Weekly Flight Review - Forced Landings

This week we are focusing on flight training and we want you to get back into the training mentality and go out and practice your forced landings.

You never know when it will occur, so you better be ready!

One thing that helps during a forced landing is pneumonic’s. They are easier to remember. We have added a few below that you can use to guide you but why not make your own?

Why do engine failures occur?

The main 3 reasons an engine might fail or partially fail during flight are Mechanical (propeller damage, cylinder damage, oil loss, etc.), Fuel (fuel leak, fuel mismanagement, water contamination and carburettor icing) and Electrical (magneto failure, electrical system failure or electrical fire). Many of these things can be mitigated by a thorough daily inspection which was covered in Week 2 of National Safety Month.

The task for this week is to practice a forced landing. So here are some tips that we think you should focus on.

  1. Refer to your POH/AFM to understand the steps in an emergency.
  2. Set attitude for best glide speed
  3. Complete Initial Actions / Checks
  4. Make a plan – take into account height and wind direction
  5. Select a suitable field
  6. Restart checks – if time permits try to restart the engine
  7. Mayday Call
  8. Passenger Brief
  9. Shutdown Checks

For those of us who haven’t done these for a while lets go a little deeper as to why and what is behind the above list.

Step 1: Refer to your pilot operating handbook to understand the steps to be taken in an emergency for your aircraft prior to flight. This starts before you even get the aircraft out of the hangar.

Step 2: blam Engine failure. The first thing we are going to do is set the attitude for best glide speed.

Step 3:
Complete our initial actions

  • Carburettor Heat - ON (If fitted)
  • Fuel - Check tank + Fuel Pump On
  • Mixture - Full Rich
  • Switches - Magnetos Both / Master ON

Step 4:
Make a plan. Things to include

  • What is the wind direction? We generally want to land with a headwind or as much headwind component as possible.
    • Determining wind direction:
    • Smoke, Water vanes, AWIS, TAF, Local Area Winds
water vanes.          smoke  Smoke
      Water vanes

  • What height are we at above ground level?
    • Given my height can I complete a full pattern?
    • This will give you an indication of what kind of pattern you can do. If we are at 1000ft AGL the pattern and our time in the air will be substantially different than if we were flying at 4000ft AGL. 

Step 5: Select a suitable landing area

Given step 4 we can now select a suitable landing. When selecting a suitable landing area we should think of the below things (the 7 S’s):

  • Size – Sufficient size, depending on the aircraft type, to safely land the aircraft and come to a stop. For instance a Foxbat can land within the size of the football field. Another trick glider pilots use is from 2000ft ‘if the field is bigger than your hand then it is big enough for you to land.
  • Shape – Ideally, we will be able to find a landing area that simulates a runway but as we know this is not always available. Round paddocks are good because you can land in any real direction whereas long thin paddocks allow for greater landing roll but potentially less favourable winds during landing. 


  • Surface – Something that simulates a runway as best as the situation allows. Something hard without crops or animals will give us the best change.

Some ideas of suitable fields are:

Field1      field2      field 3

Some ideas of some not so suitable fields are:

NS Field 1      NS field 2      NS Field 3

  • Slope – Slope plays a big role in our landing role. A shorter landing roll will result with an uphill slope whereas a downhill slope will result in a greater or longer landing roll. This is sometime hard to determine from the air however good prior planning of the terrain you are flying will help.

  • Surroundings – What surroundings are around the landing area? Are there powerlines at the end or through the middle? Are there trees or big bushes scattered through the landing area? All of these have the impact on the success of the forced landing and these questions should be asked. If in doubt think about the runway you took off from, there is probably not large powerlines immediately at the end or throughout the runway and the same goes for trees and shrubs.

  •  Sun – What time of day is it and therefore where is the sun. Landing to the east in the morning or the west in the afternoon in Australia can pose a problem. The last thing you want is to execute a perfect forced landing and turn onto final and not be able to see anything due to sun glare.

  • (S)Civilisation – Okay its not really an S but is still very important. If you can land close to civilisation, either a town or a house, you may be able to get help. This may be as simple as asking to use the phone or a place to wait while someone else comes to pick you up.

