I wasn't sure I was going to fly today, I was up late the previous night and had slept badly so was a bit tired. I had a dual lesson booked as I was supposed to be doing a land away at Manston but I hadn’t had time to plan it – so that wasn’t going to happen. As I seem to have been struggling a bit with practice forced landings recently, I asked the Instructor if we could go off and do that instead – which he was happy to do.
Spring seems to be on the way, it was sunny, not too cold, a bit hazy and virtually no wind. So after a bit of reading up on emergency procedures, it was off to Redhill where the Instructor took me through how to deal with an engine failure in the air. I also hadn’t flown much recently so a bit of general practice would be good. So out to the aircraft, usual checks and start up for taxi to Runway 08L for take off.
Everything was looking good and I was cleared for take off and departure to the east via Godstone at 1500 ft. It was distinctly hazy and visibility was probably too low for a navigation exercise so just as well I wasn’t planning on going to Manston. Instructor asked me to use the radio navigation system system (VOR) and track 140 degrees from Biggin Hill. It’s been a while since I’ve used a VOR so took me a few seconds remember how to use it. Route from Godstone was south easterly following the ridge to Bough Beech reservoir where I cleared Gatwick airspace, climbed to 2000 ft and crossed the 140 radial from Biggin Hill. Turned right to follow the VOR track and transferred from Redhill ATC to Farnborough East – so far so good and I was even reasonably happy with my flying so far.
Flew on to Bewl Water reservoir and turned left to track over Bodium Castle where the Instructor closed the throttle and said I had an engine failure. First step was stabilise the aircraft and trim for 65kts, then quickly select a landing site. Having picked a suitable field it was try and identify the cause of the problem and to restart the engine – being an exrecise the engine stayed “failed” Also as this was an exercise I simply said the MayDay radio call without actually transmitting it, I didn’t want a search and rescue team turning up looking for me. Then it was line up on the field, brief the passenger (instructor in this case) about crash landing drill and get ready for landing. I kept descending – instructor said nothing so I kept on aiming for the field. Now getting lower and lower and set the aircraft up for a landing. At the last moment Instructor told me to go around and climb out so I opened the throttle and started to climb. Then the Instructor closed the throttle again and said I had another engine failure so what was I going to do. As I was low and climbing, first step is to get flying speed (65Kts in this aircraft) and very quickly pick another field to land in. Started an approach to a suitable field and by this time I was very close to the ground. Instructor told me to climb out and we went back up to 2000ft. Then it was a repeat performance and another practice engine failure which also went Ok. This time Farnborough East asked me to confirm my position as they were tracking me on radar and could see I was going up and down like a yoyo and wondered why. Instructor replied we were doing practice forced landings and that everything was OK.
Now back at 2000ft, Instructor demonstrated side slipping. This is where you apply full right rudder and hold the stick to the left so the aircraft effectively goes sideways through the air and loses height very quickly. I’d done this before, but this was the first time I had done it for long enough to learn how to control the aircraft effectively in a side slip.. Basically if you are approaching a landing site and you are too high, this is a great way of losing height fast.
Instructor asked me to intercept the 140 radial from Biggin Hill again as visibility had deteriorated a bit more. It was still OK for VFR flight but Radio Navigation made things easier. Soon found the radial and turned towards Bough Beech reservoir. As we approached Bough Beech, Instructor told me to land in the middle of it – well this was a bit different from usual.
So, I closed the throttle and started a side slip to lose a lot of height and aimed for the middle of the reservoir. There were a bunch of yachts in the middle so they must have wondered why an aircraft was heading directly towards them. Must admit, I did think that if the aircraft had guns I could have strafed them out of the water – but I’m flying a Katana not a Spitfire. So back to emergency landings… I picked a slightly different spot away from the boats, set the aircraft up for ditching and went through the emergency procedures. As before I got quite low before the Instructor asked me to climb out and set a course for Redhill.
As we approached Redhill, Instructor told me to do a glide approach. This is where you don’t use the engine to land – you just glide onto the airfield. So after an overhead join on base leg I closed the throttle and aimed for the centre of the runway. Approach was reasonable and I even managed an OK landing, be it towards the middle of the runway rather than the beginning.- where I should have been.
Once clear of the runway the Instructor debriefed me on the flight. He was reasonably happy with my practice forced landings but pointed out I had missed a small section of the emergency procedure, so he suggested I simply memorise it. Flying standard was reasonable and I had done reasonably well. Then I taxied back to the hanger and shut down the engine.
Overall I was happy with my performance – I was tired which didn’t help but I felt I was in control in the emergency drills and more or less got it right. Nothing a bit of ground revision won’t sort out and I’m fairly confident I can successfully manage emergency practice in future.
Flying time, just over an hour.