Stopped engine
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Editor’s Note: This is the latest article in our series called “I Can’t Believe I Did That,” where pilots ‘fess up about mistakes they’ve made but lived to tell about. If you have a story to tell, email us at: [email protected]

Sometimes it’s scary when you look back at the things you did when you were younger, less experienced, and didn’t know better. Most of the time things turned out OK, but geez was some of that stuff just crazy. What was I thinking? Ahhhh, the blind invincibility of youth.

I remember a flight, well, actually I remember many, but this one ranks up there, where if anything came up short, I probably wouldn’t be alive, let alone a pilot writing about this. Let me just put this out there now: I was young, stupid, and believed in the invincibility of me and my flight instructor, so let’s not go bashing the messenger here.

Flight instruction

Do you have too much faith in your flight instructor?

I had been through a few flight instructors as I progressed through my Private Pilot training. Meg, my first instructor, was the goddess of the skies in my mind. Perhaps it was because she was my first…I mean the first one who took me flying, but I had such a crush on her. When she transferred to a school farther away from my home base, I followed her like a new puppy follows their owner, wagging tail and all. I was crushed when she moved to Connecticut and I couldn’t go. She set me up with another instructor there, Dominick, saying he was excellent and was up to speed on my progress. So, after a week of lamenting at home, sending flowers to say goodbye, and all the other indecencies of a heartbroken pilot, I took my first flight with “Dom.”

Dominick and I hit it off right away. He was confident, but not overly so, had a great way of demonstrating maneuvers, and an equally great way of explaining concepts. I had always been a “timid” pilot, and Dom was bringing out my confidence and belief in myself. I had already soloed, and Dom was working on getting me up to speed to do my cross country flights. During this time, I came across the concept of service ceilings and absolute altitudes. For some reason, at that time, I couldn’t grasp why a plane would just not climb higher than a certain altitude without stalling. Dom and I discussed it at length one day, and while the concept was a little clearer, I don’t think Dom was satisfied with my grasp of it.

The next flight was on a cold winter day. We took off and flew to the south shoreline of Long Island, and then headed east towards Brookhaven Airport. After we passed Islip MacArthur Airport we started talking about the absolute altitude concept again. A few minutes later, Dom told me to start a climb at 90 knots. We were in a Piper Warrior II, so I applied full power, nose was raised, and up we went. We started at 2000 feet, and the climb rate on this cold day was pretty good at about 1400 feet per minute (if I remember correctly).

Climb we did, making ovals in the sky as we passed 3000, 4000, 6000 feet. As we continued up, I noticed the rate of climb decreasing. Going through 8000 feet we were barely making 400 feet per minute. Long story short, we got to about 11,000 feet, 0 feet per minute rate of climb, 50 knots with full flaps, and any pull up on the control column caused a stall, and any decrease in back pressure caused a descent. NOW I understood the concept, and it was pretty cool to see it in practice rather than just an explanation in a book.

We were planning to do touch and go’s at Brookhaven, so we turned back eastbound and started our descent. We were just off the coast, south of Brookhaven, descending through 10,000 feet, and admiring the vista from this altitude. Other than in an airliner, I had never been so high, and Dom seemed to be enjoying it as well. While up here, we discussed emergency procedures if we lost an engine.

Dom pointed out that sometimes being so high can leave you too many options, causing indecision and second guessing, and at the end of the day, you wind up with no options. We discussed an engine failure and the procedure we would use. We then started discussing a scenario where you had an airport made, but needed more time to troubleshoot (say a gear problem), and needed to extend the “air time” rather than the glide distance. This is where the Minimum Sink Speed conversation started, and our slide down the slippery slope began. We set up a speed between best glide (77 knots) and clean stall speed (56 knots) and noted that while we would not travel as far, we were descending at about 300 feet per minute, a very slow rate.

Engine stopped in a Cessna

Is this really a good idea?

