Lesson Eight – Engine Failure

Learning Objectives

  • Land safely and in control following an engine failure
  • Respond to other emergencies
didn’t pay attention to his instructor


Engine Failure

Otherwise known as the deadstick landing this lesson will teach you how to react when things go wrong.

If your engine fails in flight call out ‘deadstick’ to your fellow pilots so that you are given priority use of the runway

There is only one really important thing to remember if your engine fails and is taught to both model and full-size pilots alike:


So many people think that just because the engine has stopped the aircraft is going to drop out of the sky.  This just is not true!  You still have wings and your trainer will glide better than most other models in the sky.  As part of the Bronze Wings you will be asked to simulate an engine failure and get the aircraft safely back to the runway.

  1. Usually part-way along the downwind leg of a normal circuit you will be told to cut the throttle
  2. Reduce throttle to idle and let the aircraft settle into a glide
  3. Do not try to hold the aircraft in the air, use your skills in the landing circuit and approach to judge when to make your turns to bring the aircraft around to the runway
  4. Land as normal
  5. That’s it!

All that is really different in an engine failure is you do not have the luxury of a go-around if you get the approach wrong.  It is always better to be a little higher than normal on your approach so you can carry the speed into finals and have plenty of time to land rather than falling short of the runway.  If you are a little too high simply hold the aircraft straight and let it settle into the long grass at the end of the runway.  Better that than pushing in down elevator and smashing into the hard runway!

If your engine cuts and you do not have enough time to complete the circuit first and foremost, fly the aircraft!  Get the model under control and then decide which is the nearest runway to land on that you can reach.  Judge your turn and altitude to bring the model down safely as soon as possible.  It may not be your best landing ever but if the model survives no one will argue!

Engine Failure after Take-Off

If you have just left the ground and your engine fails DO NOT TRY TO TURN.  Turning at such a low speed and altitude will almost certainly cause a tip-stall and you will crash.  Fly the model straight ahead and let it settle back into the long grass.  This way you will get to fly again that day.

Other Emergencies

Most other emergencies in R/C aircraft usually place the model out of our control.  This is often as a result of radio failure and is the reason why adequate pre-flight checks are so important.

The only situation we may be able to react to would be a partial airframe failure such as an aileron or wing detaching, or the fin or horizontal tail breaking – but again this is why we check these items before flight.  In these situations we can only hope to avoid injuring other people rather than saving the model.

  1. If it is safe and possible to continue flying – land the model as soon as possible
  2. In the event of a major failure (i.e. flying surface detachment), cut the throttle and pull in up elevator to stall the model

Pulling in up elevator to stall the model sounds like an extreme solution and it is.  In this case the model is uncontrollable so by cutting the throttle and stalling the model we are ensuring it slows down and falls to the ground vertically.  Unless you were flying over the pits at the time (which you never would be) there is minimal risk to others this way.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *