Troubleshooting a Problem During Flight

A single-engine Cessna is just few feet above the runway after takeoff roll when its engine takes a hiccup, then continues normal operation.

It is something that needs attention. What all can happen next?

The pilot has two options:

First is to continue with the takeoff and prepare for the touch-and-go as per plan. Second option is to ring the alarm bell, evaluate the situation and assess the mission.

It is will be better for the pilot if the second option is picked.

The next thing to consider is how the pilot should proceed?

Regardless of the severity of the unexpected situation, the first objective for any student pilot is to ‘fly the airplane’.

The strong desire to start looking for solution to the problem should not distract the pilot from taking care of the first priority, and that is to fly the airplane, and maintain control.

Can you what should the next priority be?

The next priority should be to climb as soon as possible to a safe altitude from where a safe turn can be made back to the airport, if the need arises, and not an immediate requirement. The fact that the engine is still running and producing power, you should use it.

It will be better if the pilot climbs to a cruising altitude in the vicinity of the airport or remain in the traffic pattern. The pilot can also maneuver close to the departure airport.

The third step should be inform the air traffic controller, if you are flying at a towered airport. Keep the ATC in loop that an unexpected problem has occurred and you want to troubleshoot it, however, there is no requirement for special handling.

Once all the above things are done, it is time to troubleshoot the problem. Start by scanning the gauges, check for carburetor ice, cross check the position of the fuel selector value, or perform a magneto check, as per what the situation requires.

Checking back the fuel selector valve is important as many pilot have the habit of only giving it a quick look. The same theory applies for carburetor heat control, in case it is installed in your airplane.

When you fly an airplane that might have some problem, it is important to keep your priorities aligned, particularly during critical phase of flight. The situation demands clear thinking while troubleshooting.

A Cessna 441 twin turboprop was landing on a wet runway. The airplane had problem with the reverse thrust function of the propellers. The pilot of the airplane made a wrong guess on the poor deceleration of the aircraft during roll-out. The end result was a runway overrun.

During an Aviation Safety Reporting System, the pilot stated that valuable time was wasted in troubleshooting the reverse thrust, which could have been used more effectively in slowing down the airplane.

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