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Pick a Field – Any Field – Now Land On It

Some Fields

PFL – Practised Forced Landing

So what happens if you are up in the sky in your aircraft and you get an engine failure? That’s what today’s flying lesson was all about.

We take off from Sherburn and head to the southern training area (Over and around Doncaster). This was fun in itself, as it is the first time I have been out of the circuit for quite a while and using the radio talking to Church Fenton and Doncaster was another new challenge. I did pass the radio telephony / communications exam a while back but putting it into practise is somewhat different. It went fine though and we soon found ourselves at 3000 feet in the training area.

Some Fields
Some Fields

Pick a field. Not any field. We look for a field that has few good characteristics.

We do this after Jonathan has pulled off the power and informed me that we have approximately six minutes until we hit the ground.

First we trim the aircraft so it is flying at around 73 Knots. Trimming is done so that the aircraft will maintain a particular speed under particular conditions with no further input required from the pilot. This means the angle is set so that we will get the best endurance with no power. I am sure there are more accurate ways to explain that but I am not a flying instructor so that will have to do.

We look for a long field. A field that has an approach facing into the wind without any obvious obstructions. Not as easy as it seems. The lower down you get – the more you realise that there are things put there to stop you landing; tractors, hedges, power lines, trees etc.

I’ll be honest though, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Once you have picked a good looking area to land, you can, with combination of flaps and changing angle, extending turns etc. find your way into quite a good position quite nicely. Before doing so there are number of checks involved and a May Day call too.

Of course we don’t actually touch down. At somewhere between three and five-hundred feet when the instructor is satisfied that we would have made ground – we apply full power and go around.

Forced landing technique is essential to know and practise regularly but hopefully you’ll never be in a situation to require using it.

It was great to be out of the circuit today. Also very interesting to see how different doing a single approach and landing was compared to doing many touch and goes in the space of an hour. We did a low level approach back to Sherburn, maintaining six-hundred feet until lining up for final.

Final Approach Sherburn
Final Approach Sherburn

Not far to go now. Another two exams and another few hours flying. Some more PFL practise and then the all important cross country navigation.

I can’t wait…

Thanks for reading.