How it's Done: A Model for Handling Emergencies

Thomas P. Turner

October 2023

Well-known aircraft builder and aviation personality Mike Patey experienced a catastrophic, uncontained inflight engine failure in his PT-6-equipped Lancair Legacy amateur-built aircraft enroute to Oshkosh for EAA AirVenture 2023. Patey’s YouTube video account of the event and its aftermath includes recordings of his interaction with Air Traffic Control and evidence of the decisions he made during descent that saved his life. Take a look.


Patey’s response to the failure both demonstrates and reinforces the lessons I’ve tried to impart over my past 35-plus years as a practicing flight instructor on pilot-in-command actions in the event of an emergency, especially (but not limited to) engine failure in flight. His experience serves as a best-practices model of “how it’s done” to assure the best possible outcome under available circumstances. Some of the litany of actions will probably sound familiar—precisely because it works. Here’s how Patey did it, and how you can too:


1. Fly the airplane. Above all else, maintain control of the aircraft. A strong secondary goal is to fly to attain maximum available performance, at the Best Glide airspeed in the case of engine failure in a single-engine airplane or VYSE “Blue Line” speed in a twin if you need maximum available performance. Keep it controlled, and maximize performance…in a familiar word, AVIATE.


2. Aim somewhere. Faced with a loss of power—or just about any other emergency, for that matter—locate the best possible option for landing and turn toward that option immediately. It’s possible in many cases you may be able to resolve the problem, or at least minimize its impact. But in case you cannot, you don’t want to be flying away from your best option for recovery while you spend time attempting repair or restart. Put another familiar way, NAVIGATE


3. Don’t be led astray. Controllers may think the best thing they can do for the pilot of an emergency aircraft is to give them a nice vector to a long, straight-in approach. That may be fine for an engine-out twin coming in on one engine. What the pilot of an engine-out single really needs, however, is to fly directly to the landing option and then descend within gliding distance of that location. In this case, ATC provided a vector for downwind; Patey told him no, he wanted to spiral down directly over the airport.


4. Ask controllers for information you need, but don’t ask them what to do. Instead…


5. Tell controllers what you plan to do and ask for information you need to execute your plan. The third familiar word is COMMUNICATE. As Patey puts it in his video, “all those simulated engine outs, all those ‘what if it died here, what if my engine quit there, whatever’ that you’ve trained over and over…do it again. Be ready. And certainly, don’t kid yourself that it may not happen, or will never happen to you.” 


Patey’s recordings detail a textbook case for calm, in-command response to an inflight emergency—he shows us how it’s done. Watch at least the first 10 minutes of his video, from onset of the emergency until the aircraft was safely on the ground. Listen and evaluate how he prioritized aviate, navigate and communicate, and used his training to remain pilot in command, ask for the information he needed and tell the controllers what he was going to do, and execute his plan. Well done, Mike Patey, both in handling the engine failure and also for making the video so we can all learn from your experience.


Now if you ever have an inflight emergency, you have a best-practices example of how it’s done.


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Thomas P. Turner is an ATP, CFI/CFII/MEI and has been actively instructing for over 36 years. He is Executive Director of the American Bonanza Society Air Safety Foundation, now in his 21st year in that role. After hours he runs Mastery Flight Training, Inc., as a flight instructor, author and lecturer best known for his FLYING LESSONS Weekly blog at Mastery Flight Training, Inc.


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