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Your Quick Guide To Surviving An Emergency Landing


There's nothing quite like the sound of your engine quitting in flight to get your heart racing. But after you've realized that you're coming back to Earth as a glider, you need to focus on the task at hand: your emergency landing.

If you have the time and altitude, you should use your checklist to try to restart your engine. But if the procedure doesn't work, or if you don't have the time to run the checklist, you need to move on and pick your place to land.

So what should you do? It all starts with the checklist. And in this case, we'll use the checklist for a Cessna 172S. (The lawyers would like me to remind you to use the checklist appropriate to your aircraft when you fly. But you already knew that...)

Prepare the Cockpit


Before you even start the emergency landing checklist, you should have your eyes outside the cockpit, looking for a safe place to land. But after you've picked your spot, it's time to start getting the cabin in order:

  • 1. Pilot and Passenger Seat Backs - MOST UPRIGHT POSITION
  • 2. Seats and Seat Belts - SECURE

By getting your seats in their most upright position, you're getting yourself in the safest position for a possible rough landing. And the seat belts are pretty self-explanatory - you want to be buckled in tight so you don't get thrown around the cabin.

Altitude, Altitude, Altitude

Dirk Vorderstrabe

Even if you've picked your spot to land, you want to buy yourself as much time as possible before you're ready to touch down. And you can do that by flying at your best glide speed.

  • 3. Airspeed
    • - 70 KIAS - Flaps UP
    • - 65 KIAS - Flaps 10 - FULL

Prevent A Fire After Landing

Markus Wichmann

Next up, you want to prevent a possible fire after landing, as well as eliminate the possibility of your engine restarting as you flare, if the failure was due to fuel starvation. What are the steps?

  • 4. Mixture Control - IDLE CUTOFF (pull full out)
  • 5. FUEL SHUTOFF Valve - OFF (pull full out)
  • 6. MAGNETOS Switch - OFF

By cutting the mixture and turning the fuel shutoff valve to 'OFF', you separate the fuel source from the engine. Remember, if your propeller is windmilling, the engine-driven fuel pump could possibly get fuel to the engine. And if there's fuel near the engine, it could spill out and start on fire if something ruptures on landing.

Configure The Airplane

Tom Wheeler

Now it's time for your landing configuration. It's recommended that you use full flaps for your landing, but it depends on the specific situation you're in. If its very windy, or if you're facing a stiff crosswind, you may want to reduce your flaps.

  • 7. Wing Flaps - AS REQUIRED (FULL recommended)

Final Prep Before Touchdown


The final touches before you touch down ensure that your electrical system is shut down. Again, you're goal is to remove any possibility of a spark or fire when you land.

  • 8. STBY BATT Switch - OFF
  • 9. MASTER Switch (ALT and BAT) - OFF (when landing is assured)

By turning off the standby battery and master switches, you remove electrical power everything in your plane.



You're lined up on your final approach, and your landing is assured. It's time for the last three steps.

  • 11. Touchdown - SLIGHTLY TAIL LOW
  • 12. Brakes - APPLY HEAVILY

It's important consider your specific situation with these last three. Opening your aircraft doors is specific to the aircraft. On a 172, it can prevent the doors from jamming, but it's definitely not recommend for all airplanes. Touching down tail low is pretty standard - you want to land as slow as you can, and keep your nosewheel off the ground. And for brakes - again, it depends on your situation. Are you on a hard surface? Then brakes are good. Are you on grass, or in a dirt field? Then heavy braking might not be the best of ideas.

Walking Away From An Emergency Landing

Fly the airplane, pick a good spot to land, and always follow your checklist. It's a recipe to get you safely on the ground. And remember, your landing spot doesn't have to be perfect, just good enough to get down safely. After all, airplanes can always be replaced, but you can't.

Colin Cutler

Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at

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