Another training question

I am a 33 hour student post solo. My recent flight with my CFI was unusual as he had me practice engine out on climb out with return to field at 500 , 400 and 300 feet agl. I was flying a diamond da20. The maneuvers went well and i was able to land without problem. The steep bank of the turn and the speed control during was a challenge with the stall horn blaring the entire time. The decent view was a bit intimating as well. Is the something that you seasoned pilots would recommend ?

The Diamond DA20 is a forgiving machine, and 500 feet return with an experienced pilot is an easy do. 400/300 making me nervous now. Don’t try any of this in a Cirrus or most any high performance aircraft.


300 AGL for the impossible turn! I personally think this is pushing your luck. But I am no CFI!

The DA20 is almost a motorglider, but even with gliders at 300 ft we would go straight in case of rope break!

Interesting article here

I’d like to hear from a few of the active instructors on this forum. Tom is a friend of mine who I encouraged to take up flying. He’s a doctor and is thinking about buying a Cirrus. His goals are to use GA for practical transportation over fairly long distances.

When he told me about practicing landing at night with no landing light and no runway lights, I thought that was unusual for a private pilot student. When he then told me about the teardrop returns from low altitude, I became quite upset. After all, I referred him to the flight school. I told him about the fatalities with CFI’s in the right seat from this maneuver. Tom Mackel probably has something to say on the subject.

I never did either of the above in many, many hours of dual received for Private, Instrument, and Commercial. I have suggested to Tom that he sit down with the chief instructor and restate his goals and then do the same prior to each lesson. There is nothing in the Private Pilot PTS about either of these things. Teaching to the PP PTS and written are plenty for a new student. Focus on basic airmanship, good decision making, systems, weather, proper landing speeds, etc.

What say you intructors? Fast Eddie? Alex? Bill Dobson? Steve Lin? Bill Graham? Fiscus? Buehler?

Thinking - on a roof ATM in a snow storm. Stby


I’m actually not a flight instructor, but IMHO the no-landing-light / no-runway-light exercise is a good one. The return to airport maneuver is a bad one, UNLESS the object of the exercise is to show how it cannot typically be done. In other words, it can be useful in a, “let’s try to make it back and see what kind of trouble we get into, to reinforce the fact that you shouldn’t try this if your engine fails for real” but even then I think it’s safer to do at altitude.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to imply or teach that the return-to-airport method is a good choice at 300, 400, 500 ft, etc.

Again I’m not a CFI so take this with a grain of salt.

From the CPPP training record used by all of the CPPP flight instructors:

3247.Screen shot 2011-01-25 at 8.50.18 AM.png

It is outlined in (blood) red for a reason. These are important maneuvers to appreciate, but in a Cirrus, they are also maneuvers that come with higher risks. Best to understand those risks sooner rather than later.


Alright Thomas,
A Da 20 is little more then a motor glider, and it takes between new years and Xmas for it to reach the ground. However, the Da20 is very different from many other GA rides which do not have as low a wing loading as the Da20. For the SR series, which weigh about twice as much and have a higher wing loading, and critical wing, plus a prop which when oil pressure goes to zip turns the propeller disc flat to the airstream and into a huge airbrake - there is essentially no reason to perform that maneuver bc there is no safe way to demonstrate it at such a low altitude. Case and point, another COPA member, an instructor was teaching a return to airport at 500 feet in a 22 at Palm Springs - they scraped the wing tip. There is a good reason which rick eluded to why not to do it at those heights. So the answer from myself, no it’s not normal - and the ability for the DA20 to do it should not translate in your training head that it can be done in other types. Frankly, it’s a bit reckless of the instructor. Pierre, maybe you could connect me with that Emmy award winner.

I’ll weigh in here:

RE: the night landings issue vs. the PPL PTS. If you look at the PTS, there is NO REQUIREMENT AT ALL to demonstrate any sort of night ops on the practical exam. Night ops are a training requirement per the FARs, but the student is not evaluated on the training in-flight per the PTS (only a discussion during the oral exam). I conduct what some folks consider more-in-depth-than-necessary night training because I don’t want one of my students caught unprepared when flying at night. I want to give the the student experiences to base good critical decisions on, using prior observation and demonstration under controlled conditions (see my prior post about night landings practice). If the pilot subsequently decides to NEVER attempt landings at night without a landing light and / or runway lights, then he / she has made a good decision based on personal risk assessment AND EXPERIENCE. BUT, I did due diligence in providing him / her with the knowledge of how to correctly handle lighting failures, INCLUDING diverting to an alternate airport if necessary (e.g. the no lights at all scenario).

