Updated: Jul 16
When searching for your, “Best Field” during an engine failure, whether it be for real, or in training, there are several things you need to take into consideration.
Having had my handful of, lets call them, events, throughout my aviation career, using these tools may help you to have a successful landing, that you will be able to walk away from.
If you are vigilant in the cockpit, and able to identify a potential problem before it turns into an engine failure, a precautionary landing will not only save your life, but possibly maintenance cost as well, but we are here to focus on best practice for an engine failure, not saving on maintenance cost.
If you happen to get into a situation that forces you to have to perform an off-field landing, you want to land into the wind as best as possible, if wind is present. This will minimize your groundspeed, and possibly make the difference of reaching your intended landing spot or not. To find wind direction, look for smoke, or steam from a stack, or dirt that is being disturbed from a tractor on a farm field.
Length of field is also an important factor. You do not want to choose a short field and overrun the field.
Type of surface of course is important. A paved surface, like a runway would be the first choice, followed by a mowed grass field. A dirt field would be next on my list. If you must land in a dirt farm field, make sure you land with the furrows, and if it is not level, you do not want to land downhill. Uphill, or across the slope would be best.
So far, I mentioned, landing on a paved surface, grass, and dirt surface. These, in most cases would be considered non-hazardous environments. Trying to land on a freeway, highway, or a road can pose a hazard you may not be aware of until its too late. Wires, or powerlines running across a road, and cars will create a hazard you want to avoid as much as possible. An unpopulated country road might be ok, as long as there are not people, vehicles, or wires running across the road, but a busy freeway should be avoided.
If you are over a mountainous area, heavy forest, or open water, flying at higher altitudes can provide you with a better glide range for your off-field landing options.
I hope this helps you as you move forward with your aviation career. I have attached an AOPA article that can provide you more information on emergency landings.