Last week ASF posted a new Real Pilot Story, The Impossible Turn. Most will know this as an attempt to return to the airport during an engine failure right after takeoff. The conventional wisdom is to look for something soft and cheap to hit out ahead of the aircraft that involves minimal maneuvering to lessen the chance of a fatal stall.
We have ample evidence that a poorly executed turn or an attempt at too low an altitude is disastrous. What we don’t know is how many people successfully pulled it off because there are no statistics on the positive side. Sorry, but local hangar flying does not quite qualify as a reliable source even as the story gets better with each retelling!
In the unusual case of Mooney pilot, Dave Keller, he had just installed a video camera in his Mooney when the engine quit right after takeoff. He estimated he was perhaps 500 feet AGL. We couldn’t have paid Dave enough to do this on purpose -it was all captured, accidentally, on video. Dave did a fantastic job and had many things going for him. See for yourself in the Real Pilot Story above.
AOPA writer Barry Schiff wrote about the impossible turn some years ago and actually did some testing to show when it might work. There are lots of caveats. We had quite a discussion at ASF on how to present Dave’s experience. There are times when the impossible turn may be quite possible and others when it would be a really bad idea. Perhaps some more testing should be done to identify those situations. What do you think?