Pick a Field, But Not Any Field

03/11/2016 – After missing out on six months of flying over the winter of 2015/16 – and almost giving up and not starting again – I was determined to get as much flying in during the winter of 16/17 as I could. Which meant I was booking multiple lessons a week, on the basis that the weather would wipe some out. However that isn’t always the case, and sometimes you end up with multiple lessons in the same week. So the very next day after flying to Carsington Water and Chatsworth House I ended up back at Gamston again.

This time it wasn’t for a navigation, it was for practicing forced landings. One of the worst things that can happen to any pilot is for the engine to stop, and it’s important to make sure that you know what to do if and when this happens, and if you have to land how to pick a field to land in, and how to make your approach to that field.

Before you do this though you have to trim the aircraft so that it’s flying at the best glide speed – 70 knots in the PA-28 – to give you as long as possible to make your decision. It’s no use seeing a field and heading for it, if you’re too fast or slow and you’ll not make it because you’re at the wrong speed and you’re descending too fast.

Picking the right field is also an important skill. You need to make sure it’s big enough to land in of course, free of obstructions, that your landing won’t take you through any power cables, that the surface is reasonably smooth and that it’s not on a steep slope which might make the landing itself difficult, or stopping afterwards harder.

So we spent an entire lesson climbing, then Luke would cut the power and I’d have to trim for best glide, pick a field after being happy it was suitable, then manoeuvre to land successfully. Not only that, but I had to make a pretend Mayday call on the radio so ATC knew I was going down.

Of course we didn’t actually land, and when getting close to the ground Luke would say “Climb Away” and off we’d go again. Buy the time we’d done it was getting quite dark again, and I was glad to get on the ground for real, and this time on a runway.

A very useful, if somewhat sobering lesson.

If you want to know more, the podcast, as always, contains an expanded version of the above.

Author: oldmannewpilot

An old man, becoming a new pilot