Dom also pointed out that if you needed more distance (over sparse and inhospitable terrain) you could “stop the prop.” We were just descending through 9000 feet, so Dom walked me through the process, explaining that you would never do this at a low altitude, due to the fact that you had to stall the plane and the risk of a loss of control and altitude outweighed the benefits. We gave the throttle a good push to clear the engine (as we had been doing every 1000 feet on the way down), and then we started slowing. We shut down the engine and flew on for a little bit. The prop just windmilled and Dom explained the residual drag that the spinning prop causes. Then we slowed further to just above stall speed. We never stalled, but the slow speed and high angle of attack was enough to stop the prop. Once stopped, we lowered the nose and regained our normal best glide speed. We used the ignition to get the prop into the horizontal position, and then flew on.

The silence was cool. I had flown in gliders, but being in the silent cockpit of the Warrior was surreal to me. Dom showed me that we still had full control, and that planning was now key to make our arrival at Brookhaven. We continued circling over the water, and coming through 4000 feet we headed in for the 45 degree entry for runway 24. Altitude was still good as we came inbound, winds were light too, which helped. We entered the downwind at midfield and were at 1500 feet, a little high, but acceptable. I continued downwind, watching the runway, planning to fly a normal pattern. Dom was monitoring everything like a hawk as well. His head never stopped moving between the panel and the runway. We were making all our radio calls, but there was no one in the pattern, so we had the airport to ourselves.

We turned base and shortly thereafter turned final. Now, this is probably a good time to fill you in on a pertinent piece of information. Lately, during landings, I was in the habit of coming in low, requiring power to level off and hold altitude until I was back on the glide path. Well, today was no exception. I turned final about 1/2 mile out, and was greeted with the red over red display of lights from a VASI saying, “you did it again, big guy.” The display was not lost on Dom, but in his usual calm and collected tone he called out, “Don’t try to stretch the glide yet; hold what you have on the speed.” He said this a few times as we approached the runway, although the grass and fence were approaching as well, and just a little bit quicker.

I should probably mention too, that as well as being low on my approaches, I also tended to come in a little fast, only 5 knots or so, and today was no exception. At about 100 feet, Dom said “You have it, let me just give you a little assist” and pulled back on the wheel a little. The result was a balloon up about 100 feet, putting us right where we needed to be, floating right over the fence, and touching down just past the numbers. Dom, once again, was the man!

As we rolled down the runway, Dom told me to track straight and he would get the engine restarted and we would do some touch and go’s. We still had plenty of runway remaining, so I did not feel this would be an issue. Did I tell you earlier that it was a cold winter day? Dom put the mixture full rich, throttle open ¼ inch, fuel pump on, etc… ignition on, and… nothing. Once more… nothing, just the empty cranking of an engine that was clearly not going to start. We were still travelling at about 30 knots, so Dom told me to pull off. I made the first left onto the taxiway and stopped. There was complete silence in the plane. The gyros had spun down 20 minutes ago when we shut everything down. Dom looked at me and said, “We cold soaked the engine; we might be here a while.”

A while turned out to be only about 30 minutes before we got her restarted, and after warming up again (it did get quite cold in the plane while it was shut down) we took off and did some touch and go’s. The rest of the flight was routine. Dom and I laughed at what had happened, reflected on what we should have – and should not have – done, but we moved on. My trust in Dom was still unshaken, and while many out there will say how reckless it was, and while I may not put up much of an argument, the learning experiences I walked away with, however lucky I was (and I know I was lucky), served me well. Dom also had me do spins – NO not in a Warrior, we rented the club 150 and did spins. Required for the exam? No. Something I will remember and appreciate? Absolutely.

So, what did we, I mean I, learn here? There were a lot of takeaways:

  • Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Demonstrating the Service Ceiling and Absolute Altitude was great. No harm there – good show. Stopping the prop? Not so much. That could have remained a textbook lesson rather than an aircraft demonstration.
  • Clearing the engine. Long descent? It could be a much longer descent, and a much quicker arrival if you don’t. You want to be sure the engine is still generating power and will respond if you need it.
  • Low approaches are never a good idea. It was fortunate I had a little excess speed, and Dom knew it. Even on a powered approach, if the engine quits, will you make it to the runway? If you are low, the answer is pretty much guaranteed – NO. Get your sight picture, plan your descent, and don’t tolerate low, slow, or below.
  • Looking back, this was a bad plan and demo. Back then, I was a student and didn’t know better. Now, through that experience, and others I have had, I know to speak up if I don’t like what I see, don’t like what is going on, or don’t like what I am hearing. When I am alone, I listen to that inner voice. When I fly with others, it is only with those I know I can speak up and speak freely with, and who respect my opinion as well.
Jim Goldfuss
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36 replies
  1. Hunter Heath
    Hunter Heath says:

