The existential flying question

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12notes

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Why all the fear about losing an engine in the pattern? There are more people killed and airplanes wrecked by numerous other factors. Instructors and pilots should be concentrating on training for, or for prevention of, the most likely hazards. Carb ice, for instance, wrecks a lot of airplanes. Excessive speed at touchdown does, too. Getting lost. Crosswind landings. Running out of fuel. Doing stupid stuff like low flying or buzzing or showing off. Amateur aerobatics. Taking off into deteriorating weather. Taking off from a runway too short to clear obstacles. Overloading the airplane. These are statistically far more serious risks than an engine failure in the pattern.
I have about 250 hours in a club Citabria that tried to eject a cylinder in the pattern, while a friend was flying it. The plane was landed safely and the engine has been rebuilt, but you could see why it is of concern, and I'm sure my nearby, indirect experience with an in the pattern engine out is far from the worst engine out in the pattern experience among members of this board.

Are there more common fatal problems? Sure. But those problems aren't what we're discussing in this thread.
 

12notes

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I used to be an instructor, and taught such stuff. In Canada we don't reduce the power abeam the numbers; descending on downwind is frowned upon. The descent starts at the downwind-to-base turn, at 45° to the runway, and the turn to final is at 500'. One is normally about 2500 or 3000 feet back from the threshold at that point, translating to a 5:1 or 6:1 glide angle, well within the range of a 172 with flaps up. If there's a stiffer wind down the runway it gets a bit tighter but turning base sooner fixes that.
Unfortunately, FAA guidelines are 1/2 -1 mile wide downwind, and most instructors I've seen tend to teach towards the 1 mile end of that. Also taught is reducing power and flaps to 10 abeam the numbers, turn base at 45° to the runaway and flaps to 20. This puts the turn to final at 1 mile and altitude a bit under 500 feet.
 

BJC

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I agree that retracting the flaps has greater gliding distance. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear, but this is not the relevant comparison for the question I was asking. In a stabilized approach, you are set up to make the runway with the engine running at 1500 RPM until you're over the fence. At the stabilized approach distance and altitude near the final turn, the glide slope of the 1500RPM, flaps 20, 172 will get you to the runway, my question is if the engine goes out and you reduce flaps to 0 immediately, will the glide slope in this situation be the same or better (enough to get you to the runway from that distance and altitude), or will it be worse (land short, which I think is the outcome).
Sorry, I don’t know, but my guess is the same as your’s; you will land short of the runway aiming point, if that is what you are aiming for. You may make the runway threshold. Test it next time you fly?


BJC
 

12notes

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Sorry, I don’t know, but my guess is the same as your’s; you will land short of the runway aiming point, if that is what you are aiming for. You may make the runway threshold. Test it next time you fly?


BJC
I don't have access to a 172, or rather, I don't want to pay double the club rate for the Citabria to rent a 172 from a flight school.
 

Dan Thomas

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I don't have access to a 172, or rather, I don't want to pay double the club rate for the Citabria to rent a 172 from a flight school.
I taught in Citabrias and various Cessna singles. The 172 has a much better glide ratio than any Champ or Citabria.



6000 feet gets you about nine miles of range, or about a mile and a half per 1000 feet altitude. That's around 8:1.

Citabrias blowing cylinders are very rare, and I suspect some deficiency in maintenance. I was also (still am) an Canadian Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (equivalent to US A&P/IA) and ran the flight school AMO (equivalent to an FAA Repair Station).

One the other hand, I've had a broken crank in flight, likely due to a long-previous propstrike that wasn't taken seriously. Makes one more cautious about old airplanes whose histories are indistinct. I also had an engine failure when the carb fell off when the attaching hardware backed off, another example of poor maintenance by someone else. Both of these served to make me a better mechanic, and I know that too many owners cheap out on maintenance without knowing the increased risk they are assuming.
 

Mcmark

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I’m still learning the Cuby but it’s power off glide is akin to a sewer lid. Abeam the numbers no more than 1000’ from the runway, power to idle, set glide at 70, turn base, depending on wind will determine how soon you turn to final. Might turn in sooner or you’ll have to slip to get to the numbers.
The Pitts airplanes I’ve flown were about the same.
 

