So you’re flying solo in a Cessna – 172, far away from any runway, and the only propeller-driven engine you have, fails. What do you do? First and foremost, don’t panic! Again, do not panic!
You get your wits about you, put the plane in glide configuration, and start scanning the fields around you to make a forced landing. Emergency landings are categorized into three types:
- Forced Landing: As is clear from the term itself, you will force your airplane to land in a field not meant for landing under normal landing operations. This type of an emergency landing is always preceded by an event that renders an aircraft incapable of further powered flight, such as an engine failure.
- Precautionary landing: Pilots execute a planned, precautionary landing when it is safer to be on the ground than in the air. Typical conditions include fuel starvation (plane out of gas) or severely deteriorating weather.
- Ditching: When a forced or precautionary landing takes place on water, we call it ‘ditching.’
Enough with the definitions and all – you’re a pilot, and your single-engine plane just experienced an engine failure. What should you do?
Airplane Parts as a Shield
When dealing with an emergency situation such as an engine failure, you must prioritize what parts of the airplane are most important to you, and hence, try to save them as best you can, when making a forced landing off the runway.
- Vital airplane sections: Parts of the airplane most important to you are where the passengers and the pilots are seated. But since you’re the only one in the aircraft, the cockpit of the 172 is most vital to you, so save it!
- Dispensable airplane structures: These structures are disposable to you in your current situation. You would rather let the wings, landing gear, and the fuselage bottom get wrecked, if it saves the cockpit – your safety is more important than the wing flaps, after all! By using these dispensable areas of the plane as shields, you can increase the odds of surviving a forced landing, regardless of the terrain.
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