    Jim, you had me on the edge of my chair, wondering how the story would end. I only knew one thing: you had survived! My primary CFI (and I was fortunate to have only one) never let me stop the prop, for reasons your story makes clear. When I got my old C-172, it had the 45 degree flap position, and I acquired the habit of what my partner called “Heath’s parachute approach.” When I blew most of my oil overboard due to forgetting the oil filler cap, I was fat and happy at 5000 ft MSL, and had all day to glide to an airport. Stopping the prop never entered my mind, and I actually had to do one 360 on final approach. Low, dragged-in approaches make my palms sweat. I just hate barbed wire and radio antennas in my landing gear.

    • Jim Goldfuss
      Jim Goldfuss says:

      Thanks Hunter, appreciate the kind remarks. Luckily, my approaches became better and more consistent (except during my “We Did Something To The Altitude” story earlier in 2014….lol).

  2. Dave Sandidge
    Dave Sandidge says:

    Good story; good article. I don’t see anything wrong with what you guys did. It was good training no matter how you look at it, and it was done as a matter of routineness years ago anyway. Training in aircraft, you know, presents certain dangers no matter how you look at it – no matter how careful you are.

    • Jim Goldfuss
      Jim Goldfuss says:

      Your right, and times have changed as well. I dont see people doing half the things that were done years ago, some of it good, some of it bad, and some of it I’m not sure. Perhaps its just my years speaking now and being just a little less adventurous now…..

  3. Edd Weninger
    Edd Weninger says:

    Full flaps trying to climb at 11, 000 ft ? I think you should get together with Dominick and review that.

  4. Jim Goldfuss
    Jim Goldfuss says:

    The full flaps at the end were my various attempts at going slower without losing altitude. We had already leveled off with flaps up, so I played with all sorts of combinations to see what would happen. We weren’t trying to climb with full flaps.

  5. Kirk Sears
    Kirk Sears says:

    Interesting story. I was a flight instructor in the late 70s in central Illinois and I used to do the same thing with students just before their private check-ride. One day we shut the engine down at 6500 ft. When attempting re-start, we realized the alternator was bad and the battery was dead (I missed the slight discharge on the amp meter). Worried more about the embarrassment of off airport landing, I thougth maybe we could do an air-start in the C152. I pushed the nose down to Vne (and maybe a bit beyond). At about 1500 feet AGL the prop started to move and it turned fast enough to catch.

    I’m not sure where the idea came from but I was happy not to have to explain my stupidity to the FBO owner. I never did that again!

    • Jim Goldfuss
      Jim Goldfuss says:

      Actually, that does make sense, sort of like hand propping, but in the air, and without your hands…lol. Amazing what you will think of in the heat of the moment. I remember flying one winter night out at Islip (KISP) on Long Island and it was a cold and very windy night. Winds were gusting up over 30 knots. We were on approach, partial flaps, and a gust hit us that dropped a wing, and full opposite deflection wouldn’t bring the wing up. I instinctively lowered the nose feeling like I needed more air over the wing to get more control authority, and it worked (We were approaching at 90 knots in a C-172, so it wasn’t like we were “dragging it in”).Furtunately, we had the altitude to do that. Again, like with you, a split second thought, but one that saved the day.

  6. Tony
    Tony says:

    This is one of those things that i believe should still be demonstrated, in a safe manner like the one above. I’m a young pilot but have been flying for over 5 years and this could be because I’m still “young and dumb (and admittedly probably cocky)” but I find it alarming how little today’s pilots are taught about actually flying a plane. I know of several CFIs who couldn’t fly coordinated without staring down the magical ball in the tube and many of us have no idea how our aircraft would glide without that little bit of power keeping the prop from dragging. I am a big proponent of the added comfortability and confidence that aerobatic/emergency maneuver training provides.

