Seven Forced Landings
By: Charlie Radford
My first engine out was in a Quicksilver MX powered by a Cuyuna UL II-02. I didn't have an EGT gauge, and I really had no idea what a two stroke engine needed to run well. It was early spring and the weather was still fairly cool. I had switched to a lower pitch prop, and I changed to a smaller main jet size.
All these things cause the EGTs to rise. I took off and was on downwind in the traffic pattern when the piston melted and the engine seized. I was at only about 200 ft AGL and had no chance of reaching the runway. I set up a glide to a plowed field and ended up several hundred feet from the runway. I rebuilt the engine with a new piston and it ran for several hundred hours more.
The second time:
Same Quicksilver. I had two fuel tanks and had to switch between them when one ran low. I noticed that the top tank was getting low, but decided to run it as dry as possible. Then I totally forgot about the low fuel status until the engine when silent.
I was about 400 feet up and over the Kansas state penitentiary farm. I switched tanks and tried unsuccessfully to restart the engine, but soon decided I better concentrate on landing the plane. I touched down in a pasture and immediately saw patrol cars headed my way.
The guards were very serious at first until they figured out what was going on. I convinced them that I had engine trouble and that I could fix it and fly out. They sent me on my way with a warning not to come back.
The third and fourth:
I had an Airbike and built a 1/2 VW engine for it. I had two engine outs in just over 30 hours. First one was caused by dirt in one of the carbs. The engine stared running on one cylinder and wouldn't produce enough power to fly. I was close to the airport and landed on the runway.
Second time, one exhaust valve broke and completely trashed the piston/cylinder and locked the engine solid. Again, close to the airport and landed on the runway again.
A friend had a two place Starflight trainer with an old 503. I asked one of the local GA pilots if he had ever flown in a UL, which he hadn't, so I took him up. We climbed out to about 300 AGL and was on the initial crosswind leg when the engine quit. I told him that we were OK, and I then landed in the soybeans.
I had two more engine outs in this same plane. After the first one, we rebuilt the engine with new pistons and rebored cylinders. I broke in the rebuilt engine and flew it for about an hour.
Suddenly the engine locked up solid. I was up a thousand feet over the airport and landed on the runway with no problem. One of the circlips that hold the wrist pins in place had come loose and trashed the engine.
And the seventh!
Rebuilt it again and had flown it for several hours without a problem. A friend asked me if I would take his wife up for a lesson. I briefed her on what we would be doing and told her that engine problems were always a possibility, but that I would have a safe landing spot in reach at all times.
We flew toward her house so that she could see it from the air. We got a couple of miles when the engine sagged and would not pick up rpm. I told her we were going to have to land, and I put it down in a pasture.
I routinely practice engine-out landings. I climb up to a thousand feet or so, shut the engine down, and glide down to the runway. I can usually judge the glide so that I roll to a stop directly in front of my hangar. This gives me a lot of confidence that I can get down to a specific spot if I need to.
Author: Charlie Radford