When I take off from Santa Monica airport I am very aware that the two most dangerous stages of flight are takeoff and landing, and that I am doing one of them right now. I keep my hand guarding the throttle, mixture and propeller levers so that they can’t slide back. I watch the environment for birds to steer around, keep my airspeed at the optimum number of knots to climb as quickly as possible and I don’t touch anything until I can glide to somewhere if I experience an engine loss.
It’s a small window that has me worried. Turning back to the landing strip is the temptation. This is known as the impossible turn, and in general it is discouraged. I have some advantages at my home field, because it is a mile long runway and I only use the first fifth of it. There are a few moments where if I lost the engine I could just put it back down on the runway and apply the brakes. Then there is a golf course to the left (a couple planes have crashed there, but none have actually made an emergency landing). A few more moments and I could glide to the beach. That’s when I relax, flip the flaps up, turn off the electric fuel boost pump and pull the RPMs back to 2500 for the climb.
Today I read this article about a forced landing on a beach. That’s exactly what I want to see. If something has gone wrong I no longer care about the airplane (“substantially damaged” is fine with me), I just want everyone on board to walk away. Even with a couple student pilots it looks like that’s possible. (The plane has a different engine than mine. They are still determining if it was the fault of the pilots or if something went wrong with the complex electronics that run the engine.)