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A deadstick landing, also called a dead-stick landing, is a type of forced landing when an aircraft loses all of its propulsive power and is forced to land. The "stick" does not refer to the flight controls, which in most aircraft are either fully or partially functional without engine power, but to the traditional wooden propeller, which without power would just be a "dead stick".[1] When a pilot makes an emergency landing of an aircraft that has some or all of its propulsive power still available, the procedure is known as a precautionary landing.

All fixed-wing aircraft have some capability to glide with no engine power; that is, they do not sink straight down like a stone, but rather continue to glide moving horizontally while descending. For example, with a glide ratio of 15:1, a Boeing 747-200 can glide for 150 kilometres (93 mi; 81 nmi) from a cruising altitude of 10,000 metres (33,000 ft). After a loss of power, the pilot’s goal is to maintain a safe airspeed and fly the descending aircraft to the most suitable landing spot within gliding distance, then land with the least amount of damage possible. The area open for potential landing sites depends on the original altitude, local terrain, the engine-out gliding capabilities of the aircraft, original airspeed and winds at various altitudes. Part of learning to fly a fixed-wing aircraft is demonstrating the ability to fly safely without an engine until prepared to make (or actually making) a landing. Gliders, unless they have an auxiliary motor, do all their flying without power, and a trained pilot can touch down on virtually any spot they pick from the air.

The success of the deadstick landing largely depends on the availability of suitable landing areas. A competent pilot gliding a relatively light, slow plane to a flat field or runway should result in an otherwise normal landing, since the maneuver is not especially difficult, requiring only strict attention and good judgement concerning speed and height. A heavier, faster aircraft or a plane gliding into mountains or trees could result in substantial damage.

With helicopters, a forced landing involves autorotation, since the helicopter glides by allowing its rotor to spin freely during the descent thus generating lift.

Single engine failure

When a single engine aircraft suffers an engine failure, it must do a dead-stick landing. A danger comes from the pilot subsequently allowing a critical loss of airspeed, which will result in excessively fast loss of altitude and, when poorly handled, loss of control. The instinct to "stretch the glide" by pulling the nose up beyond its optimum point will simply make the aircraft sink faster.

Should the engine power be lost shortly after takeoff, the pilot(s) must evaluate their options: attempting a low-altitude turn back to the airport might be dangerous. This "impossible turn" has killed many pilots because it very likely will result in a crash whereas a landing straight ahead (or within a few degrees of the initial flight path) would be survivable.[2]

Deadstick landings of passenger aircraft

There have been several well-known instances of large jet airliners successfully executing a deadstick landing.

See also


  1. ^ OED Online entry for "dead stick".
  2. ^ Engine Failure on Climbout Leads to Impossible Turn LAX07LA022
  3. ^ "".