One of the worst nightmares for a single engine airplane pilot, especially a student, loses an engine. It’s a bad situation but it’s doesn’t have to have a bad ending, as this student pilot demonstrated with an almost manual emergency landing.
On May 22, Brian Parsley departed Concord, North Carolina, aboard a 1968 Cessna 150J for a “solo long cross country” flight. About 2,200 feet above sea level and nine miles from the runway at its home airport, the Cessna’s engine came to rest. With only 1,500 feet of altitude to work, there was no way to get to the airport, so he took him for an emergency landing.
In flight training, the The solo long cross-country is a point-to-point flight from the departure airport to a second and third before returning to the first airport. It covers over 170 miles and the student pilot flies alone without an instructor in the cockpit. This flight is required to obtain a private pilot’s license and is considered one of the biggest challenges for a student pilot.
Parsley says the engine started running for about three miles before stopping. He initially thought that the malfunction was due to carburetor icing.
Air flowing through a carburetor venturi creates a pressure drop that sucks in fuel. However, this same pressure drop that allows the carburetor to run cools it down, sometimes to the point of ice formation.
If a pilot suspects icing, he can pull a lever in the cockpit which changes the air flow over the carburetor from fresh outside air to the blown air from the hot exhaust manifold. The parsley turned on the heat of the carbs and it seemed to work, but the motor then shut down anyway.
The engine of his Cessna 150J chose a particularly poor area for spitting. Looking out the windows, there were only trees, neighborhoods, and power lines.
Still, Parsley acted quickly, first preparing the plane to get the most out of its glide, and then searching for suitable terrain. Once we found one, he also attempted to get the motor back on. It all happened while he was making radio calls and prevent the plane from stalling. He uploaded another video explaining how huge a workload this is:
On top of all of these potential stresses, you want to make sure that if the terrain you’re landing in is a farm, you land the plane parallel to the rows of crops. Arriving perpendicularly, the aircraft‘s landing gear could bounce into ruts, or worse.
Student pilots, myself included, train for these kinds of specific situations. Flight instructors do their best to help you prepare for the unexpected. In this case, it paid off for the parsley. He landed the Cessna in the pitch and stopped without drama. He might not have done everything perfectly, but it was a safe, injury-free landing which matters most.
In case you were wondering, there are several ways to recover a plane after a landing like this. If the plane can be repaired where it is and the terrain allows, it may be able to take off where it landed. Flight TACA 110, a Boeing 737, took off this way after an emergency landing next to a dike in New Orleans, Louisiana. Otherwise, someone will have to come by, load it and transport it to the airport. Hopefully this Cessna 150J is back in the sky teaching more students to fly.