Multi-Engine Instructor Tactics and Strategies By Dave

Originally written for NAFI Mentor

Logging expensive multiengine flight time is the goal of flight instructors vying for airline positions. Flight instruction is usually part of the plan to build hours on the cheap. However, the cost of getting an MEI is so great that by the time an examiner hands over a temporary license, Cheerios with REAL milk is a treat. Instructors that present MEI training feel the pressure to help keep costs under control, after all they were there too. Chances are that when a person tests for a single-engine CFI, they have a great deal of experience in single-engine airplanes. Conversely, an MEI candidate might start training on the heels of a recently completed, short-course, multiengine add-on course. Regrettably, many newly minted multi-instructors either could not afford, or were not provided with an MEI course of great depth. Simply racking up hours is not the best way to MEI proficiency. This dangerous learning curve is validated by high insurance rates, and punctuated by accident reports. This article is an addendum to higher instructional proficiency that starts where the multi-engine instructor practical test left off. So you have just finished your training, lets get ready to meet that first student!

By definition, multi-engine flight instruction is more complicated than single engine training. The best way to keep customers happy, quality high, and costs low is an efficient training program. Take the time to talk to the student and create a customized syllabus. Try to follow the approach Richard Collins uses in Flying's "Checkride". How well do you know your student? Can you relate their experience, annual use, recurrent training, equipment installation, maintenance procedures, and wish list? The student’s wish list is most important; dreams are the foundation of effective. Do not reinvent the wheel each time, but tailor the goals and skills of the student to the practical test standards. A solid plan is a progress thermometer. This builds trust. Remember, multi-engine transition pilots already know how to fly and learn. Multi-engine flying is intimidating; things happen fast, creating student anxiety. Your job is to help the student slow things down to a manageable pace.

FAR 61.195(f) requires that a CFI have 5 hours make and model before providing training required for a certificate or rating issued under Part 61. By regulation we can teach a owner flight review before starting that first multi-engine transition. Flight reviews are the perfect way to safely and legally build experience. These flights build experience in type and perfect teaching style. Owner-pilots usually have hundreds or thousands of hours in their aircraft. Often, they will teach you more that you teach them. Owners who attend factory training recognize that training aircraft do not represent their exact avionics installation; this is where a local MEI comes in. They may need help with the latest Federal Aviation Regulations or how to get the most from a new GPS. Break the review into a performance planning session, local and cross-country flights. Owners appreciate honest evaluations and the associated tune-up.

Turbojet flight crews cover performance planning during annual PIC checks required FAR 61.58. Daily multi-engine performance problems need to be part of the routine that all instructors enforce. Never violate this rule, lead by example and always complete or verify the performance prediction. Without knowing the “numbers”, it is difficult to know the aircraft is performing properly, and an early danger sign missed. Examine the fine print in the performance charts. Generally, the operating instructions in the forward portion of operating handbooks are based upon sea level conditions, and may not be optimized for peak performance. The takeoff conditions in my copy of Cessna 310Q performance charts are based upon full throttle prior to brake release. However, Chapter 2 mentions that full throttle in static run-up is not recommended, and the Chapter 1 checklist makes no mention of brakes at all. Where does the PTS weigh in? It says to apply brakes prior to short field take off as appropriate. The difference that this fine point would make depends on the pilot at the controls. The issue for the MEI is to know which charts apply under specific conditions, and teaching students to make decisions based on published materials vice urban legend.

When to retract the landing gear is another performance planning issue. Accident pilots make the decision to "land back" or continue single-engine at time of the failure, not a good plan. Consider this, with a dual engine failure a landing is in your immediate future. Helping students plan for the go/no-go decision should be based on the remaining engine working as advertised. Conditions on the sample single engine takeoff distance chart are based upon gear up during the climb. Landing distance charts in the C310Q start at a height of 50 feet, 35 degrees of flaps, and airspeed below single-engine decision speed. Deciding to land back with flaps up, higher speed, and height greater than 50 feet places the pilot in test pilot mode. Landing distance information does not exist for this situation. Additionally, accelerate stop charts do not apply after the aircraft has rotated at takeoff speed. The decision to raise the gear is the decision to continue the flight single engine. Always assume that an engine is going to fail. Pilots should be surprised by normal operations, not by engine failure. With this frame of mind, instill in your students that after rotation, any time spent on two engines is borrowed time. The after takeoff check is actually a process to configure for single-engine flight. Consider raising the gear by 50 feet above the runway (this happens fast) and transiting through the zone where the landing distance chart is no longer applicable. If the decision is made to land back, do you have accurate data to ensure that the aircraft will not depart the end of the runway?

A great exercise to learn procedures and incorporate lessons from performance planning is building a custom checklist. The manufacturer does not include procedures for aftermarket equipment or FAA requirements such as transponder, clearance, lights, etc. Please note that while aircraft operated under Part 91 do not require “FAA Approved” checklists, it is recommended that you seek FSDO review. This review is a simple process and the inspector will provide excellent education for free! Writing, perfecting, and using a custom checklist will help a student master the flow of a complex aircraft. "Chair" fly the checklist several times on the ground. The checklist should include a pre-takeoff brief touch drill. The touch drill has the pilot touch each control in succession to show the proper use of the control in addition to talking about the procedure. Mastery of procedures gives the student a reservoir of confidence for more challenging situations.

