We have compiled some relevant information below. There are links to full articles and GAPs here too, and you will find more information on the CAA website.
Be Prepared for an Out Landing
Preparation is the key to a safe out landing. If you are always aware of your height above the ground and the options available below you, you will be one step ahead of the game.
Below 2000 Feet
Gliding NZ’s instructor’s handbook says, “The pilot must have selected a suitable field at any time a landing appears likely – that is, below 2000 feet agl.” This doesn’t mean you must carry out a landing, but it does mean that you should be thinking about your options whenever you are below 2000 feet. Always have an eye out for suitable landing sites and give yourself time to plan an approach and landing.
Don’t run out of altitude and ideas all at the same time.
If you leave it too late, it is easy to miss suitable places to land. More than one pilot has been embarrassed by the farmer’s son’s comment, “Why didn’t you land on my Dad’s airstrip? It’s just over the fence.”
Stretching the Glide
While it is tempting to think you can squeeze a few more miles out of your current height, do not try to stretch the final glide, hoping for the last tiny bit of lift that will enable you to reach the aerodrome. There have been far too many instances of this turning out badly – and at least one fatality in New Zealand.
Hoping that the variometer stops it’s low pitch tone and starts beeping its high frequency tune could leave you, at best, very embarrassed.
A sensible pilot always considers their landing out options, and is always updating those options as suitable landing areas diminish or they enter areas of poor sky. They will have a selection of paddocks to choose from, they will be watching the weather and the conditions change around them, and making adjustments to their plan A – and their plan B.
Full Vector article available here.
While these notes and the associated article are primarily based on airline experience, the points we make are still relevant for any pilot.
Interruptions, such as ATC or other communications, and distractions such as getting engrossed in operating of a piece of technology can occur frequently. Some cannot be avoided, others can be minimised or eliminated.
Interruptions and distractions in the cockpit may be subtle or momentary, but all can be disruptive.
Interruptions or distractions usually come from four primary sources:
- head down activity;
- responding to abnormal conditions or unanticipated situations; and
- searching for traffic after an alert.
The main effect of interruptions and distractions is to break the flow of ongoing cockpit activities. The diverted attention can leave pilots not only feeling rushed and stressed, but actually leaving them short of time and increasing their stress levels.
The disruption and lapse of attention can result in pilots not properly monitoring their flight path, missing or misinterpreting ATC instructions, omitting actions, failing to detect abnormal conditions, and experiencing task overload.
All airline expositions have a sterile cockpit policy to manage and mitigate interruptions and distractions.
A sterile cockpit environment means crew do not engage in any non-essential activities, including conversations, during critical phases of flight. This is normally from pushback at the gate until passing 10,000 feet on climb, and on descent through 10,000 feet during approach and landing, until the aircraft taxies to a stop at the gate.
Consider adopting a similar approach in your aircraft too – although the 10,000 feet limit might be a little excessive.
Full Vector article here.
Know your Machine
We cannot emphasise this enough.
Far too often we see accidents where the pilot did not understand how all the aircraft systems worked, or worse, did not know how their aircraft handled in all phases and configurations of flight.
Can you imagine not really understanding how your constant speed propeller system worked? Well there has been at least one accident in New Zealand where this was the case, and it was indicative of the state of preparedness of the pilot.
It is crucially important to spend enough time on type ratings. Can a type rating that takes 0.4 hours be acceptable? Someone thought it would be. Don’t be that person who thinks a type rating is just a paperwork exercise. Make sure you really know how to fly and operate the aircraft you are about to get airborne in – it’s not very easy to pull over and ask for advice.
Take the time to really understand the handling characteristics of your aircraft. How does it fly when it is: heavy, light, slow, fast, stalling, turning, wet?
How do you manage the engine efficiently and safely? How do you manage the propeller controls and how do they interact with the engine?
Do you really understand the fuel system and its components? How much fuel can you get into the tanks, and how is it measured? Another NZ accident can be attributed directly to the pilot and instructor not knowing exactly how much fuel was in the tanks because they didn’t know how the dipstick was calibrated.
Can you describe the electrical system and its controls? What about the avionics – do you understand their limitations and how best to use them?
Importantly, can you operate all the gadgets you bring into the aircraft efficiently and seamlessly, or do you have to blunder around until you find the function you need?
And, just because we have a lot of experience in one area of aviation, it does not mean that we have little to learn when entering a new flying environment. The day you think you have stopped learning in aviation is the day to stop flying!
There’s a lot to know, but that’s why we’re pilots isn’t it – because we love this stuff!