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Your Single Engine Plane Has Lost Power: What Do You Do Now?

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Flying single engine planes is a great way to learn how to fly, but if your engine goes out in mid-flight, you're in a precarious situation. However, it's possible to safely land your plane and walk away without a scratch. Here's how.

How Long You Can Glide

It's okay to feel a sense of panic when your engine goes out, but you can't give in to that difficult emotion. You're in a difficult spot, but it is possible to get out of this okay. First of all, you need to remember that planes can actually glide quite far without power.

As long as you keep your plane wings level and slowly descend, you have about 20-30 minutes before you have to land. Commercial airplanes can typically glide 60 miles when flying at a height of six miles, though your single engine plane isn't likely to be as high in the air nor be traveling at the high speed of a jet, so anticipate shorter gliding times.

Spotting A Place To Land

When you're looking for a place to land, try to spot an area of flat pavement. One common emergency landing spot for small plans is a freeway. There are many instances of planes landing on roads, though this is often a desperate situation. Use your radio to try to contact authorities near the road to get them to send in emergency vehicles or to clear the highway.

However, if you are near an airport you can try to pull off an emergency landing here. Call ahead on your radio and identify yourself and tell them it is a 7700 - air control code for an emergency situation. There's a good chance they've already spotted you on their radar and they can give you instructions on when and where to land.

If you can't find a road or an airport, it's possible to land on a field, as long as it is fairly flat and free of trees. It may be a bumpy ride and may damage the plane, but you can survive if you land properly.

Making The Landing

Once you've found a safe landing zone, aim towards the landing area and decrease your altitude slowly. Keep the plane level as you land and come in an even angle. The tough part about this process is that you won't be able to control your landing speed, so you need to glide in from a much further distance than normal to ensure a slow and even landing speed.

Once you land, apply the brake to slow your plane and avoid any dangerous crashes. If you anticipate landing too hard or if your plane has lost control just before landing, get into a "brace position," with your head bent forward and your feet planted on the floor. This minimizes the severity of the impact and may save your life.

Hopefully, you never have to live through this harrowing experience. It's a good idea to actually train for such situations with your flight instructor at aviation school to get more details on the exact approach you should take, including approach speed and angle.