I’m interested in hearing from the pilots out there. How would you handle this situation? I was a passenger in the small airplane described below; I’ll tell you what our pilot did in a spoiler box at the end (I actually described this incident in another thread so if you read that you know what happened).
You’re flying a Cessna 206 (or a similar small single-engine aircraft) full of passengers so you’re at or near your weight limit. You’re taking off from this airport and you’re heading east (right). It’s a beautiful summer day and conditions are ideal- visibility is unlimited, humidity is low and winds are light & variable. You’re taking your passengers on a sight-seeing flight and will be landing at the same airport.
Almost immediately after take-off (at approx. 500 ft/150 m AGL) you develop engine trouble- a cracked cylinder head, but you don’t know that. You only know that you have lost most of your power and cannot maintain altitude.
So what do you do? As you can see from the photo, you are surrounded by open fields in almost every direction so you have plenty of outs. The terrain is flat for miles around (this is northern Indiana) so no hills or mountains to worry about.
The paved runway is approx. 6000 ft/2000 m. Perpendicular to the paved runway (running north-south) is a grass runway approx. 3000 ft/1000 m long. Completing a large triangle on airport property and visible in the photo is another grass runway approx. 3000 ft/1000 m long; I believe the heading is 45/225.
You have a lot of options- you can continue east and land in the open field in front of you, you can try to turn around and land on the paved runway- either by making a 270 degree turn right or left, then a 90 degree turn in the opposite direction to line up with the runway heading west, or by making a 360 degree turn and landing headed east. Or you can go for one of the grass runways.
Here’s what our pilot did:
[SPOILER]He flew a big 360 and landed on the paved runway headed east, our original take-off direction. We were at most 100 ft/30 m AGL when we turned onto final. I’m not going to criticize him since it worked, but at the time I thought he should have landed on the grass runway (heading 225). I wasn’t sure we had enough altitude to complete the 360 degree turn. But we all survived unhurt and the plane was not damaged, other than the cracked cylinder head.
Oh, and we weren’t sight-seeing passengers, we were skydivers planning to jump out over the airport when we got to 10,000 ft/3000 m. I was sitting on the floor beside the pilot and when the engine went out he asked me if we could get out. “No, we’re too low,” I said. He was stuck with us and our additional weight.[/SPOILER]