Welcome back to our Word of the Week!
Every week, we look together at a word that is either interesting, funny or mysterious and that appeals to all of us in the aviation community.
Don’t be to impressed by the seemingly scary name, but we’re going to learn what “deadstick” means.
When an airplane needs to land under factors outside the pilot’s control, we call it a forced landing. It means that the pilot has no other option and is forced to land, because the engine(s) may have failed, or the airplane sustained structural damage…
As you can see, there can be lots of reasons why a pilot may have to make a forced landing, but one of the most common is when the engine(s) stop functioning properly. The aircraft is then left without propelling power and is unable to maintain speed, and thus lift. The pilot will eventually have to start gliding and land, either on an airport within reach, or if none is close enough, wherever the pilot judges it the safest.
The term deadstick does not refer to the stick that pilots use to control and steer the aircraft, but rather to the propeller. If you have seen old-timers, you will have seen that the early propellers were carved in wood, and as such, when the engine would stop running, would effectively become lifeless sticks of wood, all in all “deadsticks”.
But then, even nowadays, reagardless of the type of propulsion used by the aircraft, a landing without power is still called a deadstick landing, even if it happens to a multi-engined jet.
I am sure you have heard of a deadstick landing already. Maybe the Gimli glider, where a 767 ran out of fuel over Canada? Or a little closer to us, the famous “Miracle on the Hudson“?
See you next week, and make sure you have enough fuel for your next flight!