Day 19: Lessons 25/26– Forced Landings

Date: 30/03/2011

Hours flown Dual Command Instruments
This flight 2.00 0.00 0.00
Total to date 24.64 1.40 0.70

Today was the nicest flying weather in pretty much the nearly 5 weeks I’ve flown. (Discounting, of course, the storm that hit the Sydney area around 3pm this afternoon!)

The ride was NFR (November Foxtrot Romeo), probably the aircraft I’ve spent the most time in now. I was expecting to do steep turns today, but that’s slated for tomorrow. Today – for both lessons – we did (practise) forced landings.

From a theory point of view, there’s an established body of knowledge and procedure around engine failure/forced landing situations. Some of this focuses around establishing “high key” and “low key” decision points at 2500 feet and 1500 feet AGL (above ground level). However, as John pointed out, in real forced landing situations – especially in the heat and stress of the moment – you won’t necessarily know the height of the ground below you and be able to calibrate the high key and low key decision points very accurately. More practically, John recommended that in forced landing situations I choose, preferably, a suitable landing place either to the left or right of the aircraft, that lies visually “under” the wing. In other words, a spot on the ground that you can be sure you can glide to. Failing suitable landing spots to the left or right, try a landing site ahead of the aircraft, or in the last option, behind the aircraft.

So, in real (and simulated) engine failure/forced landing situations, it’s the usual mantra of Aviate-Navigate-Communicate.

  • Aviate – Convert airspeed into height until you reach optimum glide speed (around 75 KIAS in a Warrior). Reach and maintain optimum glide speed. Select your target landing area, taking (quickly) into account a range of factors including wind speed and direction, size of site, slope of site, surface of site, obstacles and obstructions etc. Plan your approach, including contingency plans (eg. what if I can’t make it? what if I come in too high? too low?) And, do a quick run-through of engine/fuel controls and system to see if the engine failure is fixable. (CMF – Carby heat on, Mixture full rich, Fuel pump on, switch fuel tanks).
  • Navigate – Execute your forced landing approach as described above.
  • Communicate – Squawk 7700 on your transponder, and make your Mayday call.

Then if time remains and circumstances permit, do a more comprehensive check of engine and fuel systems – CFMOST. Carby heat on. Fuel pump on. Mixture full rich, including cycling mixture control through full rich-lean range and back. Oil – how are my oil pressure and temperature? Magneto switches – try switching just to the left magneto, then to the right, to see if the engine can run on just the one. And Throttle – cycle through full open-closed range and back.

While this is all going on, of course, there may be passengers to take care of. Calm and reassure them (to the extent possible). Give them something to do – ask them to help by watching out for other air traffic. Instruct them to remove eyeglasses and pens/other objects from shirt pockets.

From a glide approach point of view, part of planning your forced landing (and changing your plans as circumstances dictate) is how you’re going to get there and get down. Do you have enough height for a full circuit? Can you perhaps do only a straight-in final approach, or can you do a base and perhaps even a downwind leg? Do you have enough height that you can even do an upwind leg as well? Do you have to extend your glide a bit to lose height before the landing? Or do you need to cut things short and head straight for your landing site? At all events, can you glide to about 1/3 down your intended landing site? (When, and only when, confident of this last point, is the point at which you can use flaps to slow yourself down).

In real situations, I think if you manage to do all of this, you’re doing well. Main priority, when all is said and done, is to get the aircraft down on the ground and walk away safely and without injury. If the aircraft is undamaged, that’s a bonus, but lives and personal safety are priority #1.

So, how did I do?

First, John demonstrated a forced landing approach to the little gravel strip out at St Mary’s. Easy as pie. Then back up to 3500 feet and it was my turn. I approached way too high and would have overshot the strip and not made it down. Next attempt from 2000 feet was better, I even pulled off a decent sideslip on my own (to lose height quickly) to get down and would have landed relatively safely.

Next attempt I selected a reasonable landing site but lost site of it and therefore had to select an alternative which was nowhere near as good. And in any case, I’d made a poor choice of site given options available – I went for a site on the right hand side of the aircraft, where obstacles and some hilly ground abounded. There was better, more clear and flatter ground off to my left.

Insight #25

Select your preferred forced landing site with care (within the constraints of circumstances and available time). A split-second decision like the one I made above (poorly) can mean the difference between a nearly “ideal” landing site and a much less ideal one.

My final practise forced landing was pretty reasonable. I changed my choice of site 3 times on the way down – once because my preferred landing site had a fence running lengthwise straight down it – but my final site was quite good and I would have got down OK. If anything it showed me that a decision you make at 3500 feet may have to change once you get lower and can see more features on the ground.

More Training Area experience

Apart from the focus on forced landings, I also got some much-needed training area experience, as I approach my Training Area solo. Stuff I’m now more solid on:

  • Departure procedures from Bankstown – maintain 1000 feet (or 1500 depending on takeoff direction) until over the railway tracks. Then up to (say) 2300 feet (no higher than 2500 feet as that is lower boundary of surrounding Class C airspace). Then up to (say) 4000 feet once over a line intersecting Tadpole Lake to the north and 3 Lakes to the south (again, no higher than 4500 feet due lower limits of Class C airspace).
  • Radio and transponder procedures. Once abeam of Prospect Reservoir, switch radio to 124.55 (Sydney Radar) and transponder to 1200.
  • Inbound approach procedures (reporting in at Prospect or 2RN, and joining traffic pattern for landing at Bankstown).

What’s next

So, tomorrow (as usual, weather permitting) we will do our lesson on Steep Turns, with a little Incipient Spins drill thrown in. And in the afternoon I’ll do my pre-Training Area Solo theory exam.

Friday I’ve got a checkride scheduled with Ashley (from my First Solo checkride) so he can verify I’m ready for my Training Area solo. Then, perhaps Monday (or Sunday, if I schedule it?) my Training Area Solo, which I’m really looking forward to. The aircraft all to myself, just me, away from the airport for the first time! Very much looking forward to this.

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2 responses to “Day 19: Lessons 25/26– Forced Landings

  1. Pingback: Day 21: Lessons 29 and 30 – Pre-Area Solo Checkride and First Area Solo « MidLifePilot's Flying Blog

  2. Pingback: Day 22 – Lessons 31 and 32 – Precautionary Search and Landing / 2nd Training Area Solo « MidLifePilot's Flying Blog

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