When the engine quits just after takeoff, the pilot has few options. One is to attempt to turn around and try to land at the airport. It’s such a difficult maneuver that it’s often referred to as “the impossible turn.” I’ve written about the “impossible turn” before. AvWeb’s Paul Bertorelli takes another look at the turn in the video below. Bertorelli suggests that the turn is an option that a pilot should not write off. But it does require practice.

My advice is to practice with plenty of altitude. I’ve had two cases involving fatalities resulting from turning back after simulated engine failures during flight training.  One is here.

  • aviator

    I think the most important part of this issue is to thoroughly brief the intended action before takeoff. Although I have many, many hours, doing a teardrop turn a low altitude always scared me. My procedures were as follows:

    1) At or below 750′ AGL, land straight ahead. Understand obstacles and adjust as necessary (perhaps left or right of extended center line, depending on what’s out there).

    2) Above 750’AGL but below 1500′, attempt a teardrop turn. Decide whether turn will be left or right depending on open space around the runway (including parallel taxiways).

    3) Before takeoff, calculate difference between airport elevation and MSL. If airport elevation is 450′ MSL then no teardrop will be attempted if altimeter is below 1200′. Set altimeter bug to this altitude for quick and easy reference. One less thing to think about during a stressful time.

    4) If flying with another pilot, brief them too and allow time for questions.