Once we have used the above criteria to select a suitable field, we can plan our approach path to the landing point. To aid us in this we have 2 spot heights above ground level that we can use to guide us.

These are:

  • High Key – 2500ft AGL which is generally one field length upwind from the touchdown point

  • Low Key – 1500ft AGL which is generally 1 field length abeam the touch down point on downwind

  • When selecting these point it is often beneficial to pick a ground feature, a house, a clump of trees, silo or dam for instance to make it easier when flying the procedure.

To make it easier to understand have a look at this picture:


Different schools use different High-Key and Low-Key points. That is fine, the idea behind it is to have some measurable spot heights to guide us in for a safe landing.

Step 6: Restart Checks – Now that we have some time, we will try a few things to try and restart the engine.

  • Carburettor Heat – ON

  • Fuel – Fuel Pump ON, Fuel change tanks as applicable, sufficient fuel, fuel shut-off in

  • Mixture – Full Rich or cycle if possible, to see if engine restarts at different mixture setting

  • Oil – Oil Temperature and Pressure – Green. If the oil temperature is above the red and the oil pressure is below zero, we may not have much chance of a restart.

  • Switches – Isolate left and right magneto, Master ON

  • Throttle – Cycle through the range to check linkage

Step 7:
Warm Engine – When practicing we don’t want the engine to get too cold so every 500 – 1000ft of descent we recommend warming the engine to keep it warm by slowly adding full throttle then slowly closing again.

Step 8:
Mayday Call

  • Once we have exhausted our possibilities for an engine restart, we can make a Mayday Call. The proforma for a mayday call should be:


    • Station addressed (Brisbane Centre)

    • Aircraft ID (Jabiru 5125)

    • Nature of Emergency (Suffered complete engine failure)

    • Intentions Conducting forced Landing in a field

    • Position, level and heading

    • Any other useful information – such as POB

In the operational format: 
"MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY, Brisbane Centre Foxbat 1234 Suffered complete engine failure. Conducting forced landing into Griffith Airport. Overhead Griffith Township, 2500. 2 POB, Will contact you when on the ground"

Step 9:
Passenger Brief

  • The aim of this is to calm the passengers down as they are likely to be quite nervous and shocked by what is going on. An example of a passenger brief is:
    • “Geoff, unfortunately we have suffered an engine failure and we will be landing at the airport below. Please remove all sharp objects from your pockets such as pens or sunglasses and place them in the seat pockets, fasten your seatbelt. We will open both doors prior to landing. Once we have come to a complete stop we will vacate, walk along the wing to the wing tip and then meet 50 metres ahead of the aircraft".

Step 10:
Shutdown Checks – if time permits

  • Brakes – pressure and park brake off

  • Undercarriage – down (as applicable) leave up if ditching in water

  • Shutdown – Shutdown engine, Fuel valve shutoff out or closed, Mixture idle cut-off, Magnetos off. Be careful of turning the master and avionics off as depending on your aircraft you may lose communications and the ability to extend flaps

  • Hatches / Harness – Doors open as required; harness secure for landing

Unofficial step 11:
How do we fly a base leg? Quite often we just eyeball or guess but here are some methods that you can practice to give you a more educated answer to the question – Am I going to make the field?

One way is to use the dashboard. This method works in many light aircraft.

If you draw an imaginary line from the dashboard towards the field and the field is in line with the dashboard then in good weather conditions you will make the field.

landing area


Another method is to use the same aircraft feature as you would for downwind. Use the downwind spacing for the whole pattern. Expect for an extremely strong wind and this method should work. Use a marking on the wing or the strut for a high wing for your spacing marker. In the picture below the correct spacing is where the field intersects the wing inline with the fuel filler cap.


So what does it look like all put together?

What are some of the other things we need to consider?

  • The effect of wind

  • Our height

We have touched on complete engine failures in this week’s lesson but we want you to remember that partial engine failures may also occur. During a partial failure, pilots should remember to avoid the temptation to press on, or to expect the engine to continue. Select a suitable landing area and carry out a forced landing rather than attempting to continue, particularly if you are low or there is rough terrain ahead.

Another consideration is that we we also don’t only fly at 3000ft all the time. Forced landings should be expected from any altitude.