Night Engine Failure Question

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BuckNiner
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Night Engine Failure Question

Post by BuckNiner »

So here's the pretend scenario: night VFR from Red Lake to Kenora, nothing but rock, trees, and lakes below. Can't see any roads or lights. What would you choose as the most survivable place to put down? Let's assume you're cruising at 4500 ft. in a C-172.
I've been doing a lot of night cross-countries lately as part of some time building for my CPL and no intructors have really been able to answer this question for me.
Any input would be appreciated.
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trey kule
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Post by trey kule »

Let me see. Single engine. Night. Sparsely populated area.

Have you given any thoughts to therapy?

If you are going to insist on taking chances , and when you have an engine failure, here is the plan.

1. Immediate action: Set up minimum descent speed - not best gliding range.
2. When you estimate you are about 1000AGL turn on landing light(s)
3. If you dont like what you see, turn the landing lights off.

No amount of experience or skill will help you here. You are relying on luck.

Good luck
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Takeoffpower
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Post by Takeoffpower »

the best thing for you to do is realize were the wind is coming from. Have a look at your map to see if you can distinguish any features that could give you a benefit. Because once the emergency happens all you really have time for is to fly the plane. As far a touch down, keep your night vision the best it can and really hope for the best. If it were me would look to land first towards a light. If not then maybe i would ditch close to shore on a lake. Really the qestion is should you put yourself in that situation in the first place. Go somewhere were you have more options. Hope this helps you.
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Jet Dog
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Post by Jet Dog »

a lot of ppl say land for the trees rather than the lake, trees are more forgiving than the water, plus you won't drown in a tree
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Post by flyinhigh »

well first thing, yes single piston engine at night is dumb, but in your defence I was once in your shoes and wanted to fly all the time, even at night.
My advice is that if you do fly at night, try to stay within gliding distance to any roads, doesn't matter if you have to do divert 25 miles outta the way, safety is number 1, you'll be kicking your ass if you don't and you have an engine failure.
example, flying red to kenora, follow the highway down to vermilon bay than the trans can to kenora, it'll take an extra 20 min, but its worth if something does happen.

fly safe
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arctic navigator
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Post by arctic navigator »

Hmmm... Well if your building time for your Commercial, why not follow roads etc... I dont really know the area your flying in, but even if it takes you an extra hour by following roads, it doesnt matter... Most moving map GPS's show roads on them... If you have to take water or trees, I would take the trees too...
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Post by bizjet_mania »

If you can see the trees.... try to clip one with a wing, ull get spun around and end up on ur tail and not face first. Better chance of landing that way then the water.
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Post by oldtimer »

Jet Dog has it right. Do not land in water. You will drown. Slow down, full flaps, trim full nose up, descend into wind, grab the bottom of the seat to help you bend over double and kiss your sweet ass goodbye. Seriously, I used to do a lot of single engine IFR and night in a privatly owned airplane so I did some studying and with a stall speed slower than 61 KTS. the chances of surviving a forced landing in the trees is excellent if you do it right, which is to fly in control at as slow a speed as possible. Just do a soft field landing in the tops of the trees.
Reminds me of a student pilot who was taught to aim between two trees to rip the wings off and slow the airplane down. Faced with an engine failure, the hero aimed his airplane between two trees so as not to hit one dead on with the fuselage. Only probem was, he was in a pasture and these were the only trees in the field.
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Post by Mitch Cronin »

:shock: ...I've had only two experiences with night flying in little airplanes in nowheresville ("sparsely populated areas)... and aside from when I was near built up areas, I couldn't see squat!
black, black, and more black.... Between Kenora and Where? Red Lake?.... or Pooch Lake.. man, you better hope for lot's'o moonshine, or you in the black!
If you can "choose" where you "put down" somehow, I'm impressed!

...and if you can, why does that it's night enter the question? Same old question that's been debated over many years and more beers than you'll probably ever drink.... trees or water.... trees or water....
High wing or low wing? Retractable gear or fixed?
A 172?... What kind of trees? How dense? What kind of shoreline?....

