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Making the Worst of a Bad Situation (1)
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• Part 2:
  Lessons and Conclusions

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"One engine failure every 200,000 hours? I'll take my chances. Might as well practice for being struck by lightning. Just glad I've got a Lycoming up front and not a Rotax behind!"
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• NTSB Accident Database
• AOPA forced landing article

Welcome to Part 2 of our "Ways to Kill Yourself in Light Aircraft" series.

Forced landings in a single engined aircraft are relatively uncommon but they do happen, which is why PPL training spends time on this. Once you have your license, though, how many of you practice forced landing procedures or even look at that section of the operating manual? I have selected a forced landing accident from the NTSB database, which helps to illustrate two points: the unnecessary nature of many in-flight engine stoppages and the unnecessary damage caused by incorrect forced landing procedures.

On March 21, 1996, at 1908 EST in VFR conditions a Cessna 172 with a dead engine struck a parked car and a tree during a forced landing in a shopping mall parking lot in Roanoke, Virginia. The pilot and the one passenger were miraculously uninjured. The airplane sustained substantial damage.

The cause of the engine failure was never definitely determined. The pilot reported that when the engine lost power, he applied full carburettor heat. He also reported that he did not perform a complete restart checklist procedure and he did not confirm the position of the fuel selector valve. A post-accident engine test run was completed, with no problems noted.

The FAA Inspector stated, "We were unable to determine a firm cause for the engine stoppage, but either carburettor ice or fuel mismanagement (while switching from 'aux' to 'both') might have been a factor. He was cruising at 12,500 ft, where hypoxia might have become a factor, preventing him from recognizing the onset of carburettor icing in a timely fashion, or causing him to select the fuel to 'OFF', instead of 'BOTH'. The FAA inspector's report further noted that, "From 12,500 feet, 10 miles from the airport, the pilot still failed to make the runway (ROA field elevation is 1176)."

At 1902, the pilot contacted Roanoke air traffic control (ATC), advised them that the airplane had lost engine power, and requested an emergency landing at Roanoke. Roanoke ATC cleared the pilot for a straight-in approach. The pilot stated that he had the runway in sight from a distance of nine miles and maintained ninety knots indicated airspeed (KIAS) throughout the approach. According to the pilot, the engine produced partial power until the airplane was 2.5 miles from the airport, then it "...lost total engine power."

The aircraft reported the lights in sight at six miles and was issued the wind and landing clearance. The aircraft continued a rapid descent and crash-landed approximately one-half mile from the end of the runway. The controller said that he became concerned when he noticed a significant loss of altitude as the airplane approached the runway. The airplane had descended from an altitude of 6,300 feet at six miles to 3,500 feet at a distance of three miles.

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