Glide Ratio: How Far Can I Coast Without An Engine?


By Richard Zephro

One of only a few complete engine failures in over 30 years of flying, happened to me a few years back. The fuel injector in this F model was full of crud from being operated out of a cow pasture with the ram air door seal rubber missing!

The engine failed over Kentucky. But with the legendary and unequalled 12.7:1 glide ratio, we were able to make the airport at Lexington with little sweat. We greased her right on. (of course we really had to stretch the glide to make this one and ended up flying through two small leafless trees, hit the runway abutment rise, ballooned and resettled on the runway. I actually did the math later on and I must have somehow exceeded the written 12.7-1 ratio in order to make that airport, but we made it!) Thanks AL!

Instincts played a great role here because although the engine seemed to be running smoothly at that moment, something was just not right so I began a turn back toward an airport I had passed when half way through the turn, the engine got very quiet. Only after I established my heading to that airport did I attempt a restart which ended up futile. The engine had been running so lean for so long a time that it also sucked a valve and turned it into an upside down umbrella shape as it turned out.

Had I been in a Beech, Piper, or Cessna, the (at the time!) unwelcome topography of Kentucky would have filled our windscreen. 
The BOTTOM LINE here is not to waste time should an engine failure be imminent. Accident records are full of stories whereby the airport was NOT made only to crash yards from it. FIRST THINGS FIRST!
Keep that well in mind and NEVER be caught by surprise. Know your glide speeds and waste no time getting to it and pointed to an airport before your engine problem sleuthing comes in to play.

DON’T BECOME A STATISTIC! Proper planning for such an event can make ALL THE DIFFERENCE!