...but how the fu&* you're gonna get to choose, when your little paddle up front stops whirling, when you're in the middle of moose, mosquito & monster territory, and you can't even see which way is up.... is beyond me!??
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Post by C-GPFG »

Aim directly behind the tail lights of car.
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Rowdy
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Post by Rowdy »

I'd go for the trees! Did you see the amphib water landing Vid cat posted? Thats whats going to happen to a C172 as well.. CARTWHEEL! You'll end up upside down in water in the dark with no idea where the shoreline is. If that doesn't spell fatality I don't know what does!

I was taught to follow roads and fly high enough to allow a fair amount of time and sight range to make a better choice. The problem with a lot of roads is the power lines that follow them however.

Best thing to do is know your airplane and not think about it!
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Post by mikegtzg »

At night...what a scary thought. I have flown in the Red Lake area a few times in the day. There is the odd logging road. An abandomed aerodrome used for for a spraying campaign called Prospect Lake, about halfway from Kenora to Red Lake. You certainly can't see squat at night. Unless there is a full moon, it's like IFR near the ground. I don't think you could rely on seeing the difference of ground or water with a few clouds blocking the moon.
In the summer when the water is warm, I would ditch in the water close to shore and hopfullyy there is a beach to try for. At this time of year with the cold water you have no chance at all in the water.
I have a slow stall speed fabric covered plane. And think the ditching would be better than the trees. a larger aluminum skinned machine that stalls faster might be better in the trees. Un fortunately this is one of those flight manouvers we cannot practice to perfection.
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Post by ScudRunner »

First off good on ya builing your time for the CPL at Night!! I dont know how many Pilots going for there ATPL later on down the road are lacking that Night PIC.

Wouldn't Aim for a lake shore if your going down, that water is mighty cold and if you survive and make it to shore being at night and this time of year or any time of year for that matter your Fuct. Dont really know the area your in but in the winter when the lakes are good an frozen then yes head for a lake. Unfortunetly for me in southern BC lakes don't freeze.

Like the other said, building time = follow roads who cares how much longer its take.
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Post by Howitzer »

I remember I ferried a single piston in the arctic at night in the winter. I don't work there anymore :D , that's besides the point though. If you're driving that 172 over any area, I might consider pushing your seat to it's aft limit and snugging up the belt just before you go in, this might help you from not bonking your noggin on the dash or the column, one more chance to survive.
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Post by greenwich »

Good posts all!!

I would bet on the trees! Get into a good glide, then as you near the tree-tops start slowing to Vso and 'mush' your way into the treetops. JUST DON'T STALL THE DAMN THING!!

As for trees Vs. water: An instructor once told me, "so you put in down in a lake averting emergency #1...now you're onto emergency #2"

G
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Post by BuckNiner »

Lot's of sound advice. Thanks everyone so far. I'm training in Winnipeg right now and lately have decided to do all of my night flying to the west. A couple trips out to Kenora and Red Lake and I realized I was putting way too much faith in the 'ol internal combustion engine. Not the best idea at this stage.
Does anyone have any actual statistics on the survivability of a water ditching in a wheeled aircraft (not including deaths as a result of hypothermia)?

Water of trees? There has to be some sound evidence to prove that one is better than the other. Day or night.
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Post by mellow_pilot »

Day time, you can follow bubbles to the surface. Night... umm... pray? It may sound stupid, but ask a diver, people have drowned because they swam to the bottom instead of the surface.

And you really should think about hypothermia. Alot of people discount it, thinking it's summer, or its not that cold. The truth is in the dead of summer, you can become hypothermic easioly if you're soaked from ditching. You may not think it, but it's true. As night falls the temp will go down enough to kill you if you're wet. The other factor is that you have no energy left cause you just had to swim to shore, then bulid a shelter and burn off all that adrenalin. So hypothermia is a huge consideration. Put your survival kit on the seat next to you if it's empty, you have a better chance of keeping it, expecially if the airplane goes swimming.