Dana

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Anyone at 1000 feet to the side of the runway on downwind is way too close. At non-towered airports with traffic in the pattern you would soon get run off the field. You'd be way inside the other airplanes and creating a huge hazard.

Let's see if the geometry works: To get to 1000' AGL at 1000' horizontally from the runway, with the normal turn to crosswind at 500' AGL, we need to gain another 500 feet in 1000 feet, or a 27 degree climb angle. Please tell me what affordable light airplane can climb at that angle? It would translate to a 1300 FPM climb at 60 MPH, or 1750 FPM at 80. Serious numbers.
My Starduster did 1800 fpm at 80 mph. Yeah, it was fun! :)

But this made me curious, so I looked at some of my gps tracks in the Hatz. I typically do several landings at the end of most flights. My downwinds tend to run 2500-3000' from the runway, which lets me reach the runway without power.

Unfortunately, FAA guidelines are 1/2 -1 mile wide downwind, and most instructors I've seen tend to teach towards the 1 mile end of that. Also taught is reducing power and flaps to 10 abeam the numbers, turn base at 45° to the runaway and flaps to 20. This puts the turn to final at 1 mile and altitude a bit under 500 feet.
If you're 1/2 mile out and turn base at 45° that's not unreasonable, but it seems nobody does that. 1 mile is too much unless you're flying something a lot faster than most. My base leg tends to be about 2000' or 3/8 mile out. The problem is the guys, and there are a lot of them, who fly downwind a mile out and then continue several miles past the airport to set up their "stabilized" approach. They wouldn't make it to the airport if their engine quit... and if I find myself behind them, neither would I.:(
 
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Turd Ferguson

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If you're 1/2 mile out and turn base at 45° that's not unreasonable, but it seems nobody does that. 1 mile is too much unless you're flying something a lot faster than most. My base leg tends to be about 2000' or 3/8 mile out. The problem is the guys, and there are a lot of them, who fly downwind a mile out and then continue several miles past the airport to set up their "stabilized" approach. They wouldn't make it to the airport if their engine quit... and if I find myself behind them, neither would I.:(
"Several miles" would indicate remedial training is needed. I don't know of any air carrier with a visual approach profile that calls for more than a 5 mile final. So if someone can wrestle a 767 to landing inside 5 miles a light plane ought to be able to do it from 1 mi and be fully stabilized with a power on approach per FAA guidance.
At a tower airport they would have to ship you back over to approach for re-sequencing if you extended final out to 7 miles.
 

Pops

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I used to be an instructor, and taught such stuff. In Canada we don't reduce the power abeam the numbers; descending on downwind is frowned upon. The descent starts at the downwind-to-base turn, at 45° to the runway, and the turn to final is at 500'. One is normally about 2500 or 3000 feet back from the threshold at that point, translating to a 5:1 or 6:1 glide angle, well within the range of a 172 with flaps up. If there's a stiffer wind down the runway it gets a bit tighter but turning base sooner fixes that.

Why all the fear about losing an engine in the pattern? There are more people killed and airplanes wrecked by numerous other factors. Instructors and pilots should be concentrating on training for, or for prevention of, the most likely hazards. Carb ice, for instance, wrecks a lot of airplanes. Excessive speed at touchdown does, too. Getting lost. Crosswind landings. Running out of fuel. Doing stupid stuff like low flying or buzzing or showing off. Amateur aerobatics. Taking off into deteriorating weather. Taking off from a runway too short to clear obstacles. Overloading the airplane. These are statistically far more serious risks than an engine failure in the pattern.

The same way I was taught. First of all, When I reduce power , it's idle rpm all the way to touch down with a C-172. Engine quits, flaps up and then milk the flaps down if needed to the runway. As a student pilot, my instructor would correct me in a heartbeat if I was where I couldn't make the runway with an engine out. He was a powered, glider, sea-plane instructor since 1937 . If tower extended my downwind, My answer is " Extending and climbing" ATC has always been OK with that, if not, they are not going to kill me.
 

