Engine Failure in a Cessna – 172: Whatever You Do, Don’t Panic


Home / Engine Failure in a Cessna – 172: Whatever You Do, Don’t Panic

A pilot should never lose focus of what is happening. Photo Credit: Jess Loughborough

Your Engine Has Failed – Step One: Accept What is Happening

Stay focused and accept what is happening. You must necessarily be mentally present, at all times, during an engine failure. Take the situation in small steps, to try to maintain control of not only the plane, but the entire situation.

  1. Look outside.
  2. Select a landing space.
  3. Watch your airspeed.
  4. Focus!

A pilot who despairs in such a situation loses focus of what is happening. The aircraft might be losing speed, the attitude might be changing, or you might miss a good field onto which you could make a safer forced landing.

A pilot who is anxious, worried, panicked is unable to interpret inputs from the environment, so this type of pilot is most likely to attempt to recover the aircraft in an engine failure, while forgetting to maintain positive control on the aircraft, so do not despair or panic – just accept what is happening, and work on getting the plane on the ground safely.

Forced Landing: What Else Not To Do

In the event of making a forced landing, in a Cessna 172, there are a few other actions you should avoid if possible:

  • Don’t make 180 degree turns.
  • Try not to over bank during the turns.
  • Don’t pull the nose too high – this will help you gain more glide distance.
  • Don’t obsess about finding the perfect spot to make a forced landing, the clock’s ticking, so pick the best spot available, and go for it.
  • Don’t forget to relay your position and intention to the ATC.
  • Finally, again, don’t panic: trust the instruments more than you trust your senses, when in an emergency.

Dealing With Engine Failure

All pilots, at a very basic level, are trained how to respond to engine failures, whether they’re trained for a Cessna 172, Cessna 150, or any other training aircraft. The above guidelines are general, and secondary to actions required by the Pilot’s Operating Handbook for your aircraft. In all cases, however, Don’t Panic is always good advice for the pilot in the event of an engine failure in a single-engine plane.


Federal Aviation Administration. Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. (2008). Accessed May 25, 2012.

Federal Aviation Administration. Airplane Flying Handbook. (2004). Accessed May 25, 2012.

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