I did a night x-cty with an instructor who shall remain nameless... It was Sault to Elliot lake. I had planned to follow roads there and back, on the way back he says just hit direct to Soo and follow the gps back. That meant crossing a huge void of nothing. Yea I flew through the valley of the shadow of death that night. I would not recommend the experience to anyone, it is somewhat terrifying. I was practially fixed on the engine gauges for over an hour.
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Post by cyyz »

I was just reading my Flying magazine.... Oh, sorry, off topic, but someone mentioned not hitting your head.


Anyways, they've intalled "airbags," in the cessna seat belts... LOL

Cirrus, = chute

Cessna = Airbag....

I think you're better off in a cirrus, go find one, for those night cross countries and if it goes dead, pull the chute.. =)(back on topic woohoo)
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Post by LostinRotation »

cyyz wrote: Cirrus, = chute

Cessna = Airbag....

I think you're better off in a cirrus, go find one, for those night cross countries and if it goes dead, pull the chute.. =)(back on topic woohoo)

Pull the cute = give up control of the A/C

Features like the parachute are nice features to have if you lose control of the A/C, but why would you want to give it up if you don't have to ?

It's basically like saying your not the PIC, your the guy along for the ride.

Cirrus is building A/C that promote sloppy and dangerous pilots IMHO....your last comment is a perfect example of what I mean, not that I'm grouping you in with them :wink:
But this is a convo for a different thread.


If you pull the cute and realize as you get lower to the ground your smack in the middle of a lake, your going for a swim, because there's nothing you can do about it now....I'll take the Cessna with an airbag, stay in control of my A/C and practice slow flight over some nice fur trees. :good:


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Post by cyyz »

LostinRotation wrote:
and practice slow flight over some nice fur trees.
Or slow flight into a mountain....?

I don't know, not to bring in the Winnipeg crash, but I'm sure even the caravan would have been better with the chute. (different situation)

I'm against the chute, but he said he's flying in the mountains and can't see "anything"(no lights). Well if you don't have "visual reference" you're IFR except TC doesn't think so.

So, yeah, you might ditch in the lake, your crash won't kill you and you can pop open the canopy and hop out and flying over lakes you need a raft, so hop into that...

I think the chute makes us complacent, sure, but if I had ice on my plane and I was falling like a stack of bricks I'd take the chute.

If i was flying in an area where I couldn't see anything, pitch black with mountains all around me, I'd rather go "straight" and "softly" down, instead of straight ahead and praying I miss the mountains, the trees, the lakes and land on a road.

If you want to do something "dangerous" do it with some safety measures.
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Post by Cat Driver »

Interesting topic, with interesting ideas on how to maybe survive.

But why are you flying single engine at night?

To qualify for a Commercial pilot license?

What f.ckin moron put such a policy in place to start with?

Lets see here how this works...first you risk your life to qualify for a commercial pilot license flying single engine at night.

Then when you become a commercial pilot you are forbidden to fly passengers at night in a commercially operated single engine airplane because it is not safe.

So tell me who are the morons that are forcing you to risk your life flying single engine aircraft at night?

Cat
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Post by Right Seat Captain »

The first step is to take a step back, and look at the planning. Why would you plan a flight with no outs? This is something you should be looking at for the commercial training: ALWAYS have an out.

So how do you change your planning to have an out? Choose a route that would allow you to have a reasonable chance of survival if you have an engine failure or run into bad weather. Engine failure shouldn't be your only concern. In sparsely settled area with no light, it is very easy to fly yourself into something bad that you'll never see until it's too late.

Roads are an excellent option for night. Make sure they are well travelled so that you'll see a car here and there to indicate where the road is. I remember flying from North Bay to Ottawa at night a few times, and I made the mistake of flying over Algonquin Park. It was so dark, if anything happened, I'd wouldn't be here talling you this now. So next time, I followed Highway 17. It may not have been straight, but I would have a better chance at living through the experience.

