Sunday, 4 August 2013

Landing out...

G'day all, it's been a while since I filed an update. Over the past couple of months I've been getting time up in the club Pilatus, gaining some more experience in single seat gliders in preparation for moving into something with a little higher performance. This week though, I had an opportunity to reach another milestone on my journey to cross country flight. Read on for more...
It was a quiet day out at the club on Sunday, which was a shame because the weather was glorious. No lift around, but still lovely weather for enjoying a bit of flying. Anyway, the instructor for the day, Dave, suggested I take the opportunity to get some of my endorsements sorted out in preparation for heading out cross country in the next few months.

We jumped in the IS28 and towed out to the Northwest off runway 32. Once airborne, I handed the controls over to Dave as he quizzed me on what paddocks looked good or bad for landing and the reasons for my choices. I had him move to an area that looked pretty good and then picked out a few individual paddocks to use. As we descended, one paddock stood out from the others as being perfect for an outlanding - it was a bit over 10km from the airfield, appearing to be about 1200-1300m in length and was pasture rather than crop. Running through the 5S's I decided this was the paddock to use:
  • Size was good at over 1200m (can land in smaller fields, need a minimum of 600m for an aerotow retrieve) 
  • Slope was minimal with a very gentle grade from SE to a creek at the NW edge, the landing would be very slightly downhill but well within reason 
  • Surface was very good, solid if a little sandy; there were no harrowing marks, ditches or contour banks, and being a pasture there was no crop to worry about. All the adjacent fields were cropped with wheat or canola. 
  • Stock - there were sheep in the paddock, but they were all clustered at the far western corner; with a NW breeze our approach would be from the east and the groundroll would only be 100m or so. 
  • Situation/SWER - there were no powerlines (SWER - single wire earth return - a major hazard to outlanding aircraft) and the wind was a gentle nor'westerly. Approach would be over a low cropped field of canola, and the field to the south could be used in a pinch if it became necessary - it was cropped with wheat but the crop was very short. 
Location of field selected for Outlanding, 10km NW of YCUN
We took the opportunity to circle the field a couple of times to view it carefully while we used up our height, and when I was sure that I was happy with my choice Dave handed the controls over to me. Regardless of the fact that it is an outlanding, you should always fly a full circuit, which is what I did. Entering downwind a few hundred metres to the south and flying a fairly long downwind leg allowed me to check the slope once more - this time from a more depressed angle. I can be hard to judge the slope accurately from overhead and at altitude. A quick base leg and then onto final over the canola crop, the aiming point set was the fence-line The IS28 is a lovely glider to land, very stable and with good spoilers, she descended down the final approach on a very even profile at 55kts or so, clearing the fence by about 15' I flared gently and let the glider settle on the slight downhill slope. The groundroll was a little rough - I've been spoiled by only ever launching and landing from a tarmac runway - but short enough and we came to a stop quickly. Done! My very first off-field landing! Dave congratulated me and said that I'd performed flawlessly - all I had to do was manage the tow-out and he would sign me off for Outlandings.
On short final over a crop of Canola, heading for a paddock landing 
The tug had been orbiting nearby waiting for us to land, as soon as we had inspected the field around us we called him in to land. The tuggie, Jordan, was also doing his Paddock retrieval endorsement so Dave had to observe his actions as well - he flew a circuit, releasing the towrope 100m to our right then went around again for his approach. Jordan nailed his paddock landing, a perfect 3-point touchdown in the Pawnee, then taxied back to us. We hooked up the towrope and then began the hard slog of pushing the glider right back to the fence-line I'm glad I didn't have to do that on my own, nice as the IS28 is to fly it is bloody heavy to move around on the ground.

The paddock launch was easy, being a nice relatively good surface it wasn't significantly different from doing a wing-drag takeoff back at the airfield. The cool air and slight downhill slope made for a rapid launch, and we were both airborne well before the halfway point of the paddock, followed by a very quick climb to 2,000' on track back to Cunderdin.

As we were flying the base leg onto 32, Dave told me he wanted me to make a spot landing. Normally I would be using the start of the piano keys as my aiming point with a view to touching down on the runway number. Dave wanted me to touch down on the first set of markings, the touchdown marks, 100m or so further on from the numbers. Turning onto final I adjusted my aiming point accordingly and deployed enough spoiler to get us down. Again, the approach was lovely and smooth and I'm happy to say that I managed to put the wheel down right between the start of the marks :)

Having managed an outlanding, a paddock retrieve and a perfect spot landing, Dave was happy to immediately endorse my logbook. Now there's only a couple more flights to go before I can sit my "C" certificate and get signed off for cross country flight! Next time I'm out at the club I'm planning on getting my rear seat endorsement so that I can take guests up for a flight, and also try to sit my A, B and C certificate exams. Will be just in time for the soaring season and the start of our club competitions, so I'm going to have a fairly brutal introduction to cross country task flying...