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This has been one of my fears in flying (a plane the size of Cessna 152). I sort of know what to do when the engine quits on you when you are a few hundred feet off the ground, although it is definitely not easy to manage. However, lets say you are just past the rotation speed and have very little runway left. Is there anything you can really do other than cut power, retract flaps and try not to set your brakes on fire?

Edit: I am assuming that I am barely 10 feet above the runway. I suppose this is a more specific version of the general case of engine failure at lift-off.

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  • $\begingroup$ @Federico I don't think that question is a dupe, it's about losing one engine in a twin-engine aircraft. This question seems to be about losing engine power completely immediately at very low altitude. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Dec 4 '15 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Pondlife point taken. VTC retracted $\endgroup$ – Federico Dec 4 '15 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ This is a duplicate $\endgroup$ – DuckLord Dec 4 '15 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Federico To be fair, I didn't realize that either until I read the other question more closely. I've edited it now to make the multi-engine point more obvious. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Dec 4 '15 at 17:03
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The first and perhaps most important thing to do is NOT turn around. Generally speaking you won't have the airspeed/altitude to make a full 180 and return to the field. While it can be done, it's advised to continue forward and put the plane down as you would in any emergency. Trim for best glide and pick a landing spot (limited options in this case).

In some cases with small plane/long runway situations you will be able to execute something like a short field landing with the remaining runway but that is very situationally dependent. When I flew out of KPNE in a Warrior 24 was 7000ft; if you lost an engine at rotation you had plenty of runway. At DYL where I fly now that's not really the case. Every airport is different but a good deal of the airports I have flown out of recently have had long fields at either end of the runway giving maybe an extra 1000 ft or so. Airports in populated areas may have roads you can touch down on.

You should always consult the POH of the specific aircraft in this case for proper emergency procedures.

Specifically to the 152 point, the take off distance is around 1400 ft. full loaded if memory serves. Unless you are training on 2000 ft strips you should have no problem getting the plane back down with remaining runway at all but the shortest of fields. If you are only 10ft up you should be able to put the plane down fast, albeit a bit hard, but fast none the less. For what it's worth Cessna landing gear can take quite a beating. Once you have touched down it would be advised to retract your flaps, this will increase the load on the gear (by reducing your wings' effectiveness) and increase brake effectiveness. You should take care to not lock the brakes as well.

Side Story: This happened to a buddy of mine in his Archer a bunch of years back (I'll try to find the incident report). The plane was fresh out of annual and something was not hooked up correctly and shook loose on take off causing the engine to cut out around 100ft or so. There was a corn field dead ahead and he was able to put the plane down smoothly. Thankfully no one was hurt and he simply owed the farmer for the corn he took out on landing….

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    $\begingroup$ @NullReference: Anecdote for you. I did my private pilot training at KEAU in a C152. Once, my instructor had me to a touch and go landing and then pulled the throttle out shortly after we lifted off. I simply landed on the remaining runway. Not that big of a deal with a 7300' runway. I don't think it'd be any harder at KSTC. $\endgroup$ – Fred Larson Dec 4 '15 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ How much was the corn worth? :) $\endgroup$ – Mehrdad Dec 4 '15 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ Corn is only worth somewhere around $750/acre. The crop damage could be the cheapest part of an incident like this. $\endgroup$ – Zach Lipton Dec 5 '15 at 6:12
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    $\begingroup$ Remember to pull the throttle if the engine fails so it can't start again just as you have settled down. I would not mess with flaps; you have too much else going on at this stage and retracting them serves little purpose. $\endgroup$ – copper.hat Dec 5 '15 at 7:40
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    $\begingroup$ This is where the term "bought the farm" came from. $\endgroup$ – GdD Oct 6 '16 at 15:36
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If the engines quits right after the plane has lift off, you can easily set it back onto the runway. You will be amazed how short the distance is to stop a C152.

I would rather leave the flaps untouched and focus on where I am going, unless you are a skilled bush pilot used to playing around with the flaps. Then again, if you are a skilled bush pilot, you should have no problem landing in incredible short distances.

Of course, being a Cessna 152, chances are your runway can accommodate planes of larger size, like a Cessna Caravan, so you're likely to have some runway left. Unless you messed up your takeoff performance calculation, "just past rotation speed with very little runway left" sounds a bit remote to me. If the engine quits by the time you reach the end of the runway, you should be at least a couple hundred feet high, making a turn possible. Oh yea, make sure you experiment this turn at altitude, so you don't commit to the impossible!

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    $\begingroup$ If you're training, your instructor would recommend some values to you before you go solo. Engine-Failure-After-Takeoff should be one of the briefing items before a flight. $\endgroup$ – kevin Dec 4 '15 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ When I received my Private license, the examiner told me it was a "license to learn" $\endgroup$ – Dan Pichelman Dec 4 '15 at 16:35
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    $\begingroup$ Never think that you're invincible. $\endgroup$ – kevin Dec 4 '15 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ @NullReference, the big risk in trying to turn around is stalling. To fly a tight turn, you need to fly it slow, the high bank angle (~45°) increases your stall speed and the stall warning device will sound later when it is on the outer wing, because the outer wing is slightly faster. And of course if you stall in a tight turn, you are likely to enter a spin. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Dec 4 '15 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for not screwing with the flaps at this point unless you already feel comfortable. Attitude and airspeed first. Avoid the power-off stall. To expand on the last paragraph: as you advance, one of the skills to pick up is to know where you're going if things go wrong. That includes when you're committed to takeoff, when you're not coming back to the runway after liftoff (this is when I raise landing gear in certain aircraft), when the best option is the cornfield, and when and where you have altitude to come back to an airport. $\endgroup$ – Erin Anne Dec 5 '15 at 5:01

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