#21 The Dead Stick Landing

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The Tailwheeler’s Journal #21
The Deadstick Landing

If you practice this maneuver you will be branded as “nuts” or “a lunatic” by all those careful, conservative pilots who make up the airport bums society at your home airport. If you get good at it through practice, you will be FAR better prepared to accurately land in the event of engine failure than all those characters who bad-mouthed your practice. We’ve done a video on the subject and you can view it on the site: https://tailwheelersjournal.com//deadstick.html.
This isn’t the best article on Dead Stick Landings. Barry Schiff already wrote that in AOPA Pilot.

If you don’t SINCERELY believe in the value of practicing dead stick landings, DON’T PRACTICE them. The vast majority of pilots NEVER practice them. Many perfectly safe and well-qualified pilots NEVER practice dead stick landings.
Most of us are flying airplanes with starters. This enables us to re-start in the air. Some of us are not so equipped. My earlier practice of deadsticks was first in my T-craft and then in my J-3. Neither had a starter. This was never a big issue to me. Personally, I don’t think the intentional deadstick landing is inherently dangerous. It simply needs to be eased into.

There is risk to the practice of actual deadstick landings. You must fly the approach conservatively enough so that you can afford to be a little short (your aiming point should be about one third down the runway) or a little long (flaps, forward slip and S turns will shorten your approach). Depending on how reliably you can re-start your engine you may not be able to initiate a go around. You should never count on the ability to re-start.

In my opinion, there are some pre-requisites to practicing Dead Sticks:

First, you should practice the overhead approach with idle power. If you can consistently land accurately with a closed throttle, then it may be time to shut it down and stop the prop. Most knowledgeable pilots will point out that the difference will be either better glide with the prop stopped (no prop disc drag) or worse glide because your engine idled high enough that there was some thrust being supplied. You could ask a flight instructor for help with this maneuver, but most flight instructors have never done it. So much for that big idea. You should be comfortable and proficient with
forward slips on either side. And you shouldn’t totally suck at power-off accuracy approaches.

Let’s also understand that with your prop stopped you can’t botch either a wheel or three-point landing and save your butt with power. If you are doing a three point landing, you absolutely can’t afford to flare high. If you are planning a wheel landing you cannot afford to bounce the plant. I will say I found that my wheel landings seemed to be better when I was dead-sticking. I don’t know why.

As I said in our video on the subject, if you want to try the dead stick and don’t have anyone who can help where you are, give me a call and come out to Tailwheel Town. We’ll do it together.

Happy Swooping!