Flying Lesson # 24 – Precautionary Search and Landing

July 15, 2012

Continuing with the emergency training theme, today’s lesson was all about precautionary search and landing.

Basically, you find yourself in a situation where you can’t continue flying, though can’t make it back to an airfield. This could be because you are a VFR pilot and the clouds have closed in around you or you are drastically low on fuel or a myriad of other reasons that should be avoided at all costs. As a last resort however, a precautionary search is finding a piece of land suitable for an off airfield landing. To do this, we circle the prospective landing strip multiple times to ensure it is suitable before committing to the landing. Remember – this is a landing where we still have the luxury of engine power, not having that luxury is called a forced landing which will be covered in the next lesson.

The day started out like most – checks, checks and more checks before lifting off in to the wondrous blue unknown. We headed out to the east, over Mount Cotton, toward the bay. I know I say it a lot, but I love the in between parts of the lesson. Getting the plane set up, relaxing a little and just watching the world pass by below you. For the first time, today I looked out the window to the wheels of the 150. It’s such a strange feeling seeing the earth whiz by below the fixed landing gear. I’ll be sure to get a photo one day.

Another exciting moment in this lesson was flying over water for the first time. It’s really cool and scary at the same time. When we got to our destination, a small island-type piece of land just off the mainland, Robert pointed out our makeshift landing strip and we began the lesson. We make 3 passes over the strip with the intent of getting lower with each pass and looking for things that may get in our way on landing or overshoot. This includes, but is not limited to, power lines, cows, fences, boulders, ant mounds etc etc. You get the idea.

The last pass was the most exciting, at a mere 300 feet about the earth, we cruised over the island on our final pass looking for potholes etc. It’s exhilarating flying that low. Looking back at the video of the lesson, I picked up a lot of things that Robert told me, which I missed during the lesson due to excitement and stress.

After practicing a few times, we packed up and headed for home. I really enjoyed this lesson. Next week, things get even harder with forced landings. Very similar in nature to the precautionary search and landing, however this time we don’t have engine power and have to do all of this in one go. Should be interesting!

Can’t wait!

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