  7. Chris Hinch
    Chris Hinch says:

    After reading Richard Bach’s “A Gift of Wings” I made sure my instructor and I worked through spinning, aerobatics, downwind landings, prop stop and restarts, you name it as part of my training. I had a great instructor who understood why I asked – it was a confidence thing. I wanted to be able to recognise these things, and know I’d dealt with it before (or at least seen it dealt with first hand) if it ever happened again.

  8. Brad Litviak
    Brad Litviak says:

    No knowledge is wasted knowledge no matter how its obtained. If a situation like that should ever occur, you now possess the experience to glide a plane in without the engine idling. From reading your story I feel that Dom had good judgement at the glide ratio you needed and airspeeds required to make the field. That would explain why he was so calm and collected. I really enjoy your story.

  9. Nate D'Anna
    Nate D'Anna says:

    While intentionally shutting down an engine back in the late 60’s was considered by SOME instructors to be acceptable, the truth is, it is the most stupid thing anyone can do.

    In 1970, I was on an air work flight with my instructor in a Piper J3 Cub. The practice of engine out procedures was demonstrated perfectly well by applying carb heat, pulling back to idle, and clearing the engine periodically. At NO time was the engine intentionally killed and with that, the same results were achieved in demonstrating and practicing a true engine failure as if the engine was totally dead.

    Evidently, the practice of actually shutting down an engine was in later years frowned upon by the FAA and considered unacceptable. Proof? A friend of mine went for a check ride with an FAA examiner to achieve his multi engine rating and the examiner asked the pilot to perform a simulated engine out procedure (including landing) in his Cessna 310.

    The pilot intentionally killed an engine and feathered the prop. The examiner began to scream at him for intentionally shutting down the engine rather than going to idle. When the examiner asked why the pilot would intentionally shut down the engine, the pilot indicated,”That’s how my instructor and I practice engine out procedures”.

    Fortunately, the engine was restarted successfully, the check ride came to a close, and the pilot was granted his multi engine rating. However, the examiner reprimanded the pilot for the intentional shut down and told him to never do it again. The examiner wanted the contact information of the instructor, but the pilot indicated that his instructor was in the pilot briefing room at the time.

    The examiner took the instructor behind closed doors and after about 20 minutes, the instructor and the examiner emerged from the room with the instructor obviously shaken. We don’t know if the instructor faced any further disciplinary action, but the message was mad perfectly clear to the instructor to never shut down a perfectly good operating engine.

    The airport I am based at has 2 very busy flight academies and both consider the practice of intentional engine shut down unacceptable, not part of the curriculum and comparable to Russian roulette.

    I rest my case.

    • Dave Sandidge
      Dave Sandidge says:

      That’s a good story, but you have to remember that examiners are like chefs: they all have their own ways of baking an apple pie. Some examiners think it’s okay to shut an engine down, some don’t. I had a FSDO examiner kill an engine on takeoff in a Baron when I did my ATP ride. He feathered it just after we broke ground. I didn’t think it was a good idea, but I just kicked the rudder, sucked up the gear an climbed on out to 3000 feet. That was many years ago, and I would guess most guys nowadays would do that only in one of those virtual reality simulators. I’m not going to judge others’ actions because my experience level is different from everyone else’s. But there is great merit in performing real-life training scenarios. Later on, I worked for a company that flight tested multi-engine airplanes; we shut down engines several times a day; it was a routine matter of course. Sometimes they’d start back up; sometimes they wouldn’t…. No doubt, stopping an engine in flight presents hazards that may be unnecessary. But nothing else will raise a pilot’s acuity level like knowing his approach and landing had better be right on the money because bodily harm awaits him if it isn’t. Besides, glider pilots do it all the time….

