Practicing for emergencies is an important part of pilot training, regardless of the experience level of the pilot. But pilots need to ensure that they don't let a simulated emergency become a real one.
On June 9, 2005, the pilot of a twin-engine Beech Duchess was killed when he lost control during a single-engine go-around at Lone Star Executive Airport near Conroe, Texas.
Shortly before the accident, as the Duchess approached the airport, the pilot announced on the CTAF that he was "on a single-engine approach to Runway 14, with a simulated engine out." A witness said that during the approach, the airplane was moving back and forth in a crab position across the inbound course and that the left propeller was in a feathered or shutdown position.
Approximately 20 feet above the middle of the runway, the pilot called that he was going around. When the airplane reappeared from behind the tree line, it was about 250 feet agl in a steep left turn (between 70 and 90 degrees of bank). The Duchess hit the top of a tree and then crashed into a house 1.2 miles from the airport.
During the investigation, the flaps were found to be in the retracted position. The left propeller governor control lever was in the feather position, as were the blades, indicating that it was shut down at the time of the accident. The right propeller was twisted toward the low pitch stop (high rpm), indicating that it was operating at the time of impact.
The 1,000-hour pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine-land, airplane-multiengine-land, and instrument airplane ratings. He was also a certified flight instructor certificate with the same ratings. His multiengine instructor certificate had been issued four months before the accident, and he had accumulated about 100 hours of multiengine experience.
The NTSB determined the cause of this accident to be the pilot's failure to maintain sufficient airspeed, which resulted in a loss of control.
An AOPA Air Safety Institute Special Report on instructional safety found that 38 percent of dual-instruction maneuvering accidents were a result of practicing emergency procedures at low altitudes. Set a "hard deck" (altitude) by which recovery from a simulated emergency will be made, and always leave an "out."
Although this accident wasn't an instructional flight, the same principle applies. For example, an engine failure should be simulated with the throttle, not the mixture control or fuel selector. If the accident pilot had simulated the engine failure instead of shutting down and securing the engine, he would have had the additional power available for the go-around and may have not lost control and crashed.
Other helpful studies and resources for students and instructors - including free online interactive courses - are available from the Online Education page.
Accident reports can be found in ASI's accident database.
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