In case one of the engines fails after taking off (let's suppose the left engine is the one that fails), which direction should we turn to go back to the airport? A left or a right traffic pattern?

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    $\begingroup$ Right pattern! Always, always turn away from the dead engine. See here for more. $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2016 at 0:57
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    $\begingroup$ Unless you have allowed airspeed to degrade to unsafe levels, turns in either direction are fine. If you're uncomfortable turning into a dead engine it may be worth practicing SE maneuvers to become more familiar with SE handling. Locking into a hard if-then now will put unnecessary limitations on your decision tree should you encounter a real engine failure at some point down the line. $\endgroup$
    – acpilot
    Nov 21, 2016 at 1:25
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    $\begingroup$ As acpilot states, turns in either direction can be fine. The key is fly the airplane at or above the appropriate airspeeds. There are valid reasons to avoid or to choose either direction in different cases. Statements to the contrary are naive and likely typically come from those with little or no experience with piloting multi-engine aircraft in emergency scenarios. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Nov 21, 2016 at 2:10
  • $\begingroup$ This question is not a duplicate. The other question only asks about why turns into the inoperative engine should be avoided. This question validly broadens the issue to consider both sides. This question is helpful, and should remain open. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Nov 21, 2016 at 2:11
  • $\begingroup$ The reason to not turn into a dead engine, is that that is the direction the plane wants to go. You will easily enter the turn, but might very well overdo it, or find yourself unable to exit the turn. Turning away from the dead engine is much harder, but is much less likely to fail catastrophically. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Jun 11, 2021 at 16:34

2 Answers 2


That depends on a lot of factors. Are you declaring an emergency? What altitude are you at what speed are you at when this happens etc? What kind of aircraft are you flying? Does it have enough power to continue to climb on one engine? Some trainers do not.

For a typical airliner, loss of a single engine is not a big deal. The pilot will simply declare an emergency and get vectors from controllers as to where to go land again. Most airliners have plenty of power with one engine out and they don't have to worry about that. Smaller twin engined GA aircraft are a different story and may not be able to achieve a positive rate of climb on one engine, especially with the gear and flaps extended just after liftoff. At low altitudes where this performance factor may be the case for the specific airplane you are flying, you may have to execute a forced landing in a clearing either directly ahead or off to your side, as a 180 deg turn to the airfield would be suicide.

As to maneuvering once an engine is lost, there is no requirement for this, save a pre-determined VFR traffic patterns for the departure airport.

If the engine out is an emergency and you cannot comply with either a controller's instructions or uncontrolled procedures, you are authorized as PIC to disregard any regulation as required to deal with the emergency. This means any kind of maneuvering you feel will safely bring the aircraft back to the ground is acceptable.

I've read a lot of posts and comments amongst pilots about not turning into a dead engine on a twin; this is nonsense with one caveat - you must have sufficient airspeed in order to do this. It depends on the aircraft in question but a good rule of thumb is that if you are at or above Vyse you can GENTLY turn into a dead engine. The threat comes in attempting to turn into the dead engine at or near Vmc, minimum controllable airspeed on a single engine, where it may not be possible to arrest the turn due to thrust asymmetry.

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    $\begingroup$ Another variable might be terrain. I fly in a lot of places where terrain could make turns in one direction prohibitive. An engine failure in such a place might necessitate a turn in a specific direction regardless of which engine failed. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Nov 21, 2016 at 4:48
  1. Don't turn into the dead engine, turn away from it, you have to keep the dead engine in front of the live one otherwise loss of control can occur at low speeds.
  2. I assume you can maintain height / have sufficient altitude and are at or above blue line speed if you are considering turning because some height may be lost in the turn. Some twins can only just about maintain height on one engine depending on aircraft loading etc. If you are low / only just at blue line you should seriously consider closing the throttle on the good engine and trying to make the best of a bad job or extend out and see if you can gain some height first before doing anything rash. Hopefully extending out might allow you to find a suitable place to put the aircraft down. This is far preferable to stalling and spinning trying to make the runway at low speed / low height.
  • $\begingroup$ I'm assuming you are in a light twin. If you are in a jet you should have a lot of excess performance and would usually take your time and extend out assuming the aircraft wasn't in immediate danger, e.g. wing on fire and burn off excess fuel etc. (Don't shoot - I'm not an airline pilot). $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2016 at 12:03

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