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Your Throttle Is Stuck At Full Power. What Would You Do?


You're on final descent and as you pull the throttle back, the power stays high and can't be adjusted.

Based on real-life the scenario below, what would you do?

Loss Of Power Control During Descent

The following event occurred to a pilot flying a Piper PA28 Warrior. Here's the report from the NASA ASRS Database...

"On final descent after a training flight practicing ground reference maneuvers, I pulled back the throttle all the way back and noticed that it only went down to 2200 RPM (it usually goes down to 1500 RPM). I tried to troubleshoot the problem, and then it seemed like the throttle cable snapped and was stuck at full power (2500 RPM). I was near an airport, flying at a high altitude and well within gliding distance. I cut the mixture to the point where the RPM would die down, but the engine was still running so I could drop all my flaps. A mile away from the runway numbers I cut the mixture all the way when I was assured I would make the runway. A safe landing was made, and no damage was done to the aircraft or to anything else."

Would You Fly A "Power-Off 180" Instead?

Performing a power-off 180 is just what it sounds like. Abeam an aiming point on downwind, engine power is cut to idle (at or below 1000 feet AGL per ACS standards), and you maneuver to land as close to that preselected point as possible. Most pilots pitch for best glide speed, at least initially, to improve the chance of making the runway point.

Instead of a power-off 180, the pilot above chose to fly a straight-in final approach and cut the engine on a 1 mile final.


There are a few reasons why flying a power-off 180 could have made this emergency landing safer.

Your goal during a power-off emergency landing is a descent to landing following the format of a traffic pattern. Straight-in power-off approaches are challenging, because you start farther away from your landing point, and it's difficult to judge glide and sink rate.

Another consideration is flap configuration. Once your flaps are down, you've set yourself up for a much steeper descent angle to the runway.


Flying The "Power-Off 180" Approach

There's a lot that goes into flying a perfect power-off 180 approach. While you may never experience a power control failure quite like this, perfecting your power-off landings will make you a better pilot overall. Here are just a few of the factors you'll have to analyze when making the approach...

  • Available Landing Points
  • Wind Correction
  • Required Descent Rate
  • Configuration Changes
  • Ground Track
  • Speed Control
  • Differing Glide Ratios

Want to know more? Read our article "Why Every Pilot Should Practice Power-Off 180 Landings."

What Would You Do?

Emergency situations are tough, and it's easy to be an armchair pilot that analyzes a pilot's decision making from the sidelines. In reality, you likely won't have much time to analyze each factor one by one to determine the best course of action.

Now that you've read the scenario above and have a little more information about power-off 180 approaches, how would you have handled a power control failure like this? Tell us in the comments below.

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