Making an Emergency Landing as a Student Pilot

On January 14, Ryan Majors, EAA 1255943 and recipient of a Ray Aviation Scholarship, experienced every student’s worst nightmare when he was forced to make an emergency landing during his cross-country solo.

“On the leg from San Marcus to Burnet, I was flying level at 4,500 feet when I felt the plane jolt and then proceeded to hear loud clanking coming from the engine bay,” Ryan said. “It was later discovered that a stuck exhaust valve led to the incapacitation of one of the cylinders and led to a significant loss of power from the engine. Per training from my instructor, I consulted the required procedures/checklists for the situation in hopes of correcting the issue to no prevail. With an adequate field in my sight, I followed the procedures my instructor had trained me for and was able to complete a successful landing in the field with no damage to the field or the airplane; except for the obvious issue with the engine.”

Upon landing, Ryan inspected the aircraft and noticed there was a small amount of oil leaking onto the nose gear, as well as some oil leaking out of one of the exhaust pipes.

While it’s easy to lose your cool in a situation like that, Ryan remained calm and thought back to his training with his CFI.

“In my mind I was able to remain fairly calm as my instructor had trained me for this exact situation along with many others,” Ryan said. “I would advise other students to remain calm in situations such as this and focus your thoughts on what your instructor has trained you for. This being said, I believe it is especially important for students to learn and understand emergency procedures and know how to apply this training in real-life experiences.”

Ryan showed exemplary aeronautical decision making, something that every CFI hopes their students will do.

Ryan continues to push forward in earning his private pilot certificate with excitement. While Ryan’s checkride was originally scheduled for January 25, which had to be postponed until another aircraft becomes available for him to continue his training in, he is working hard to achieve his dreams at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, where he hopes to earn a degree in professional flight with maintenance.

“I plan on working my way up to a commercial license in addition to obtaining an airframe and powerplant license,” Ryan said. “I hope to one day fly cargo for companies such as FedEx or UPS.”

Ryan always knew he belonged in the sky. His inspiration to become a pilot came from two of his idols, his father and grandfather, who both served in the Air Force. 

“I have always known that this is what I want to do,” Ryan said about becoming a pilot. “A few years prior [to soloing] I received a free [Young Eagles flight], and this caused my excitement for aviation to grow.”

In March 2020, Ryan was awarded an EAA Ray Aviation Scholarship. This was great news for Ryan, as it meant he could start flight training much earlier than he anticipated.

“This scholarship has greatly helped me pursue my passion for flying,” Ryan said. “It is a great honor to be a recipient of the James Ray scholarship and it is a great feeling to be a part of this amazing opportunity.”

Ryan said his flight training coupled with support from his EAA chapter has made for an amazing experience.

“My flight training has been going great, I enjoy learning something new with each and every lesson,” Ryan said. “I have received unconditional support from the EAA Chapter 1088 in Fredericksburg throughout the entirety of my training thus far. I enjoy giving updates on my training during the monthly meetings they hold at my local airport, and I know that I can reach out to any one of them with any questions I might have.”

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