CFI/Pilot Training Pro-Tip – Don’t Announce “Engine Out” on the radio unless it’s real…try “Short Approach”

“Airport XXX Traffic, Cessna N1234 Engine Out Runway 27.”

Yup, that was the radio call I heard. Obviously, location and aircraft number have been changed to protect the pilot, an instructor, who made this call.

When I hear this on the radios I think there was actually a problem. But nah, they were just practicing.

Verbalizing a potentially catastrophic event like this on a radio frequency can give those listening on the frequency the incorrect impression a real emergency may exist.

It is important that instructors teach emergency procedures to their students and customers, but it is also important that they are careful in their communications about their actions on radio frequencies to avoid creation of the impression that an emergency may exist.

So, what would have been better then?

Well, some will preface a radio call such as this with something like, “Airport XXX Traffic, Cessna N1234 SIMULATED Engine Out Runway 27.” It’s better, but it still probably isn’t enough.

Think about a busy UNICOM frequency and how much squawking and squealing is happening on a nice summer day. That singular word, “SIMULATED” can easily get lost in the mix.

How about trying this instead, “Airport XXX Traffic, Cessna N1234, SHORT APPROACH Runway 27.” It conveys what the pilot is going to do, a close in non-powered approach to the runway while at the same time not using any emergent phraseology over the radio that might get anyone else on the frequency excited for no reason.

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About Jason Blair

Jason Blair is an active single- and multi-engine instructor and a FAA Designated Pilot Examiner with over 5,000 hours total time and over 3,000 hours instruction given, and he has flown over 100 different makes and models of general aviation aircraft. In his role as Examiner, he has issued over 2000 pilot certificates. He works and has worked for multiple aviation associations that promote training and general aviation. He also consults on aviation training and regulatory efforts for the general aviation industry.


CFI/Pilot Training Pro-Tip – Don’t Announce “Engine Out” on the radio unless it’s real…try “Short Approach” — 2 Comments

  1. I usually do the second call myself. Especially, if I am going to do anything non standard. If I was doing a power off 180 I would however announce Short Approach.

    What would you say if you were 4,000’ AGL directly about the Airport? While training/practicing for a simulated engine out?

    Thank you for your feedback.

  2. That’s a good question Justin. I think the best practice in the scenario you mentioned would be to describe what you are doing over the radio. For instance, instead of saying “simulated engine out” you could say, “XXXX traffic, Cessna XXXX is at 4000′ executing descent over airport for training.” And continue to make that call at 3000, 2000, and then at 1000 you can mention that you are short approach for runway XX. Although it seems like a good idea to mention the simulated engine out I think the challenge is that it does not communicate your actual intentions very well (at least in my opinion). Plus, throw in the fact that it may lead to confusion if someone does not hear the radio call properly. That especially applies to transient aircraft who don’t normally frequent that airport. Visiting pilots may not be accustomed to hearing “simulated engine out” over the radio. In my own experience I was taught not to use phraseology that referred to any sort of emergency unless I had a real emergency. This was emphasized even more when using an airport with an operating control tower or when speaking with ATC.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and I hope you do not mind me sharing my own. Thank you also for all of the hard work in maintaining a high level of proficiency. That is very commendable.