April 30

Teaching “The Improbable Turn” is now FAA Policy



When we presented our Livestream Seminar (now YouTube video) as an FAASTteam training in February of 2018 we were opposing a strict FAA policy to “land straight ahead in the case of engine failure on take-off”. Especially since this was an official FAA Safety Training we had to tread lightly with our advice:

With Russ Still and Rod Machado we advocated that a turn-back to land on the departure runway in certain, well considered cases was a safer option than straight ahead. Preconditions for success were a careful pre-takeoff analysis and briefing as well as practice in this maneuver (FAA heresy at the time) This now is FAA policy accepted and promoted in AC 61-83J Flight Instructor Renewal  Additionally, the FAA is recommending this be demonstrated by CFIs to all student pilots. The pretinent part reads as follows:

A.11.4  Return to Field/Engine Failure on Takeoff.  Flight instructors should demonstrate and teach trainees when and how to make a safe 180-degree turn back to the field after an engine failure. Instructors should also train pilots of single-engine airplanes not to make an emergency 180-degree turn back to the field after a failure unless altitude, best glide requirements, and pilot skill allow for a safe return. This emergency procedure training should occur at a safe altitude and should only be taught as a simulated engine-out exercise. A critical part of conducting this training is for the flight instructor to be fully aware of the need for diligence, the need to perform this maneuver properly, and the need to avoid any potential for an accelerated stall in the turn. The flight instructor should demonstrate the proper use of pitch and bank control to reduce load factor and lower the stall speed during the turn. After completing this demonstration, the flight instructor should allow the trainee to practice this procedure under the flight instructor’s supervision. Flight instructors should also teach the typical altitude loss for the given make and model flown during a 180-degree turn, while also teaching the pilot how to make a safe, coordinated turn with a sufficient bank. These elements should give the pilot the ability to determine quickly whether a turnback will have a successful outcome. During the before-takeoff check, the expected loss of altitude in a turnback, plus a sufficient safety factor, should be briefed and related to the altitude at which this maneuver can be conducted safely. In addition, the effect of existing winds on the preferred direction and the viability of a turnback should be considered as part of the briefing.

About the author 

David St. George (Lifetime Member)

David St. George learned to fly at Flanders Valley Airport in 1970. Proving that everyone is eventually trainable, he became an FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor for airplanes (single and multi, instrument, and glider) and serves the Rochester FSDO as an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner. In this capacity, he gives flight tests at any level from sport pilot to ATP and CFI. For 20 years David was East Hill Flying Club's 141 Chief Instructor and manager. David holds multi and single engine ATP pilot certificates, with pilot ratings for glider and seaplane. He recently earned his ninth renewal as a Master Instructor and owns an Aeronca Champ so he can build hours for that airline job! He is now flying charter: http://learnturbine.com

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