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

Engine failure on planes is rare but is very possible making it life-threatening when it occurs. This article will show you the general steps you should follow if you’ll want to land safely after an engine failure.

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

While most plane comes equipped with multiple engines, the most common crafts are single-engine which are susceptible to crash if not handles 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.

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

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

Before we get the extensive tutorial on what steps you should take after an engine failure, here are some facts about planes that just 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 in such a way 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 quite easy to control a plane that lost power in the air than one that encounters engine failure on takeoff because the plane hasn’t attained enough altitude.

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

Best Way to Deal with an Engine Failure in Flight

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

  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 a good sloppy road for landing.
  3. Aviate to the chosen landing position while watching out for wires, buildings, or buildings along your way.
  4. Next, place a MAYDAY (MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY)call to any close by aircraft or ATC with a normal 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 certain electrical components on the plane. Turn off the fuel valves, and disconnect the battery switches, alternator switches, and Magnetos.
  8. You can decide to place a MAYDAY call once more to inform ATC of the situation on the ground.
  9. Aviate the plane to the landing position you’ve chosen 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, make sure 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.
Recommended:  What is Rod Knock? Causes, Symptoms and How to Fix it

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 be endangering your life.

However, the majority of the problem occurs when the pilot switches to a failed engine without taking control of the situation immediately. Aircraft with multi-engines are usually heavier and larger in size.

  1. The first thing to do is identify which engine failed, you can check your engine data display for reference
  2. However, in a case where you choose the wrong engine, simply decline the throttle on the failed engine to zero (0) and watch out for any changes.
  3. If there’s a change then you’re dealing with the wrong engine but if there’s no change then you’re on the right engine.
  4. You can now shut down and re-configure the failed engine to avoid an increase in the thrust-to-weigh ratio.
  5. Next, you’ll have to descend into thicker air to maintain airspeed as a result of the 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 of your choice and seek the attention of your mechanic.

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 mostly to stay calm during emergency situations like this to avoid complicating issues that will eventually lead to crashes.

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

Recommended:  Car Died While Driving? Do this

Since the takeoff point is a very critical position; moving too fast will only waste energy while 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, is to keep your wing flaps all the way down as possible while keeping your doors to avoid jamming.
  4. Land straight on your designated landing position and don’t go back 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.


What Causes Engine Failure?

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

What to do during an engine failure in a car?

It’s best to call the attention of your mechanic 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 as well tow your car to an auto repair shop for the best repairs, or get a cab if you’re in a hurry 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 case of an emergency is a trait every pilot should possess for maximum safety.

In this article, we’ve discussed the best practice you should adopt after an engine failure in flight.

How helpful was this post?