What was mid-may, we went out and did Precautionary Search and Landing practice. Basically what this lesson is about is if you find yourself in a situation where the visual conditions have deteriorated to the point where it is no longer safe to keep flying, you can attempt to land with the assistance of engine power.
To do so, we lower the flaps slightly and bring the power back to the minimum level where we can maintain our altitude. In the Cessna 152 it is at around 2000 rpm with 10 degrees of flaps. Once we do this we get down under the lower clouds and find a safe place to land. Using the “Eight S’es” we learnt in the Forced Landings lesson, we choose the location to land.
With these, we do an initial 500 foot circuit of the landing location, set the directional giro in the direction of the landing location we are going to use and then use it to fly our circuit pattern. The circuit is tight and as we fly over the landing location we are having a good look at the surface to make sure it is safe. One of the other things we need to do is time the length of the landing surface. So as we overfly we are timing the landing area. This gives us a good indication that there is sufficient area to land safely.
We repeat the circuit pattern a second time but down at 200 feet. Now in training, we keep it to the 500 foot above ground level as it is our absolutely minimum altitude we are permitted to fly. On the third circuit we would land. Now obviously we don’t during training. While all this is happening, we still need to put out a PAN PAN PAN call to inform whomever is listening that we are likely to need help. We must also re-assure our passengers that we are trained for this situation.
It is yet another important skill of Visual Flight Rules pilots who find themselves in poor situations. I often wonder if I’d ever find myself in such a situation. Although it is unlikely I’d ever fly in poor conditions, there could be that rare time when you get caught out, or have to land due to other circumstances. However when I read through the monthly “flight safety Australia” magazine posted out by CASA each month, there seems to be a considerably high number of folks who find themselves in such situations.
So it is another important skill, like Forced Landings (those when your engine has failed), that are good to be competent with. Looking at the GFPT criteria, both Practice Forced Landings (PFLs) and Precautionary Search and Landings feature heavily in the assessment criteria. On this day we did three, but have since on my third area solo and on my review and pre-GFPT CFI check flights have done at least 5 more. I certainly feel comfortable with them now, but have to make sure the little things aren’t forgotten. Certainly something not to get complacent about as my pilot time continues on in other directions…