Lesson 20 – Engine Failure – Forced Landing

Its been a whole week since I did this lesson and I’ve been thinking about what I was going to put into the blog entry. Being slightly on the “I can’t sleep right now frame of mind”, time to get it done.

So, the GPS battery was flat, so can’t include that visualisation. I recorded video, but will save that for another time. On the video, Adam offered to wear the camera on the head strap. I now know why he laughs at me, it does look kind of funny. But I didn’t say anything, just smiled appreciatively. I’d hate to loose the opportunity for that offer another time. The difference is when you wear it yourself, you can’t see it. The footage was funny though, he does spend a lot of time with his arm across the back of my seat, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt…

This lesson involved heading out to the training area and finding a nice “runway” to simulate landing the plane in the event of a hypothetical engine failure. There is a designated low fly area about 2 nautical miles South East of Casurina Prison. I do wonder what the residents of the rural properties had to say about that…

We started at 3000 feet and brought the engine to idle. Immediately we traded the speed for some more height and commenced the process of a forced landing. Looking back, knowing the procedures inside out is absolutely critical. In the event you don’t have 3000 feet up your sleeve, you would want to be pretty slick at this process to give yourself the best chance.

I won’t go through the full process, but rather focus on key take aways I had. The restart process I have pretty much engrained in now, it is reinforced prior to every flight with the take-off safety brief we do at the runup bay. You just do it and practicing it and reciting it is something I will do before every flight. Moving on, the more specific actions of this process is based on choosing the place to land and then working out how to get in there.

Working out the wind direction is first. The process says to look for smoke, dust blowing from the ground, remembering the wind direction at the last airfield or looking at the trees. When your engine has just expired and your now gliding down at a fairly rapid rate, you’d want to be good. What I’ve decided to do from now on is to try and keep note of the wind direction as I’m flying. Note the drift when heading to a reference point, but generally try and keep a conscious track of what the wind is doing. This will save vital seconds.

The next was choosing a landing spot. We did that before cutting the engine to idel. It took us a good few minutes to identify and select the best spot. We did discuss the 8 “S”es and ponder those, half of which was trying to remember them all. The 8 “S”es, Smooth, Slope, Sun, Surface, Services, S(obstacles) (ok I can’t remember the S word for that, but basically cattle, trees, power lines etc). Right time up, still can’t remember all those and if you added up the time trying to remember them, we’d be now at 500 feet. Basically you are looking for a spot that is clear and has sufficient space, near somewhere you can get help, and not into the sun so you can see. Oh there you go, “Shape”, another one…

Now we know where we are landing, the direction of the wind, have tried restarting, we are now working back from the ground to our present position to work out our glide path. This bit basically resembles the shape of the runway circuit with extra height allowance. This part I found ok, and judging the distances was fine. It is finding the answers to the wind direction and the “spot” you are going to land which are the tough bits so far.

Finally we are putting out our mayday call to get help if indeed we have done all the above ok and then pull off a successful landing. We didn’t land of course. On my first attempt we near lifted some tiles off the roof of the farmers house and I believe would have landed safely in a paddock in his rather large back yard. On the second attempt, we kept away from his house and were destined to land in a different paddock nearby. On this attempt we would have cleaned up a paddock fence which was not visible till we were 300 feet from touchdown. Ouch! On Adam’s demo he would have had us landing on a heard of Llamas, but I have a feeling they would have gotten out of the way.

The reality of the situation sinks in pretty quickly as you near the ground in the pratices. I have taken away that this is not a tick on the list of things to do in training, but an important set of skills that are critical to learn. Hopefully I’ll never need this lot, but I am sure as heck going to make sure I know them. I have a feeling that the area solo check and the GFPT flight test will ensure I know them anyway. Time for more practice maybe on the simulator. Do you know how long it takes a Cessna 152 to re-climb to 3000 each time…

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