Tuesday, August 7, 2012

ALERTS - Engine Failure Checklist

Due to my traveling for work and conflicting schedules with my instructor, I'm not going to be flying again until Sunday and the only way for me to stay somewhat proficient is to chair "fly". I'm sure every student does it... But I do it to the extreme! My budget is tight so I've logged more hours in a chair cockpit than in an actual airplane.

What I wanted to review on today's "flight" was my emergency engine out procedure. The first time I did this in the air... I chose a horrible place to land and couldn't handle the multi-tasking required. Not only do you have to find a place to land, but you have to maintain 65knots, troubleshoot your engine, change the radio, and change the transponder to 7700.

Luckily some genius thought of another tool to easily remember the larger amounts of information. Never have I had to remember so many mnemonic devices. As the title says.. Today's is ALERTS. I've covered this in one of my previous posts, but for my own sake, and hopefully the sake of another pre-solo student, I'm writing this. It helps when I can put my thoughts into a post like this. It helps me organize and remember my thoughts.

A - Airspeed - Maintain best glide speed. In my Cessna 172N it's 65 knots.
L - Landing site - Find one. Preferably a road without power lines or the vegetation of a farm
E - Engine troubleshoot - Pull the checklist and run through it. Once you memorize, use a flow
R - Radio - If your engine doesn't restart, tube to 121.5 and broadcast Mayday
T - Transponder - Set to 7700 to indicate an emergency
S - Seatbelts - Ensure they are secure

Like I said... The first time my instructor pulled my power, I lost 1500ft before I was able to troubleshoot my engine and I would have crashed due to a poor landing site selection. Now, after a couple tries, I'm choosing better landing spots and completing my checklist in far less an altitude loss. This is all due to chair "flying" and memorizing the important ALERTS mnemonic device. Thank you to whoever thinks up these tools to remember!


  1. Brings back memories and I know that I will have to do this again as I restart my PPL training. I practice in my FlightSim a lot and even pull the power and see what I can do. It's not real, but it's still a great way to reinforce what I know.

    1. I've done a lot of flight simulator flying in the past, but once I started flying in the airplane, I didn't feel like it was helping. For the PPL it's so focused on looking outside and getting that site picture, I felt like it was hurting more than helping. I am excited to get my PPL out of the way and begin working on my instrument rating because I think then my flight sim will make sense again.

      If I wasn't flying for real though... I would be spending a ton of time on my sim.

      When do you think you'll get back up there?

  2. Thanks for posting this. I needed this checklist!

    1. No problem. Glad I could help! :)

  3. In the real flying world, you should be thinking on places to land all the time, specially when you are not flying very high altitudes and you know you will have less time to think. The most important thing is to maintain the glide-speed (trim for it so you don't get distracted). Also, you are used to flying a pattern for landing right? so try to do the same if you have an emergency, it will help you with the calculations.

    I remember recently when flying back to my airport, in a cross country, it got quite dark and I decided to fly over a road all the way just in case. When your instructor is not next to you, the perspective of an engine failure is completely different. With your instructor you know that he will take care of the plane if that happens so you only practice it when he pulls the power and you probably hate it. Believe me, there will be a time when that changes and it will be your favorite thing to do because it is the easiest if you compare it with perfect slow flight, perfect stalls... where you have to be within some limits.

    In my check-ride I was asked to actually land because of a simulated engine failure. That was something I did not actually practiced so I recommend everyone to practice it. I was able to perform a perfect landing without engine and in exchange my check-ride examiner actually pull the power again while I was performing a short field takeoff, it was scary as hell but luckily I had a perpendicular runway to land on and I was doing a short field take off so I had time. Good thing he just asked me for a go-around this time. Conclusion, practice real landings with no engine in small runways.

    I learnt many things on my check-ride and now that I am a private pilot I am always thinking of real failures all the time and what I would do. I also look at the weather differently and established some minimums for safety that I will be increasing while I progress on my IFR training. In cross countries, the weather is now more important than before because I like going to places that are far. Also I got very respectful with the winds. I have landed with heavy crosswind when tower did not let me choose a more favorable runway. But if I can avoid it I will.

    Practice flying at night as much as you can with your instructor. It is something that you cannot do solo until you have your license and the first time you do it can be challenging. Don't do the bare minimum to get your landings and that's it. There are so many questions that I wish I would have asked to my instructor if I had flown more time at night.

    Good luck with your training!!