    • Larry M. Coleman
      Larry M. Coleman says:

      Nate, you certainly put a lot of work into making up that story, but it smells fishy. I had to stop an engine, feather it, and airstart it at altitude on my initial multi-engine rating, my MEI, my CFII (which was done in a twin), and my ATP. Each one of these was done by four different examiners in four different states. Why? Because it’s Area of Operation XI (Private) / X (Commercial) / IV (ATP) in the multi-engine PTS. No DPE would have pitched a fit over an applicant doing what he is REQUIRED to do on a checkride!

      If he was getting yelled at only for doing it during the landing, that’s a whole other animal, since the procedure below 3000 feet is to pull the engine back to zero-thrust, but from your post it sounds like he was allegedly mad about an intentional shutdown in general, and I don’t know a single MEI who would kill an engine in the pattern. The instructor I had for my initial multi had about 12,000 hours of dual given and it was his own airplane (so he knew it better than anyone) and he simply pulled it to zero-thrust at midfield downwind, just as the PTS says to do. At altitude, however, we shut it down, secured it, and then restarted, again just as the PTS says to do.

      Those academies that you say supposedly consider an intentional engine shutdown as Russian roulette? They pay extra for a high-torque starter on the left engine to reduce the wear on it during all those airstarts you claim they don’t do. Considering that it’s in the PTS, it had BETTER be in their curriculum.

      • Jim Goldfuss
        Jim Goldfuss says:

        I had to do an actual engine shutdown for my ME Checkride as well in a Seneca II. Of course, at altitude, followed by a Vmc demo, but back on for approach and landing (idle thrust in pattern for sim engine out).

        • Russell Smith
          Russell Smith says:

          My multiengine check ride was the same. The examiner had me feather it and shut it down. Zero thrust but running on the approach.

    MORT MASON says:

    I’m sure that Jim’s instructor was confident that he had everything under control. At the same time, any experienced pilot who has engaged his brain has made a truly poor decision to give up ANY option when in the air. In my opinion, a long, cold descent without clearing the engine didn’t lead to a “cold soaked” engine – – – it most likely led to carburetor icing. A cold engine is really quite easy to start (unless flooded), and the engine was very likely cold before the flight even began, and it must have been easy to start at that time. Low approaches are usually not a good idea, and Jim finally corrected this fault.

    When I first learned to fly (21,000 hours ago, and in Alaska) we didn’t often have trainers with radios, batteries, generators, gas gauges, or much of anything else beyond true primary panels, known fuel burn, and a wristwatch. Still, we learned to take emergency landings right on down to the ground, whether sand bar, gravel bar, beach, or lake (if flying floats). Alaska had neither golf courses nor roads in those days. To give up a single “option” was madness to us.

    I’m not being critical of Jim, but I surely am being critical of his instructor.

  11. Chris Russell
    Chris Russell says:

    Enjoyed your article. I’ve made many “dead stick” landings, both in gliders (100% of the time!) and in powered aircraft. At one time, I had a Sparrow II with a liquid-cooled Rotax engine. That was ideal, as the engine stayed much warmer. One “dead stick” landing was from 11,000 feet, and it took about 15 minutes to reach the ground.
    – One essential, as I’m sure you know now, is to keep excess altitude to assure a safe landing. It’s like “money in the bank.” At the last minute, you can use full flaps – or an aggressive slip – to assure making the field. This exercise is best done at a rural grass strip, during a weekday, when there’ll be minimal traffic.
    – Even so, it can get interesting: One weekday in the Sparrow, I had first one aircraft, then later another, pull into the pattern in front of me. That was too much! I twisted the starter key, and NOTHING HAPPENED! Subsequently, I found the lead to the starter had broken-off (from 2-cycle engine vibration. I was prepared to land on a taxiway, but then was able to slide right, and in behind the 2nd landing aircraft.

