Try the maneuver using a variety of
bank angles, airspeeds, and flap settings
to see what results in the minimum altitude loss. Also try the maneuver with
different wind conditions and note the
effect on performance.
Out of the Frying Pan
So let’s assume for a moment that it’s possible to suffer an engine failure and then
maneuver the aircraft for an opposite-direction landing on the departure
runway. The problems aren’t over yet.
Perhaps the biggest danger facing a
pilot who makes a successful turn back
on departure is other aircraft. Unless you
can make a quick radio call—and it’s
heard by everyone concerned—there may
be little chance of avoiding other aircraft. Imagine what would happen if
you’re touching down on one end of the
runway while another aircraft is either
touching down or departing from the
other end. Finding yourself on short
final facing an aircraft on departure
would be equally distressing. Even at a
towered airport, it is unlikely that traffic
controllers can clear the area quickly
enough to avoid all potential conflicts.
Once you’ve made the turn back to the
runway, options for an off-runway landing
might be worse than if you had continued
in the normal direction. The area immediately surrounding runways often holds a
variety of hazards and obstacles, including
homes, businesses, cars, and pedestrians.
By turning back, we might put other persons and property in jeopardy. Unless
we’ve scoped it out carefully beforehand,
we don’t know what we’re up against.
Exploring the Alternatives
So what is the best option for a low-altitude emergency after departure? The
answer depends on the particular situation, but there are often better
alternatives to consider. Landing straight
ahead, or nearly so, is often a survivable
event, especially if we maintain proper
airspeed and positive control of the aircraft until touchdown. A stall/spin event
is usually fatal.
If the engine is still producing some
power, but not full power, the best option
once we’ve gained some altitude might be