Pick a field, any field

Weather this morning wasn’t looking great, so I didn’t hold out too much hope that I’d fly today. However, Charlie phoned me around 11:30 and said that the weather man was promising a break in the weather at 15:00, so I was to meet him at Brize at 14:30.

As usual, I was Mr. Keen, so actually turned up at Brize at around 13:30 or so. I’m use to holding there now, but not as much on the road on the camp! The RAF police were stopping traffic to allow a Jag, a Range Rover and a couple of other cars to come out from the terminal area.

I carried on to the club, and went out to check the plane out before we set off. Was waiting for Charlie to come out and join me when he phoned to tell me the airfield was closed until 15:00 due to a Royal visit. Apparently HRH The Prince of Wales was on station, so all movements were banned until he left.

So, at 15:00 we got our taxi clearance and headed out to the hold. The engine was running very rough at idle, so Charlie had a bit of a play with the mixture at the hold point to try to burn off the oil that had apparently accumulated on the plug. That and the warming of the engine improved the running so he was happy to go.

We took off, and then had the novel experience of heading away from Brize! We headed North towards Burford and then beyond to Little Rissington, which Charlie had checked was not active that day. Then the fun began!

Charlie demonstrated the procedure for a PFL (Practice Forced Landing). Basically, at any point the engine could fail, so you then have to get the plane on the ground in the safest manner possible.

The first and overriding task is to fly the plane. When the engine fails, you hold the nose up to get the speed back to the best glide speed of 75 knots, and then trim for this speed. Trimming is important in this situation because you’ll have a lot to do on the way down, and not having to worry too much about maintaining air speed is a distinct advantage.

While doing this, you have to take in your surroundings and choose an appropriate landing site, ideally so that you can land into wind as normal. Ideally you want a field that’s as large as possible, with a firm surface, not too much slope, nothing in it and ideally a lot of equally good fields around it so that you have alternatives.

Once the field is chosen, then you have to try to fly a normal ‘pattern’, with the key point being at the end of the downwind leg at about 1000 feet AGL. You then start flying this pattern, adjusting as appropriate.

Once you’ve done this, you can then try to work out why the engine has failed. Obvious actions are to put the fuel pump on, check the mixture is rich, switch fuel tanks, make sure the primer is locked and that the mags are on. Beyond that, there’s little you can do in the time you have available, so then you have to commit to the landing.

If possible, a Mayday call should be made to that people know where you are and that you have a problem. At this point Charlie recommended that if you were talking to Brize, turning the radio off at this time might be a good idea, as they’d be likely to come back asking all sorts of questions and distracting you from the task in hand!

By this time you’ll be a lot lower, and hopefully on a good approach to the field. It’s now time to start preparing the plane for the landing. Fuel off, fuel pump off, mags off, throttle closed, mixture to ICO. Also, give a quick emergency brief to the passengers, and crack the two door latches to make it easier to get out when you’re on the ground.

Then, all you have to do is to land!

The key in all of this is judging your approach to the field. I had a tendency to try to stay too close to the field, which meant I was often too high when it came to actually land (this was something I also had problems with when doing glide approaches in the circuit).

We practiced a couple of these at Little Rissington, then moved into the surrounding area to do the same thing with ‘real’ fields. We carried out the engine failure at varying heights from 3000 feet AGL, all the way down to about 1500 feet AGL on the climb out from the previous PFL!

All too soon it was time to head back for Brize (using the ADF to home to the airfield), passing JP on its way out to Hinton in the Hedges to pick up Alpha Fox from maintenance. The approach to Brize was also a new one to me, as we flew overhead at 2000 feet QFE to do another PFL, this time all the way down to the runway.

This went well, although I did land a little long on the runway. The landing itself was also Ok, but I didn’t feel I got the nose up as high as I’d have liked. I did land on the mains first though, so it was acceptable if not perfect.

Charlie taxyed us back, chatting up the girl in the tower on the way! We refuelled the plane and pushed it back into the hangar before walking back to debrief.

Charlie was very complimentary about my flying, particularly about how well I controlled speed in the glide, and also maintaining a smooth shallow bank angle (something that had been a problem in the past, so I was taking extra care with). He said he’d enjoyed flying with me, and I had a ‘good pair of hands’ 🙂

Apparently I’ve skipped a progress check with an examiner, which hopefully I’ll be able to do with John tomorrow (got two sessions booked with him). From then on it’s solo GH (gulp) before precautionary landings (say if you get stuck in bad weather or low on fuel) before starting on Navigation.

I have to get 3 exams out of the way before I can get too far into Navigation, so I need to get my skates on!

Total flight time today: Dual 1:20 – Solo – 0:00
Take-offs: 1 – Landings: 1

Total flight time to date: Dual 17:45 – Solo 2:25
Take-offs to date: 69 – Landings to date: 64

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