  12. David Heberling
    David Heberling says:

    Interesting story. Training aircraft are notorious for having weak charging systems and dead batteries. I would never have assumed that the engine would start once the prop was stopped. Still, it was a great training exercise. One thing I would add is that when performing a dead stick (engine out) landing, it is better to use a circular pattern instead of the more familiar rectangular one you use with the engine running. There is a neat technique an instructor (I too had many) taught me that I still practice. When on downwind, look where your touchdown point is positioned in your side window. When you start turning toward the runway, the touchdown point will start sliding around towards the windshield. The key is to try to keep the touchdown point in the same relative vertical position in the window. If it starts to move up, you are getting too low. To fix that, tighten up the turn towards the runway. If it moves down, you are getting too high. Loosen up the turn towards the runway to get your touchdown point to move back up to its original vertical position. When in final your adjustments change to keep your touchdown point steady in the windshield. Instead of adjusting your bank angle as before, you use a slip to shed excess altitude. There is no cure for getting low unless you have some extra speed. I caution people not to carry excess speed because this will bite you in the end in the case of an off airport landing. Excess speed will cause you to float more. It will mean having to dissipate more energy once you do touchdown. Survivability depends upon keeping your touchdown speed as low as possible.

  13. Cary Alburn
    Cary Alburn says:

    I, too, in my younger, foolisher years about 40 years ago shut off the engine in a 172, just to see what it was like. I was at 11,000′ west of Laramie in the winter, close enough to the airport that if it didn’t restart, I could have easily made it in to land at the airport. I had to slow it way down to get the prop to stop wind-milling, and after a few minutes of gliding, I decided to see if it would start by pushing the nose over to let the relative wind start it. At Vne, it wouldn’t do it, so I blurped the starter, and it immediately started spinning. I let it idle for a little bit before adding throttle, because it had gotten very cold, and even then, I didn’t go to full cruise power so that it would warm up more gently.

    My lessons: Relative wind probably won’t start a stopped prop. 172s creak and moan a lot, which we don’t hear because of engine noise. Stopped engines get very cold very fast in the winter. Purposely stopping a good engine once in a lifetime is enough.

    I will say this, though. When I had a real life engine failure in my own airplane almost 11 years ago, it was good to have had the previous experience. But better yet, it was really good that my first instructor had drummed into me all of the things we must do in an emergency engine out, I did them, and the outcome (landing in a field) was close to textbook perfect.

  14. Don Woodbridge
    Don Woodbridge says:

    Well, stopping the prop would have turned out to be a dumb idea if Dom had been a poor judge of glide path, and you had needed just a little more altitude on final–but he wasn’t, and you didn’t. I’m sure you learned more that day than just that sometimes engines won’t restart.

    My first instructor routinely pulled the mixture knob to shutoff in the air to simulate engine-outs. {Come to think of it, my FAA examiner also did that for my private check ride (c 1977?)}.

    I recall that my instructor once had me “stop the prop” in the air to show the benefit of the reduced drag, and also showed me how to get it turning again with a dive. We also used to practice dead-stick landings at our uncontrolled field, and occasionally on county roads. The dead stick setup would start as he would unexpectedly reach over and pull the mixture knob out while announcing “you just lost your engine”…

    One more point: In 17 years, my 1998 GMC Suburban with it’s fuel injected 5.7L Vortec engine has never failed to light whenever I have turned the key. Yet I remember many instances over the years of Lycoming or Continental airplane engines that wouldn’t start or exhausted the battery and then had to be hand propped, or just had to be let set for 30 minutes or so before they would relight. Why is this still acceptable?? Airplane engines should be MORE reliable than auto engines, and the technology exists. — Don W.

      MORT MASON says:

      Hey, Don – – – when you turned off your Suburban, you probably didn’t do it by starving the engine. And the Suburban probably didn’t have impulse mags, either. There’s a big difference between water cooled automobile engines and air cooled airplane engines.

      • Don Woodbridge
        Don Woodbridge says:

        @Mort: I well remember the GM and Ford built automobile motors from the 1960’s, and 1970’s, and how unreliable they could be. The big change in reliability came about because of US EPA regulations forcing the adoption of electronic fuel injection, and High Energy Electronic Ignitions.

        As it turns out, when you shut down the GMC 5.7L Vortec it kills the electronic fuel injection, AND the ignition, which effectively causes simultaneous fuel starvation and lack of spark, thereby avoiding blowing raw gasoline vapor out the exhaust system while the engine winds down. Do you remember how the old car engines would backfire sometimes?