RE: the return-to-airport maneuver. I don’t teach this at low altitudes. I DO simulate it at a safe altitude. We start about 3000’ AGL with the airplane over and aligned with a major roadway which will serve as our “runway” for orientation… Slow the airplane to take-off speed and set take-off configuration. Make a max power straight-ahead climb, then pull the power to idle at different points in the climb. Let the trainee try to make a 270/90 turn to “land” at the original altitude aligned back over the ground reference, then note the total altitude loss. Repeat as necessary to establish a “minimum altitude” at which the trainee can perform the maneuver safely. (e.g. altitude loss through the maneuver plus 100-200 feet for a safety factor.) We use different bank angles and different “recognition delays” to make sure there is a good buffer for the safe altitude. Then, any power loss BELOW the resulting agreed-upon altitude triggers an off-airport landing scenario (straight-ahead or turn to an open area, etc.) or, if above the CAPS safe altitude in a Cirrus, the big chute pull. We also discuss ops at airports with crossing runways, where a smaller turn (and thus a lower altitude) could align you over a usable runway, etc. We do execute simulated engine failures to a runway landing, but always from a safe altitude and position from which landing safely is always assured. So, in short, NO I don’t teach return-to-airport maneuvers at low altitude. Too much risk that it will turn into a bad situation if mishandled.

My $0.02 worth.


your 2 cents are worth a lot, a lot more!

Especially the simulated return to the runway!

OMG! I m not a CFI… But 300 AGL return to airport seems reckless! == T.J.==


JFK Jr. should have trained with you. He might be alive today if he did.

No. He is setting you up to kill yourself in some future airplane. Very bad idea to train someone to react to an EFATO emergency this way. In a Cirrus, especially, you have an out by use of the CAPS parachute once you’re 500 AGL (some say 400).


Were here to save lives. Thomas, pay attention. This is why you don’t try to do a return to airport maneuver.

What a horrible video. I guess some other lessons from seeing that Tiger Moth crash would include:

  • If the engine fails on take-off, you have to get the nose down right now to avoid a stall.

  • Things can go from “perfectly fine” to “all over” in just a few short seconds.

While it is always good to practice emergencies, this type maneuver, particularly with a student pilot, is best practiced in a simulator, at least initially. When recognition, acknowledgement, reaction, and decision making become a ‘normal routine’ in an emergency (while in a simulated flight environment), then practicing them in the aircraft when safety permits is reasonable.

Not sure if I should throw this out, but I think people might consider doing an engine failure with someone like Alex in the right seat with plenty of altitude. I think we all know that when you lose the engine, that you have to get the nose down, but I am not sure unless you have actually experienced it just how much you have to push the nose down. The Cirrus at Vx full power and to a certain degree Vy full power and the 10-15 degrees pitch up that those maneuvers require will stall very quickly, if you immediately idle the throttle. This is different than the gradual pull back of the throttle in level flight that flight instructors traditionally do. The immediate loss of p-factor and loss of prop wash over the wings and empennage cause a very big change in flight characteristics. I would caution, do not do this without lots of altitude, and not without someone experienced in high performance maneuvers in a high performance aircraft. Starting the maneuver with lower power settings and building up to higher power settings is probably prudent. But if you have a catastrophic engine failure at Vx or Vy, a stall is a lot easier than you think, and really knowing what to do may be lifesaving.

What is the recommended maneuvering speed for steep turns (45) in the SR20 G3?



I’ve solo’d twice now with 1.5 hrs PIC. Planned long solo XC has been practiced 3x with instructor ( includes class Bravo transition with flight following). What would you recommend on the timing of the 3 hours of night flight & 3 hours of sim IFR traning? Should I do this before or after completing my 10 hours of PIC? I’m flying a SR20 G3.



I think you are flying with a stunt pilot. I don’t think stunt pilots should fly their maneuvers with anyone else aboard. While they may be quite skilled, the maneuvers at the edge of the envelope (stall warning going off continuously close to the ground) are inherently dangerous. The fact they don’t result in fatalities with every attempt does not mean they are safe merely because they can often be completed without incident. They are dangerous because fatalities do result from such maneuvers even for the highly skilled. This guy may kill himself one day when a gust hits him, or if something distracts him, and when it does, nobody should be in the plane with him.

Student pilots learn to select forced landing areas from safe altitudes. The hope is they can do so when an engine failure actually occurs. The lower the altitude that happens, the fewer the choices, but students are not taught to execute stunt maneuvers to complete the task. That applies to engine failures on the upwind after takeoff as well. The pilot should not be taught to attempt execution of such a high-performance maneuver at the ragged edge of a stall that your instructor is teaching. At some altitude in any airplane, a turn back to the airport of departure becomes no more hazardous than selecting any other area. But not at low level and not at the stall.

To me this kind of practice smacks of practicing spins or light twin engine failures on takeoff. Both practice maneuvers killed more people than they saved, and the FAA dropped the requirements. I’d tell your CFI he is not to practice those maneuvers with you aboard in the future. If you were my son, I’d tell you to find another CFI to train with, because this one has a problem with judgment.

Not in your question, but in other posts, is the idea of practicing night landings without landing lights or runway lights. That falls into the same category as low-level high performance turns done at the edge of a stall. Practicing night landings without a landing light is a good idea. Practicing landings at night to unlit runways, especially on dark nights, is hazarous enough (too likely to fly into the ground short), but without a landing light it is reckless. It’s a skill you will never need, because you should never attempt it.