Vincent, the blogger behind the Plastic Pilot blog, has written a great post discussing the “impossible turn” that focused around a video released by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation that showed a pilot making the turn and safely returning to the airport. However, its also made clear in the video that this is not the recommended course of action. Moreover, the pilot involved, Dave Keller, had a cracked cylinder that finally failed and then separated from the rest of the aircraft’s engine (he freely admits that he was very very lucky).
Commenter Bob Barbanes then pointed out a personal experience performing the impossible turn in a Cessna 150 when he was “young(er) and stupid(er)” and he concluded that:
It was this demonstration that convinced me that if the engine ever really did quit on takeoff below 500 feet, the best thing to do is just land straight ahead. Once you get above 500 feet (and get some airspeed) your options improve greatly, to maybe include a return to the field.
He also pointed out that:
There are simply too many variables to say: Never attempt “the impossible turn!” Taking off from a larger airport (like the one the Mooney took off from) gives you plenty more room to work with than a little single-runway airport out in the country with trees all around like my home base (82J). And of course it depends on the nature of the power failure. That Mooney reportedly had a cracked head on one of the cylinders. So unless the pilot intentionally pulled the power off (which may have been instinctive), the engine was producing at least a little thrust.
Bob concluded that the predicted success or failure of “the impossible turn” is and will always be: “It depends.”
Hence, we want to ask you our readers for your opinions about the impossible turn. Moreover, have you ever been in a situation where you had to consider performing the impossible turn? If so, what did you choose to do?