Deadstick Instrument Approach

Of all the advanced training scenarios Richard teaches, the one which ties everything together is the Deadstick Instrument Approach. This can be taught in either the simulator or an actual aircraft.  Imagine this scenario:

The flight began as a routine cross-country instrument flight, though increasing headwinds delayed arrival until after dark; the pilot began a gradual decent from FL190 to lessen the headwinds. Then the pilot found himself in IMC as unforecast rain developed, though the destination remained above approach minimums. As the rain and clouds came in, turbulence picked up. Slowly the panel lights began to dim, and soon it became apparent that a flashlight would be needed to fly the plane after a night-time electrical failure. All electrical devices were turned off except the VNAV-capable GPS navigator.  The pilot began navigating to an alternate with known VFR weather when the engine began to sputter and die… alone, at night, at high altitude in a dark cockpit with no engine and only reserve battery power to power the available navigation equipment.  The pilot navigated to the final approach fix for a nearby instrument runway and enroute he calculated his airplane’s descent rate in order to determine the proper adjusted altitude at which to cross the FAF…knowing there would be only one chance at this approach, he monitored his airplane’s descent rate intensely, circled over the FAF a few times, and then glided inbound from the missed approach point… Breaking out of the clouds to the wonderful sight of sequenced approach lights, he extended the gear manually and made a no-flap deadstick landing to the great relief of everyone involved.

The key to executing a deadstick instrument approach is to observe the aircraft’s power-out rate of descent and then cross the final approach fix at an appropriately adjusted altitude to permit a glide to the runway. This can be calculated mentally, though the GPS VNAV capabilities of the Garmin-series GPS receivers make this task much easier.

Successfully executing a night-time, IMC Deadstick instrument approach to a full stop on the simulator is a challenge but also a very rewarding experience which increases a pilot’s overall management of situational awareness, aircraft performance, attitude instrument flying, and cockpit resource management. 

The single-engine IFR pilot who regularly practices a Deadstick instrument approach gives himself a major new option to handle an emergency situation if he has enough altitude. Just as twin-engine pilots regularly practice engine-out-on-takeoff scenarios in a simulator, Richard encourages single-engine IFR pilots to regularly practice the deadstick instrument approach either in their own plane with a safety pilot or with a home computer system (i.e. Microsoft Flight Simulator or X-Plane) or using the full-motion advanced avionics simulator.


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