        When you restart the Vortec, it first starts an electrical pump to pressurize the fuel injection system, and then starts the fuel injectors and ignition. The result is an engine that has never in 17 years failed to start at the first turn of the ignition switch.

        Internal combustion engines are not rocket science, and it should be possible to build a Lycoming or Continental that is just as reliable. My suspicion is that the cost of certifying newer technology, the limited size of the marketplace, and the lack of innovative competition are keeping aviation engine technology from progressing to match the reliability available in the automobile market.

        Can you give me a good reason why aviation engines should be using impulse magnetos in 2015? — Don W.

  15. Stan
    Stan says:

    I really enjoyed tbe article. And it’s really great that you have shared your experience, I think it’s a bit risky and you were lucky to not need the engine to adjust your manouvers.

    Once my FI wanted to show me, that the engine keeps windmilling when it runs out of fuel, so we stayed to figh on the approach, and actually already above the runway within the safe distance he leaned the mixture of the C172 to show that the propeller will keep spinning… Mixture rich, and the engine was back on… Great experience, can’t imagine to take the risk of shutting it down and to stop the propeller.

    Safe flights!

  16. Sam Greenberg
    Sam Greenberg says:

    This is near the top of the list of dangerous and stupid tricks, akin to practicing bleeding: creating an actual emergency for “training” purposes. I had a CFI do this to me in a J-3 on floats checkout. 500 feet on downwind to the Hackensack River, under the Teterboro traffic pattern; chop the throttle, cut the mixture, turn the mags off, raise the nose to stop the prop, dead-stick land in the river. After landing, the CFI told me it was so I could demonstrate the procedure for starting, standing on the float, mixture off (so that the engine would only run long enough for me to get back in my seat and stop if I fell in the water while propping from behind the prop). After I succeeded in restarting the CFI told me to takeoff. I refused and water taxied back to base, telling him that he was much too dangerous for me to fly with. I wonder if he might not start a fire in the plane to see how a student would use the fire extinguisher.

    A much better procedure: throttle back to idle, perform the checklist, and then set the power to 900-1,000 rpm to simulate a stopped prop, with appropriate explanation.

  17. Edd Weninger
    Edd Weninger says:

    There was once a time in the land of GADOs where examiners, both FAA and Designated, would routinely pull a mixture on a multi. Sometimes low and sometimes high. Your job was to get the (correct) engine feathered and shut down per the emergency check list whilst keeping it right side up. And then get safely on the ground with the running engine.

    That meant you really learned your stuff. But, the numbers of those who didn’t, and put themselves and instructors in a better place were too numerous. Things change, but sometimes twins fly into buildings and bridges now, so costs are still accrued.

  18. Jim Goldfuss
    Jim Goldfuss says:

    Appreciate all the comments, pro and con. Being I evidently survived the experience, NO, I would not do it again, but YES, the take away and learning experience was priceless.

    Regarding the multi comments, VMC demos at altitude were done by shutting down the engine. No, it wasn’t done during the approach and landing, but at altitude, we shut it down and had to demonstrate control and recovery.

  19. chris
    chris says:

    I learned to fly in the mid 70’s at an aviation university and if I recall corectly instructors pulled the mixture back then. When I instructed I found that taking students to an uncontroled field and setting power at zero thrust mid point on the downwind and telling them if they had to touch the power they owed me a beer was a good excersise. Then you could up the game by saying ok this time you need to touch down abeam a certain taxiway or other marker. I was happy to spend hours doing this. It teaches energy management and efficient flying, you could do it no flaps and use slips or no slips and only flaps. I currently get my flying fix flying hang gliders so every landing and takeoff for that matter is without power. But all the priciples are the same for anything with a wing for the most part. I think more pilots should try hang gliding, I tease my airplane only pilot friends that real pilots don’s need a cockpit.

  20. richard Wyeroski
    richard Wyeroski says:

    I have to say I do not think it is a good idea to shut down an engine, especially on a cold winter day! Flight idle is sufficient to demonstrate an engine out procedure.

