OPINION ARTICLE: Training Engine Failure Procedures in Multi-Engine Aircraft

OPINION ARTICLE: Training Engine Failure Procedures in Multi-Engine Aircraft

The question posed was:

Engine failure just after V1 but before Vr on jet or turboprop aircraft during takeoff: What are your thoughts regarding advancing power to the mechanical stops?

First and foremost, no procedure or limitation supersedes the PIC’s authority to do what is necessary to meet the needs of the emergency. However, in many turbojet aircraft, an engine failure is considered an abnormal procedure as most transport category airplanes meet design criteria that allow them sufficient performance on one engine, even after a failure right at V1. In fact, in a 121 environment the airplane has to meet the performance criteria with the worst case scenario engine failure at V1 in order to be approved to fly into that airport. Therefore, IN THEORY, there should never be a scenario with an engine failure at V1 in which the airplane is in imminent danger while following published company, manufacturer, and FAA procedures.

However, we all know that pilots often face scenarios that do not conform to what is trained in the simulator. If you need more power, by all means push those thrust levers/throttles up. I can only speak for my own company’s engine failure procedure. The manufacturer of the aircraft published procedures that have been interpreted by our company and approved by the FAA. In our procedures, we do not advance thrust levers forward instinctively in the event of an engine failure as either FADEC or APR (CRJ-200) will automatically adjust thrust on the operating engine in the event of a failure of the other engine. Our reduced thrust performance numbers are calculated also taking into account obstacles, weight, runway length, and engine failure procedures. If suspecting an engine failure, we do verify that the additional power has been AUTOMATICALLY added by using a “check thrust” call when experiencing a SUSPECTED engine failure. If the engine power has not increased automatically through APR or FADEC, then we do advance it manually.

As with any modern CRM/Threat and Error management model, the concept is that we don’t “instinctively” throw levers and switches (unless it is an approved memory item). I often tell my students that “no action is better than an incorrect wrong action.” The concept is that as a crew, when dealing with an emergency (especially a threat with adequate time such as an engine failure, given the flight path of the aircraft is not deteriorating), we take a step back and evaluate and not rush into action. If you are approaching terrain or losing control, as I said in the first sentence, NOTHING supersedes the PIC’s authority to meet the needs of an emergency. You do what you must to maintain aircraft control.

For a long time, the industry has encouraged quick reacting in primary training. In fact, when doing my multi engine training, only seconds elapsed from the time my instructor cut off the fuel to the time the engine was feathered. As airplanes become increasingly automated, the industry focus is staring to shift to making more calculated decisions and taking more time to evaluate emergencies that are not critical and immediately life threatening. Many accidents have occurred when pilots took immediate wrong action, such as feathering the good engine. In all reality, the body does experience a “startle response” and stress reaction when faced with an emergency in real life, and we have to account for a different psychological state when dealing with real life emergencies. A wise instructor of mine once said “there are two types of emergencies – one sip and two sip. One where you take one sip of coffee and deal with it, and the other in which you take two sips of coffee and then deal with it.”

I can’t stress the importance of following the procedures recommended by the manufacturer and your company (FAA approved), if applicable. Many airplanes have different procedures, so there is not a one size fits all solution. I personally fly so many different types of airplanes that I really do have to consult the emergency/abnormal checklists even in a Cessna 172 because it’s the best source of information on how to handle it. But if my judgement tells otherwise or the procedure will put me in a worse place, then I use that PIC authority to make a better decision in the interest of safety.

As for configuration changes, that is also airplane specific. Although many manufacturer’s do call for reducing drag at specified times (gear/flaps), a pilot needs to consult their company/manufacturer to see what is recommended. Larger turbojet aircraft systems often rely on logic related to the airplane configuration, so following manufacturer’s recommendations is critical. However, every pilot can agree that reducing drag in a single engine flight scenario is optimal. The question of when to do it is generally set by the manufacturer or company.

I hope this clears up my thoughts on engine failure procedures. Although it’s mostly specific to larger turbo-jet aircraft in an airline (Part 121) environment, I think the operating philosophy applies to general aviation aircraft as well.


by Sarah Rovner

Sarah holds an ATP certificate with a CL-65 type rating and is currently a FAA Safety Team Lead Representative, Master Instructor, Captain and FTD instructor/evaluator with a Part 121 airline. Since changing careers after years as a senior network engineer for the oil & gas industry, Sarah has obtained her ATP, CFI, CFII, MEI and has flown over 3800 hours. As the owner of an international ferry pilot company, FullThrottle Aviation LLC, Sarah has flown over 115 different types of general aviation airplanes in 15 different countries including oceanic crossings in small aircraft. She continues to stay involved in general aviation through mentoring and education; volunteering at many different events and presenting original seminars on aviation safety and human factors. Although much of her flying is now professional in nature, she still enjoys flying a Super Cub on her days off. As a regular attendee of Oshkosh and local fly-ins, she enjoys the company and camaraderie that general aviation brings.

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