

    kgruber En-Route

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    We got up early to fly 135 customers to Sun Valley in a King Air 200. Empty. on the way back, I was napping in the back and the 1st officer was flying.

    I heard this..."Karl, you better get up here!" Sure enough, one of those famously reliable PT6-41s quit. We just continued to back to Boeing Field and maintenance.
     
  36. RussR

    RussR Pattern Altitude

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    Great discussion all, thank you. I do like @schmookeeg 's "default" plan of "go to the closest Class D airport" unless the situation dictates otherwise.

    As a contract pilot, if I have to land somewhere, I'm going to be getting paid for my return transportation and/or day rate until that happens, so there's no concern there. However, if possible and safe to do it would still be way more convenient to land somewhere with transportation and maintenance facilities.

    Appreciate all the examples, that's what I was hoping to get here.
     
  37. MIFlyer

    MIFlyer Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    I like the thinking about safety first and convenience second.

    1. airport and runway environment (towered, large/lit runway)
    2. Emergency services available on field or can be summoned

    Secondarily:
    1. MX on field
    2. Ground transportation on field.

    It does seem that the idea to have a "braindead" option of "aim for a class D unless fire or other indication dictates something else". I can also see the RTB if it's fairly close as you will have high familiarity with everything in that environment, lowering your workload.

    buuuuuttt, for now, WTF do I know. I fly a single for now, so my plan is to find the best place to glide to! (hopefully an airport)
     
  38. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man En-Route

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    I would treat any engine failure as an emergency as your options could be limited. I wouldn't freak and head for the first airport I see but I would immediately plan an approach to the nearest airport I feel I could safely land at. There are many factors to consider like fuel load, airport altitude in case a go around is needed.

    You don't know why that first engine quit and if the same could happen to the next. What if contaminated fuel was in one tank, or both tanks....
     
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  39. BigBadLou

    BigBadLou Final Approach

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    Bob Hoover used to do aerobatics on 0 engines. *shrug*
    Can't argue with the master!
     
  40. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    The Class D airport I'm based at is a little under 2500 feet long. It does have MX, though.