    Maintenance is an issue. The sudden cooling of an engine can cause cracks in the exhaust system and cylinders. A failure of a cylinder or exhaust leak into the cabin is possible from this abuse. Besides I would not want to fly an aircraft that is abused in this way. Remember cold winter days are a no-no and carrying power at 1500 RPM in a long descent is required to keep the engine at a relatively even temperature.


  21. Steve Green
    Steve Green says:

    Great article, Jim. I used to demonstrate prop-stopped glides in the Grumman all the time, as a regular part of pre-solo training. My main purpose was to cement the idea in the student’s head that the airplane would fly without power and that, before soloing, he/she had actually done that. I never carried it through to a landing; we always demonstrated this at altitude and then restarted.

    One day I began to wonder if I should explore the actual glide with the prop stopped all the way to landing. I went up early in the morning by myself and tried it. No problem. Easy pattern around to a normal landing; I even had the canopy slid back. Stopped on the runway. When I went to restart the engine and taxi back to the ramp, it wouldn’t start.

    I had forgotten to turn on the electric fuel pump.

    My whole plan was always predicated on the idea that I could easily restart the engine if I got in trouble. Having now demonstrated to myself that I could screw that up…I never did prop-stopped demonstrations again!

    • Jim Goldfuss
      Jim Goldfuss says:

      Thanks Steve. Yes, that was my first, and last time stopping the prop, but the lesson was well learned. Fortunately, that was the first, and last time the engine stopped on me in flight (yes, I am knocking on wood). Love the vacuum pump IFR once, but the conditions were lowish, but benign, so it turned out to be an excellent emergency (if one such exists)

  22. Jose F.
    Jose F. says:

    An AA1 or AA5 will usually start without the electric fuel pump, especially if warm. However I think it is insane to fully stop the prop aloft. There are a whole host of reasons why it might be a bit difficult to restart it midair and I do not think the risk to benefit is appropriate.

  23. N. Earle
    N. Earle says:

    Many years ago I once put my self in a predicament after stopping the prop under different circumstances. My Cessna 152 Aerobat did not have inverted fuel or oil systems. I wanted to practice some basic turns and maneuvers while inverted so I went to altitude, stopped the prop and rolled inverted. When descending through about 1500’ I rolled it back to level and hit the starter-nothing! There was not a suitable safe place to land below me and by now I was about 700’ AGL so I used up my last option and pointed down near vertical. I had just enough altitude to gain enough airspeed to windmill the prop and get it started. It then immediately hit me why the starter would not actuate. This aircraft was wired from the factory with an avionics master switch. The switch was connected in a way that prevented the starter from engaging with the avionics master in the on position.

  24. John
    John says:

    I used to fly part 135 and took check rides every year, plus another for one of our government customers. About 15 or 16 years ago during a check ride with a company chief pilot we stopped the prop in a a C182 while 3000′ above a non-towered, low traffic airport. Non-event best describes the outcome. Several valuable lessons were demonstrated. First, glide range increases because we had a higher IAS at the same (weight corrected) glide and AOA with the prop stopped compared to a windmilling prop. At 3000′ AGL the lower sink rate didn’t buy us much because we lost about 300′ when I stopped the prop. If I’d been at cruise altitudes 6000-8000′ AGL the altitude loss penalty to stop a windmilling prop would likely be erased.

    Some years later a catastrophic engine failure in another C182 stopped the prop when the engine seized. Even though the prop was at fine pitch my glide distance increased by about 10% over POH numbers allowing me to clear an area with lots of invisible wires over my best landing alternative (a rural 4 lane divided highway).

    FWIW, stopping the prop really isn’t necessary to demonstrate the resulting glide increase if flying a CS SE aircraft. IMHO, just pulling the prop control on a windmilling propeller to max coarse pitch has the same effect, and is a somewhat training alternative to stopping the prop if introduced in primary training.

  25. Viktor Rothe
    Viktor Rothe says:

    In an emergency people get killed because they are forced to do something they never did before. So, rather practice unusual scenarios and push your limits. Stopping the prop overhead an airfield is not inherently dangerous if you (or your instructor) know what to do.

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