IMHO, avoid ditching at all costs, especially at night. You will flip and sink in a matter of seconds, and you'll be found full of water at the back of the cabin. Disorientation after ditching is your first problem of many, you won't know which way is out of the airplane. Then you have to get yourself to the surface and swim somewhere you can't even see. You could be swimming farther away from shore.

This is usually the order that I consider landing locations, from best to worst:
1) Runway
2) Field in ideal condition (no ruts, short growth, enough length, eg grassy area)
3) Frozen lake (often not considered)
3) Field in moderate condition (farmer's fields)
4) Roads (preferably with no power lines, and relatively straight. A quiet 4 lane highway would be best)
5) Field in poor condition (ditches, bushes, fences, sloped/slanted)
6) Trees (soft field technique flare on tree tops. They are much more flexible and the trunks, and the fall through branches and you wings will slow your fall tot he ground. You are in a metal cage assuming a cessna or cherokee or something similar)
7) Non-frozen water (land as slow as possible, with very nose high attitude, can lower the risk of cartwheeling)
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Post by bizjet_mania »

Cat Driver wrote:Interesting topic, with interesting ideas on how to maybe survive.

But why are you flying single engine at night?

To qualify for a Commercial pilot license?

What f.ckin moron put such a policy in place to start with?

Lets see here how this works...first you risk your life to qualify for a commercial pilot license flying single engine at night.

Then when you become a commercial pilot you are forbidden to fly passengers at night in a commercially operated single engine airplane because it is not safe.

So tell me who are the morons that are forcing you to risk your life flying single engine aircraft at night?

Cat
That is actually a very good point.
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Night rating

Post by Springbok »

Cat Driver wrote:Interesting topic, with interesting ideas on how to maybe survive.

But why are you flying single engine at night?

To qualify for a Commercial pilot license?

What f.ckin moron put such a policy in place to start with?

Lets see here how this works...first you risk your life to qualify for a commercial pilot license flying single engine at night.

Then when you become a commercial pilot you are forbidden to fly passengers at night in a commercially operated single engine airplane because it is not safe.

So tell me who are the morons that are forcing you to risk your life flying single engine aircraft at night?

Cat
Cat, a quick question and my apologies for coming to this thread at a late stage. Normal Caribbean power cuts!!

I have to do a Canadian CPL endorsement which will include my night rating and I do not have a multi engine rating. I will therefore be in the same position as many a guy doing their CPL`s.

What you say is so true. Why then is TC following a syllabus which is potentially dangerous. They endorse the CPL night rating on single engine aircraft when it will not be practically applicable later on after completion.

Should we then finish up all the fine tuning and flight test prep on a single and then rather do the night rating during a multi engine conversion? What is the best solution? Doing twin night ratings will also seriously bang a hole in a limited budget.

In my case, I have no familiarity with much of the tearrain I will be expected to overfly in Canada in a single and this is a deep concern in the event of engine falure at night. If I was back home in South Africa and flying over an area well known to me, I might just stand a chance of survival.....I mean, I might make it into a good tobacco or sugar cane field.

Bottom line is, what do you and the other guys suggest we do in a case like this? Do we bomb around in sigles building those night hours to get the CPL or should we just get the twin rating and then go from there?
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Post by Cat Driver »

Springbok :

I have been out of the flight training end of aviation in Canada for many years and am a bit fuzzy regarding how many night hours are required for the commercial pilot license.

My reason for questioning TC approving of night x/country in single engine aircraft for the issuance of a higher license was only to point out their lack of consistancy with regard to flight safety.

Why do they approve something for pilots in training yet they regulate it to be to dangerous for commercial operations?

As to your question on what would be the best way to build night time, there are several flight instructors here who may be able to advise you and are more up to date on this than I am.

Cat
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