Doubling the number of engine gauges and controls seems to make the aircraft four times as complicated. Connecting the student's hand to the correct gauge is a critical skill. Nothing increases frustration more than making a situation worse by choosing the wrong engine control. Indeed, this can create deadly scenarios. The trusted blindfold cockpit check can help combat some of these problems. Students tend to stare at the gauge they intend to manipulate, ignoring aircraft control. Controls are designed to be identifiable by feel (round, ridged, or flat). Point out these simple differences to accelerate student learning. The best time to practice engine control manipulation is during taxi.

In my opinion, Vmc demo is the most important skill in the multi-engine PTS and part one of teaching engine failure procedures. To build confidence point out that the emergency might arise where neither engine is working. Dead sticking a twin is a real possibility (fuel starvation?). Ask the airline Captain that had to glide an Airbus to the Azores Islands in the Atlantic Ocean! Simulated dual engine failures are not in the PTS, and I am not suggesting that they should be. What a dual engine failure illustrates is that student could complete twin training in short order if they pulled every lever off during an engine failure! Control would be maintained and they already know how to glide and perform emergency landings! This is not a realistic reaction to a single-engine failure or a suggested procedure. However, I demonstrate a simulated dual engine out glide to a landing. This shows students that in a worse case scenario, they already know what to do. We start with what they already know and they see that they are not so far from their goal. Most importantly it teaches that maintaining control is number one.

Simulated engine failures create a shock effect in the student. Break the procedure into control, configuration, and recovery. Keep lessons short. Complete a thorough instructor brief of how the engine failure simulations are completed. Clear communication is key. To avoid negative habit patterns, students should manipulate controls the same regardless of how the instructor initiates the procedure. It is up to the instructor to make engine failures with the throttle realistic by guarding the engine controls. Have students make the motions to identify, verify, and feather, against the pressure of guarded controls. Students will do as they are instructed. Ensure that the word "simulated" is used with throttle reductions. Again, guard the engine controls to prevent feathering an operating engine. Rather than starting with a complete engine failure, begin with a partial loss of power. The yawing moment will be minor, but the procedure is the same. Each time, increase the loss of power, until the student is able to maintain control without effort. Build the emergencies into a scenario. For example, accompany the throttle reduction with a verbal announcement that the oil pressure is dropping.

Instructors should be spring loaded to complete a Vmc recovery during every practice maneuver. Assume a relaxed, defensive body posture with hands on the control quadrant, without appearing overbearing. Each maneuver has its own dangers.

Answer these questions:

What if the student advances power rapidly and floods and engine during power-off stall recovery? (the aircraft would be below Vmc)

What would happen if the lower engine were to fail during a steep turn?

What if an engine were to fail during slow flight?

What would happen if too much power were used during a power-on stall and an actual engine failure were to occur?

Is it wise to trust the student to retard the throttles in the event of an emergency?

How long do will you have to react?

The power-off stall recovery scenario happened during the first transition that I taught. The left engine failed during stall recovery with the student on the controls. The aircraft started a rapid, accelerating left roll. The nose was pitching up, and the athletic student set the controls in concrete. A flat spin was in our immediate future. We made it out of the situation without much drama. Both throttles came back and a simple unusual attitude recovery was made. Both throttles smoothly came forward and the left engine cooperated this time. With the importance of Vmc recovery emphasized, we decided to land and get some lunch. The student was in overload, I learned more than the student.

New instructors need to get the most from performance charting and master defensive body postures to keep dangerous situations from developing. Focus on delivering a learning experience that keeps students safe, and happy customers that keep coming back. Stay within your limitations; allow your experience to build at a safe pace. The MEI needs to stay relaxed and on their guard at all times. Fly safe.

Byline: Dave is a MCFI and works with Momentum Interactive, creators of FLITELite, contact him at

Shock Cooling Sidebar: Some owners refuse to practice engine out procedures in their aircraft. The thought of "shock cooling" an engine is more than they can stand. Volumes have been written on this topic. This is a difficult situation. How do you get an owner to train for this emergency? First be patient. Second, pose the students objection as a question: please explain the shock cooling process? As they attempt to explain the process, make a list of the hazards to the engines. Increased airflow, reduced temperature, and time should be the prime concerns for normally aspirated aircraft. Then pose the follow on question; what is the difference between shutting an engine down in flight and shutting one down in flight? Through process of elimination, the hazards will disappear during the discussion. So long as the practice shutdown procedure is properly performed, there is little possibility for engine damage. Flight school training aircraft routinely made the journey to TBO without damage from "shock cooling". If the discussion does not lead the customer to comfortably allow single-engine training, and no other training suitable aircraft is available, the MEI should consider if they would be able to meet Part 61.56 biennial flight review requirements without this maneuver. Always remember that performance planning, and an emergency landing site for DUAL engine failure is a prerequisite to safe training.

Back to Articles Index