Dan Thomas

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The same way I was taught. First of all, When I reduce power , it's idle rpm all the way to touch down with a C-172. Engine quits, flaps up and then milk the flaps down if needed to the runway. As a student pilot, my instructor would correct me in a heartbeat if I was where I couldn't make the runway with an engine out.
That's what I got in '73, too. It worked in a 172, not so well in older, draggier designs. Later on the syllabus, written by government employees, was modified to the power-on stabilized approach. I suspect those guys were ex-jet pilots and were nervous about going to idle while turning base. Now we have a couple of generations of pilots who are afraid to go to idle at any time at all unless they're two feet off the runway. It's one of the things that contribute to landing difficulties like fast, flat approaches that result in bouncing and porpoising, running off the end of the runway, wheelbarrowing and groundlooping, or blowing the tires while trying to stop.
 

BJC

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Dan Thomas:

Please check your private messages (“Conversations” / envelope icon in upper right).

Thanks,


BJC
 

rdj

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Do you as a pilot want to be able to land on the runway without damage if you have an engine out anywhere in the traffic pattern?

If yes, what does the pattern look like and what is the routine from any place in the pattern ?
In my experience, the answer to your question #1 determines the answer to question #2.

My home field is a little over 3000' MSL, surrounded by pine trees. There are only two places to land nearby, the field or the pine trees. Furthermore--though he taught in a 152--my primary instructor owned a J-3 Cub. Therefore, the answer to question #1 for me is 'Yes', as that is how I was taught and I do prefer to stay out of the pines. Because the answer to question #1 is yes, the answer to question #2 is 'keep it tight'. I prefer to be within a few thousand feet of the runway, and I like to round off the base-final turn somewhat to avoid having to use power on final. An engine failure means an immediate turn toward the runway from anywhere in the pattern, adjusted as necessary to avoid overshoots (depending on plane and pattern position).

OTOH, 50 miles away from me is the big beautiful Sacramento Valley of California, with miles of flat landable fields in every direction, and larger (often controlled) airports. Down in the Valley you don't care as much about making the runway because there are plenty of fields around, and the patterns tend to be wider because the range of aircraft performance in the pattern is often greater. So in the Valley, the answer to the questions are 'No', and "Wide'. The pilots who are taught to fly in the Valley tend to fly large mile-out patterns with looonnnggg stabilized final approaches. I know that for a fact, because when those pilots fly up to my little airport in the trees, they STILL fly those mile-wide patterns. Some of them fly so far downwind I lose sight of them if I'm second in the pattern. Often I'll cross the numbers and do an upwind/crosswind leg just to stay out of their way (and vice versa). I mountain bike on the single-track trails under that approach path, and those trails are where those pilots are going to end up, after they've shed their wings on the pine trees, if their engine quits.

The right answer for me is 'it depends'. Up in the hills I keep it tight because the runway is the only friendly terrain around. In the Valley I fly wider patterns because there are plenty of options and I don't annoy the locals with my rural rube pattern shenanigans.
 

BJC

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Gregory:

After the discussion here, as well as on the EAA forum (I assume that you are the OP there), do you have any additional thoughts to wrap up this thread?

Also, to all others here: Has anyone changed your landing pattern practice as a result of this thread?

Thanks,


BJC
 

Dana

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We all fly over places where an engine out is certain to end badly. But it's a lot more embarrassing to end up in a tree a quarter mile from the runway than it is 20 miles from the nearest airport...

But seriously, pilots who routinely (i.e. every landing) practice no-power approaches are probably much more likely to make itinto that little tiny clearing in the woods when the engine stops than will the pilot whose normal approach is a two mile final dragging it in on sheer power.
 

jedi

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Sorry, I fell into a ciber trap (lost the detailed reply) and chose not to climb out at this time.

Quick answer fly the two mile stabilized approach when you have a spare engine installed and running.

Single engine and no BRS make a power off approach from the key position as was common in the 1950's when that airplane was built.
 
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