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Vintage Instructor THE

BY Steve Krog, CFI

Landings—forced and otherwise


t was too rainy and foggy to do any flight training today, so I started scanning through a foot-tall stack of tagged articles set aside to read in the future and came across the most recent FAA Preliminary Accident Data. I find it to be a good source for giving me reminders on what I should reinforce with students during their pilot training. The accident data reviewed covered just the first nine days of March, in which there were 91 preliminary accident reports on file— that included 21 forced landings and 25 landing accidents. Onehalf of all accidents reported in the nine-day period involved either forced landings or landing accidents. Quite a startling statistic! As we begin the activities of a new flying season and enjoy the pleasures of our vintage airplanes, we need to prepare not only the airplane for a summer of fun, safe flying, but also ourselves—especially for the potential of a forced landing. Forced landings and learning how to deal with them are among the prerequisites in preparation for taking the private or sport pilot checkrides. Time is spent selecting a field, setting up for the landing, and accomplishing a number of cockpit checks prior to the landing. All designated examiners are required to test the student candidate on forced landings, and most

36 MAY 2010

students are adequately trained to deal with the situation.

Even after taking all the preflight cautions, the potential exists that you could have to land your airplane away from an airport, or at the very least land at an airport within gliding distance. However, once flight training is completed and the checkride satisfactorily passed, few pilots, regardless of experience, will take the time to practice this maneuver and remain proficient. Back in the 1970s when this country was dealing with the Arab oil embargo, aviation fuel was

rationed. Traveling cross-country was sometimes a hair-raising event, as many airports would allow only an 8-gallon purchase of avfuel per engine. Trying to deliver a fuel-hungry Cherokee Six300 from eastern South Dakota to southern California was a series of takeoffs, short hops, and landings after exhausting the fuel supply taken on at the departure-point fixed base operator. It doesn’t take long to consume 84 gallons at 17 gallons per hour! During this period of time there was a rash of forced landings due to fuel starvation. The FAA took note and renewed the effort to teach individuals about forced landings. Since that time, avfuel availability hasn’t been a problem and many pilots have become lax in understanding and executing simulated forced landings. Skills diminished, and today we’re seeing growing numbers of forced-landing accidents. The cause is twofold: fuel starvation, followed by lack of planning. Well more than half of the off-field landings are due to fuel mismanagement, and almost half of the serious forced landings occurred during or just after takeoff when the pilot attempted to return to the airport and land. When was the last time you gave thought to a potential forced landing or even practiced a simulated one? Did the flight instructor who gave you your last flight

review have you demonstrate a simulated forced landing? And if so, how did you do? Had the forced landing been real rather than simulated would you have been able to safely get your airplane on the ground? One of the best lessons I learned was taught to me by an old-time barnstormer and crop duster just after receiving my private pilot certificate. During the checkout in one of his airplanes, he taught me situational awareness long before the FAA ever grabbed on to that phrase. While checking me out, every two to three minutes he asked where I would land if the engine quit at that given moment. It was an exercise that has stuck with me ever since, and I’ve shared it with every student of mine over the past 35 years. A forced landing can definitely ruin an otherwise great flying day. Even after taking all the preflight cautions, the potential exists that you could have to land your airplane away from an airport, or at the very least land at an airport within gliding distance. How have you prepared yourself to handle this potential problem? There is very little written about forced landings in most primary flight-training manuals. Other than reminding you to pick a field, establish the best glide speed for the aircraft being flown, and land, little more is offered. To find more information, one needs to look through years of aviation magazines or conduct an extensive Internet search for additional helpful data. Let’s take a look at the basics. The most important first step when experiencing a forced landing is to keep flying the airplane! Then execute the following steps: 1. Immediately establish the best glide speed attitude for your airplane and keep the airplane in that attitude. 2. Select a field in which to land. 3. Plan your approach into the field.

4. When items 1-3 have been accomplished, try to identify why the engine is causing you to execute a forced landing. a. Is the fuel selector valve ON? b. Is the fuel selector properly positioned on the fullest tank of fuel? c. Move the mixture control to FULL RICH, if your airplane has a mixture control. d. If the engine is still partially producing power, apply carburetor heat. e. Conduct a magneto c h e c k . Yo u m a y h a v e experienced the partial failure of one magneto causing the engine to run quite rough. If you have been able to complete all of the checks and the problem still exists, it’s time to prepare for the forced landing. While continuing with and/or adjusting your approach to the selected field, you’ll want to do the following: 1. Move the mixture control to FULL OFF. 2. Shut the fuel OFF. 3. Shut the master switch OFF. 4. Position the magneto switch in the OFF position. 5. UNLATCH the cabin door. The ultimate goal now is to continue to fly the airplane and touch down in your selected field with the airplane flying as slowly as possible but still well under control! Tube, fabric, and aluminum can be repaired or replaced. The human body is much more difficult to repair. If the field you’ve selected is rough, allow the airplane to absorb the impact. Save yourself and your passenger(s). There are some common everyday exercises a pilot can practice to ensure a safe off-field forced landing. Here are a few that I practice with every student. When taking off, take a mo-

ment and ask yourself this: 1. If the engine quits before leaving the ground, what would I do? 2. If the engine quits just after takeoff, what would I do and where would I go? 3. If the engine quits before reaching at least 500 feet above ground level, where would I go? Refamiliarize yourself with not only your home-base field, but also every field in the area to which you regularly fly. Referring back to the old-timer who taught me a valuable life lesson when flying, I regularly ask students where they would land at different points during and after takeoff as well as in the traffic pattern. For training purposes we do practice forced landings from all of the points. The goal here is to break the automatic thought of attempting to return to the airport via the impossible 180-degree turn. (There’s an article on that topic in the April issue of Sport Aviation, along with a spirited discussion in the Flight Instructor HQ forum on EAA’s www. website.—HGF) During the training (or local pleasure) flight, remain aware of the surface wind direction. If the wind was from the south when departing for the hour-long flight, it will probably remain from that direction during the flight. Having good knowledge of the surface wind will help when selecting a field for a forced landing. When flying cross-country it is fairly easy to remain aware of the surface wind direction through pilotage. Look at the ripple or wave action on bodies of water. The shoreline where the water is smooth will tell you that the wind is coming from that direction. (Seaplane pilots know that smooth area as the “wind shadow.”) Trees, when in foliage, are also a good indicator. Look at the leaves. They’re moving away from the wind. Smoke is also an excellent indicator. Large flags located in residential yards or


2010 05 landings forced and otherwise

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