The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), citing five accidents in which pilots of multiengine airplanes experienced an unexpected loss of power in one engine, issued a safety alert today to emphasize the importance of properly managing low-altitude engine failures.
The five crashes involved pilots with up to 18,000 flight hours, the NTSB said, adding, “experience alone is insufficient to prevent a loss of control accident following an engine-out event.”
Safety Alert 081 said that pilots should know the recommended procedures and checklists for their airplane’s one engine inoperative (OEI) operations, especially memory checklist items, and that they should “be honest about your knowledge of OIE operations and your ability to recognize and handle an OEI situation in your airplane, especially during takeoff and other critical phases of flight.”
The safety alert also recommended that pilots ensure that they have proper training, that they avoid distractions in the cockpit and that they do not allow perceived operational pressures to diminish their focus on safety.
“Remember that a loss of one engine is a 50 percent loss of power, which can reduce climb performance by at least 80 to 90 percent and [create] asymmetrical thrust,” the safety alert said. “Attention and proper response to these factors are crucial to maintaining airplane control during OEI.”
A second safety alert cautioned pilots of small, older airplanes that key-type ignition switches and the accompanying keys can become worn “such that it is possible to remove the key from a switch position other than the OFF position.”
If that happens, the result can be an ungrounded magneto, which could cause the engine to start during any movement by hand of the propeller.
“Pilots and mechanics should always assume that a magneto is in an ungrounded condition and proceed with caution when around any propeller,” Safety Alert 080 said.
“Pilots, be sure to verify the integrity of your ignition switch-to-key connection to ensure that the key can only be removed from the ignition switch in the OFF position,” the safety alert said. “If the key can be removed at any position other than the OFF position, repair or replace the switch.”
In addition, mechanics should “maintain vigilance when inspecting the integrity of the ignition switch-to-key connection, and repair or replace it, if needed,” the NTSB said.