Practiced Forced Landings
I was due to do some solo circuits at Headcorn today but the airfield was closed for a model aircraft exhibition. My instructor Richard therefore suggested we head over to the Downs and brush up on some manoeuvres. As I felt I needed to hone my practiced forced landings (PFLs) we decided to do a few of these along with some sideslips. Although sideslips aren’t part of the NPPL syllabus, they are an invaluable pilot skill to have – and they are tremendous fun too!
Practiced Forced Landing Procedure
PFLs are an important part of the NPPL flying training syllabus for obvious reasons! The aim of the exercise is to carry out a safe descent, approach and landing in the event of an engine failure during flight. Richard said that he’d once experienced real engine failures in 2-stroke engine microlights but never in a 4-stroke. I was comforted by this fact; the Ikarus C42 is fitted with a 4-stroke Rotax 912.
Here is the procedure for a practiced forced landing:
- Speed – adopt best glide angle speed which in the C42 is 60 kts
- Plan – ascertain wind direction and strength *
- Field – choose a suitable field in which to land based on the 5 Ss
- Restart – if you have time
- Mayday call
- Shutdown checks
- Throttle – close
- Ignition – off
- Fuel – off
*Consider turning downwind as this will increase your ground speed therefore giving you more options in the time
I was pretty competent at my practiced forced landings but I think if it had been a day of stronger winds, I may have struggled to get to my chosen field. When choosing an appropriate field, Richard suggested imagining a cone in which you are positioned at the apex (see image right). The higher up you are when the engine fails, the more options you have for a suitable landing surface as the base area of the cone is that much greater.
I was also told to never be tempted to extend the glide by pulling back on the stick as doing so will get you into a stall at low level, the consequences of which could be fatal.
PFLs With Sideslips Thrown In For Good Measure
I have enjoyed every lesson I’ve had so far, but I have to say that learning how to do sideslips was fantastic fun and helped me to understand a little more of how the C42 handles and what it is capable of.
Although sideslips aren’t a requirement for the NPPL, Fly Sport Aviation teaches them because they are a very useful skill to have. One such situation you might be called upon to use a sideslip would be if you happened to have an engine failure at the same time you were over a suitable landing strip – maybe the only suitable place to land in many miles. However, you are way too high to get to the strip. In this instance a sideslip to lose height safely might get you onto the strip.
I tried a few sideslips/PFLs over a small strip on the South Downs using left aileron and right rudder, and controlling airspeed with pitch. At first I was a bit tentative. The aircraft just doesn’t feel right with crossed controls and you feel like you are going to fall out of the cockpit door! But once I got to grips with controlling the airspeed I absolutely loved it. The greater the aileron and rudder inputs, the greater the rate of descent which in my case was around 1000 ft/min. And then when you are low enough and certain that the strip can be made, neutralise the controls and land.
The Grand Finale – A Forced Landing Over Deanland
On the way back to Deanland, Richard asked me to climb to 5000 ft where he then switched off the C42’s engine – leaving the mags on of course! Maybe I should have been a little more scared by the sight of a stationary propeller looking back at me through the cockpit window, something you hope you never have the misfortune of seeing. But low and behold he managed to glide down to Deanland’s grass strip from 5000 ft above, using sideslip when necessary. We touched down safely where some model aircraft enthusiasts at the airfield looked on, bewildered, when Richard re-started the engine during the landing roll. I should’ve been scared I guess, but it was a real buzz!
Until next time, go slip those surly bonds!