one engine inoperative


One engine inoperative flight refers to the aerodynamically intriguing event of an engine failure while flying a multi engine airplane. A topic of much discussion among instructors and students, an event that is practiced and drilled just as much.

During training flights we routinely simulate engine failures and practice the sequence of events for trouble-shooting, shutdown, and securing of an inoperative engine. At altitude, we even fully shut down and feather the simulated failure. This is to train the student in the complete procedure and help them gain confidence in the aircraft flying single engine.

Recently I was on such a training flight, doing the exact aforementioned procedure. Using techniques of the sneaky demeanor, I shut off the fuel supply to the left engine. Directing my student to a new heading to fly, I waited eagerly for the ‘surprise’. As predicted the left engine stops producing power, and starts producing drag. Just as taught, the student started a script of checklist and call outs. Announcing the engine failure and working to trouble-shoot the failure, deciding that it was better to shut down and secure it. Shortly after the failure, the engine is feathered and shut down. Instead of the propeller spinning with drag, it sits quietly posed defunct. So far all is routine on this flight.

I pose the question to the student “Now what would you do?”
“Fly to the closest airport and declare an emergency.”

I couldn’t have expected that would be exactly what I would have to do.

Once we were finished with the simulation of failure, I instructed the student to restart the engine and we could continue with other practice. After attempting the restart of the engine, the propeller sat there quietly still, defiant of our command. I stared at it thinking that it couldn’t possibly be sitting still, rebellious to our wishes for it to roar back to life. For the first time in my life I had the realization of only one engine keeping me aloft.

I had practiced and drilled this as a student myself, I have flown countless times single engine as an instructor, yet to this point it was all simulated. I realized at that moment that I never really payed any attention to the single operating engine while these simulations were carried out. I always just expected and assumed that if there were any problems with it, I could just restart the opposite engine I simulated failed. I didn’t have that luxury any more.

Of the many things my father taught me, one that I remember and try to implement is perspective. The same event or thought or opinion is a thousand times different from a different perspective. Keeping that in mind I have a new found perspective on this ‘simulation’.

So here we are, flying around with one engine inoperative, running the same checklist over multiple times to ensure no pilot error occurred. It appears none has, and now the event is playing out in my head. The scenario I have been taught, and have been teaching, is playing out like déjà vu.

“…inbound from the east, one engine inoperative and declaring an emergency.”

Wow. Just typing the words as I said them gives me goosebumps. That one word gives me chills.

The landing was smooth, and overall uneventful. It was quite a feeling once I got out of the airplane. I have replayed this event in my head over and over again. I learned from this experience, where I thought I had learned all to know.


Pay closer attention to the single operating engine while simulating a failure. Have a plan for what to do once you clear the runway, and where you’re going to taxi and park. Don’t come to a full stop before you’ve taxied to the parking spot. Work that out with tower, they’ll pretty much let you do whatever you want.