The Impossible Turn Project

The loss of power on takeoff is something every pilot should be prepared for.  At low altitudes, loss of power forces a pilot to land straight ahead. It is impossible to turn back to the runway.  Many times, this is an undesirable choice due to heavily populated areas around the airport.   At higher altitudes, the pilot may choose a turnback maneuver.  But at what altitude should this be attempted?

The Impossible Turn Project is the development of a tool that determines the minimum altitude that your plane can turn back and return the runway safely.  It is based on knowing a few characteristics of your plane such as climb and glide performance as well as the typical altitude lost when turning around.  It adjusts the minimum altitude for both winds and density altitude. To see an overview of how this works, download this PDF: A Tool to Determine Minimum Turnback Altitudes.pdf (252023).

If you would like to see what the minimum altitudes look like for you plane,  you can download and follow this procedure: Procedure to Determine Minimum Turnback Altitude.pdf (740683), and submit the data for your plane in the form below.

In a few days, you will receive a chart that can be used to determine the minimum altitude that you should be at before considering a turnback maneuver.  The chart is FREE.  At this point, the tool is in the development phase and you would be contributing your data to the project.  Thank you.


Input Form for Plane's Flight Characteristics