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What General Steps Should you Follow After an Engine Failure in Flight?

March 18, 2024 | Victor Lukasso

Engine failure on planes is rare but is possible, making it life-threatening when it occurs. This article will show you the general steps to land safely after an engine failure.

Engine failure in flight needs the pilot’s coordination and immediate response since any delay could result in severe damage, fire outbreak, and loss of life (s).

While most planes are equipped with multiple engines, the most common crafts are single-engine, which are susceptible to crash if not handled appropriately.

This is because, on a multi-engine craft, a pilot can easily switch to the next available engine if one fails without leading to an emergency landing.


However, there are scenarios where all available engines on a multi-engine craft encounter failure, leaving the pilot no chance to land the plane and call a mechanic safely.

In summary, the general steps after an engine failure in flight are to continue flying the plane while navigating to a good landing spot and making a MAYDAY call to inform ATC of the situation.

Before we get the extensive tutorial on what steps you should take after an engine failure, here are some facts about planes that lost engine power.

  • An aircraft can still fly more than 100KM after an engine failure
  • Planes can fly with one engine if you’re flying a multi-engine aircraft
  • Airplanes can belly float on large water bodies.
  • Aircraft trajectories are built so that you’re always close to an airport in case of emergency.
  • Flat and straight surfaces are best for landing a plane that lost engine power.

Also, it’s pretty easy to control a plane that lost power in the air than one that encounters engine failure on takeoff because the aircraft hasn’t attained enough altitude.

Without wasting too much time, the steps below should be carried out within seconds after a pilot notices an engine failure.

Best Way to Deal with an Engine Failure in Flight

The following safety measures should be implemented for a risk-free landing for a single-engine or multi-engine aircraft where the engine(s) fails while in flight.

  1. Continue flying the plane regardless of the situation and avoid halting the engine.
  2. Inspect and pick a safe landing spot, usually a runway, a smooth and clean open field, or an excellent sloppy road for landing.
  3. Aviate to the chosen landing position while watching for wires or buildings.
  4. Next, place a MAYDAY (MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY)call to any nearby aircraft or ATC with an average frequency to inform them of the situation at hand and what you intend to do.
  5. While the plane is still flying, try to identify and fix the cause of the engine failure (restart the engine), ranging from the primer, magnetos, throttle, and mixture down the fuel.
  6. Now, everyone on the aircraft has to engage their seat belt with a pillow to their face (optional) and the seats lowered to the ground while you educate them on safety measures. You can also leave the doors open so they don’t jam due to the impact of the crash.
  7. The next thing in line is to prevent fire outbreaks by turning off specific electrical components on the plane. Turn off the fuel valves and disconnect the battery, alternator, and Magnetos.
  8. You can make a MAYDAY call to inform ATC of the situation.
  9. Aviate the plane to the landing position you chose in step 2 carefully without hitting any obstruction. You can glide the aircraft at this point if necessary.
  10. Once the plane has landed safely, ensure you and the passengers stay clear of the aircraft in case of an explosion.
  11. You can now call the ATC to inform them of your safety and wait for their arrival.
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While this applies to a single-engine aircraft, flying a multi-engine plane can be difficult, especially when one of the engines malfunctions.

This is because of errors that might occur while changing between engines; if you slow down below a certain speed and try to speed up again, you could also endanger your life.

However, most problems occur when the pilot switches to a failed engine without immediately taking control of the situation. Aircraft with multi-engines are usually heavier and more prominent in size.

  1. The first thing to do is identify which engine failed; you can check your engine data display for reference.
  2. However, if you choose the wrong engine, decline the throttle on the failed engine to zero (0) and watch out for any changes.
  3. If there’s a change, you’re dealing with the wrong engine, but if there’s no change, you’re on the right engine.
  4. You can now shut down and re-configure the failed engine to avoid increasing the thrust-to-weigh ratio.
  5. Next, you’ll have to descend into thicker air to maintain airspeed due to engine failure.
  6. You can now jot down a list of necessary repairs that must be done on the aircraft before landing.
  7. Touch down at any airport you choose and seek your mechanic’s attention.
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That’s all you need to know about landing a single or multi-engine aircraft that runs into engine failure while on a flight.

The best practice is staying calm during emergencies to avoid complicating issues that eventually lead to crashes.

The above procedure is quite different if you encounter engine failure on takeoff; let’s see what to do if your aircraft’s engine fails on launch.

Since the takeoff point is critical, moving too fast will only waste energy, and stalling will cause the plane to hit the ground with much force. Here’s what to do

  1. Firstly, while maintaining airspeed, turn off any electrical component that might cause a spark in the plane.
  2. Turn off the mixture control, fuel valves, magnetos switch, battery, and alternator switch.
  3. Next, keep your wing flaps down as much as possible while keeping your doors open to avoid jamming.
  4. Land straight on your designated landing position, and don’t return to the airport runway when you’re already too close to the ground.
  5. You and the passengers can now exit the plane, leaving it to the attention of the ATC.
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What Causes Engine Failure?

The major causes of engine failure include inadequate oil, overheating, abnormal combustion, detonation, defective cooling systems, and usage of bad fuels.

What to do during an engine failure in a car?

It’s best to call your mechanic to attention once your engine fails because it isn’t something that can be fixed at a spot due to pistons and other engine components that might need replacement as a result of the impact.

You can tow your car to an auto repair shop for the best repairs or get a cab if you’re hurrying to your destination.

I won’t advise you to initiate a repair if you aren’t grounded in auto repairs to prevent further damage.


Knowing what to do in an emergency is a trait every pilot should possess for maximum safety.

This article discusses the best practice you should adopt after an engine failure in flight.

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Meet Victor Lukasso, the owner of V. Auto Basics. Through this blog, Victor Provides Insights on the latest tips, maintenance, repair, and techniques in the automotive world.