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When the engines of a airplane show irregularities that do not reduce performance but indicate a possible failure of the engines, is it useful to climb to a higher level, to increase the glide length that is available in case the engines stop completely?

The problem known in the cockpit is only that the engines do not run like they should. Say they make clearly unusual noises and slight vibration, but loose no performance. There is no indication whether the engines will fail, an in case the do fail, at which point in time that will happen.
It's an emergency, without actual change in the planes performance.

As example, I think of a small single propeller plane, and a situation where longer glide path could be useful. But I think the question applies to any plane that can glide without power.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sure it would, but the assumption is a situation where more glide path would be potentially helpful. Like when no airfield is reachable by gliding, but longer glide path allows more choice where to do the emergency landing. $\endgroup$ – Volker Siegel Apr 10 '18 at 2:56
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    $\begingroup$ Your assumption is that there is that the engine is good for another N minutes. It's hard to make such an assumption in the cockpit so I don't think a definite answer can be given. Climbing (and thus increasing engine speed) might strain your engine faster and in turn kill it even faster. $\endgroup$ – Antzi Apr 10 '18 at 3:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Antzi It's not about n minutes, it's just "high risk to fail". I have edited to clarify. The engine speed is a good point. $\endgroup$ – Volker Siegel Apr 10 '18 at 3:25
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Agreeing with @Antzi, high engine speed when combined with some sort of small scale physical damage or corrosion is a typical failure mode for propeller engines. Combining that logic with the fact that propeller engines run more efficiently at lower elevations (higher air density) I would recommend against climbing. In fact, lowering your elevation and speed will greatly reduce the stress/strain you are putting on the engine and will likely give you a better chance of making it safely to the closest airfield.

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I recently saw a YouTube Video with this exact scenario in a single prop Cirrus plane. He did not climb but rather turned back to the airport and maintained a higher altitude than normal for the approach for landing. ATC was giving him clearance to descend for the landing but he rejected that clearance in order to give him some altitude in case his engine did fail.

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Okay, as I understand your problem you have an engine that is suspect to possible failure. So, you are asking, if it is a good idea to increase the stresses on the engine to climb by adding more power and possibly increase the chances of a potential failure. Unless you are looking at an immediate confrontation with a object on the horizon that is higher than your current altitude, like a big rock, I would reduce power to a minimum and look for a place to land. If you are in a four engine jet at, let's say FL 390, the last thing you would consider is climbing because, if you loose an engine at that altitude, decent will be mandatory immediately because three engines will not sustain flight at that altitude.

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