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Closest Field Landing to Wittering

PostPosted: Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:53 pm
by Pete
As "some" of you may know, I landed out the earlier this month, on a field just over the fence from the airfield. As I happened to take my shiny new GoPro camera with me on the trip, it would seem a shame to waste the footage, so I have uploaded it for others to view what went on and maybe take away a few pointers on how not to go flying at Wittering!

The link is unlisted so only those who click on the link can see it.

For some background, below is the info from the video explaining the flight and what happened at key points.

Feel free to comment (or take the mick!), be interested to hear others views on the situation and my "solution".


One early day in January, I took a tow to 2000ft from RAF Wittering, and had a short play in some weak wave to the west of the airfield.
After a while maintaining height, it all went very wrong very quickly. Heading away from the airfield, and farther out than comfortable, I fell into sink. Not earth shattering sink, but enough to make things tricky. Gliding back towards the airfield, I ended up landing in a field on the boundary of the airfield.

As may be obvious to some, this may not have been the best decision, given the proximity of the airfield. However the landing was safe and there was no damage to glider or field, and the retrieve was relatively painless.

So, as the mockery has thus far been merciless, and will no doubt continue for some time (years!) I figured I'd try and make something useful out of the experience. Therefore, with my instructor hat on, here are the key points in the flight:

- The first 15 mins are me paddling in wave, not climbing, but delaying descent.

- @ 15:30 you can see the sink increase to between 2 & 4 knots down, the most it has been all flight. I'm at 1800ft, to the NW of the airfield. I should be ok.

- @ 16:30 I've now turned toward Rutland Water, roughly heading North West. The airfield is at my back. I'm at 1300ft. I was trying to hunt out the lift again, hoping the sink would reduce. In about a minute, I've gone from comfortable to pushing it. Sadly, I haven't clicked this yet.

- @ 16:37 The lightbulb dawns and I turn back towards the airfield.

- @ 17:00 I'm at 1100ft, abeam the cement works, pushing back to the airfield. Not making much progress. After the event, I concluded the upper wind was more cross than it appeared, so I was probably pushing into wind. At this point I've recognised the glide home is going to be marginal, and I'm now picking fields.

- @ 18:45 I'm eyeing up fields on the ridge top below Collyweston.

- @ 19:40 You can just make out through the canopy hoop one of the cross runways at the NW corner of the airfield. I am pretty much lined up on this. It would be a crosswind landing, but it would have been manageable.
However, at this time my mind has fixated on an into wind landing. And I know from previous flights, and what I can see, that there is a field to my right, which is landable and into wind....

- @ 20:00 Parts of the airfield, as well as my chosen field, are now visible in the right of the view.

- @ 20:15 I had considered pushing on and to the left, to attempt an into wind landing on the stretch of taxiway visible over the nose, but finalised my decision on the field at this point. A downwind landing may also have been possible at this point.

- @ 20:35 Thats me, flying over my home airfield, to land in a field next to my home airfield...

- @ 20:55 Down safe. The ground run was quite short, as the surface was a little soft. No damage to anything though.

So, not the ideal result for my flight, and if I'm an honest, not the cleverest of places to park the aircraft. Other options were available. But I will stress the landing was safe, and they could use the aircraft again.
If I could list the morals of this story they would be:
- Keep an idea of where you are in relation to the airfield.
- Monitor the sink rate, be prepared to quit quickly if it gets severe.
- Be mindful of wind and weather. I think most Wittering piots would agree, 1200ft at the cement works shouldn't make it difficult to get back, but the wind and the sink that day combined to make the glide back more difficult. Every day is different!
- A landing on the airfield is what everyone wants. But if the safest and most sensible option (for you) is to park in a field (no matter how close to the boundary) then it probably makes sense to do it.

A word of caution however, please do not take this as an example of how to do a field landing. Some people suggested that following this I was checked out for field landings, far from it. The field was selected not too long before I turned finals to land, and I flew over many perfectly landable fields on the way to this one. This field was the result of my mindset, some pre-existing knowledge, and the final confirmation that I could not make where I wanted to make it to on the airfield.
This video is only to prove that even close to the airfield (within gliding range even) you can still get caught out.

Re: Closest Field Landing to Wittering

PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:43 am
by mikecl
Pete - Speaking as a relatively inexperienced solo pilot, this is an extremely timely reminder of the need to monitor altitude and location relative to the airfield at all times, especially as I am not yet signed off for field landings. My last flight, with Chris Armstrong in the back seat, was a good demonstration of how easy it is to overlook circuit planning while concentrasting on the search, in my case, for non- existent lift. Thanks for your honesty in posting the details. Happy flying. Mike 8-)

Re: Closest Field Landing to Wittering

PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:07 pm
by Nemadog
Nice honest appraisal there Pete, one of the keys with wave soaring is knowing when to give up