Discuss the problems and solutions to all of the situations that Pilot X finds himself in.
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Summer skies

Frazer Nash tells us how Pilot X’s plan to make the most of a beautiful summer’s day, turned to disaster.

The thing – one of the things – about an MGB is that, despite its charm, a certain style (remember, some things are in the eye of the beholder) and relatively affordable open-top motoring, there’s little to hide the fact that the bodywork has a habit of developing lots of crusty, rust-rimmed holes. Pilot X loved his old MG. He’d picked up it from a fellow in Guildford a couple of years earlier for a good price, rebuilt the engine almost immediately and had been enjoying top-down motoring ever since.

But then the holes appeared and, not really being that keen on bodywork, a visit to someone who was, had resulted in a quote for the wrong side of a lot. This wasn’t the news he’d wanted. He’d bought the MG for the perfect summer’s day that he was currently enjoying, with the temperature above 30°, the air perfectly still and those sweet, cloudless skies that appeared to him to mock metal-topped hatchbacks and people carriers.

Fortunately for Pilot X, there was something else in his life that he loved just as much as his MG – flying. He wasn’t at a stage when he could claim hundreds of hours, or any more types logged than the 152 he’d trained on… but right now, depressed by the imminent demise of his first love, his car, at least he could book an aircraft.
A quick call to his local flying school confirmed that the club’s 152 would be available by the time his increasingly colander-like product of Leyland’s glory years could get him there.

By the time Pilot X had arrived at the airfield, if anything it was even hotter. Fortunately, however, he remembered to put the soft-top roof of the MG up. He’d experienced the extreme heat of vinyl-covered car seats left in the summer sun before and wasn’t about to make that mistake again.

Party talk

With the 152 booked out and preflighted, he was ready for a familiar jaunt around the local area, with perhaps the chance to overfly a private strip owned by a friend of a friend he once met at a party. Being such a hot day, and with Pilot X being recently qualified, he remembered his human factors training and made sure that he was suitably hydrated for the trip, even taking a bottle of water in the cabin with him for regular top-ups.

At the hold for Runway 27, Pilot X was cleared for take off and opened the throttle to full. While the engine sounded fine, and the Ts & Ps were all in the green, Pilot X was soon going past the usual point on the runway at which he would expect the tyres to depart from the concrete. The Cessna was still clinging to the ground. Checking the ASI again, and double-checking he had full power, the little 152 trundled on, only to finally get airborne a full 100 yards further down the runway. Even once free of the ground, the aircraft seemed sluggish and more reluctant than usual to climb, forcing Pilot X to accept a far gentler rate of progress up to his planned 3,000ft altitude. Still, he was in no real hurry and thought no more of it.

For the next 30 minutes or so, Pilot X enjoyed the local countryside. With the summer heat, the recently lush fields and hedgerows had become a shade of light brown, while the high, bright sun reflected off a river whose banks were dotted by anglers shielding from the UV under khaki umbrellas

Call of nature

While all that water Pilot X had glugged before and during the flight had certainly kept him hydrated, his bladder was now beginning to demand a little relief. If he’d been honest with himself, he would have accepted the call of nature when he’d first felt it 15 minutes or so ago, and returned in good time to his home airfield. But, Pilot X now had the idea of accepting his friend’s invitation to use his private strip. It was only a couple of minutes away and even if the owner wasn’t at home, a concealing bush was all he really needed! Pilot X had received training for grass strip landings and while this one wasn’t exactly long, there was plenty of space to land a little 152. In fact, his only concern was that his friend had mentioned that the strip, when coming in from the south, had a marked downward slope, but that was nothing to really worry about.

In no time, Pilot X had applied carb heat, reduced power, put in a couple of stages of flap and found himself on long final for a straight-in approach to the strip. Half-a-mile or so out, Pilot X realised that it looked as if he was coming in at far too shallow an angle, so he increased the power to gain a little extra height – but as he crossed the threshold, it was soon obvious that the opposite was in fact true… he was too high! To compensate, Pilot X took off the power and checked that he had full-flap selected, losing altitude rapidly and leaving him looking at landing long on a short strip. Then, with no other option open to him, he quickly selected full power with the aim of executing a go-around.

Unfortunately, the sluggish climb he’d experienced earlier hit him again, only this time worse. He was still trying to work out what had gone wrong when the undercarriage of the 152 collided with the low hedge at the end of the runway.

1. What had caused the sluggish climb?

2. Why did Pilot X initially think that his approach to the strip was too shallow?

3. What should he have done to have avoided the situation in the first place?
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By Charles Hunt
1. Hot day, possibly carb heat left on (although not commented on as discovered during a FREDA check or setting up foir the landing), reducing available performance.

2. Classic perspective error for a downward sloping runway.

3. Peed in a bottle? Some side slip to get closer to the threshold? With poor take off performance he certainly shouldn't have landed on an unfamiliar strip. Even if the landing had been successful would he have got out again? Home airfield was a hard (concrete) runway. Take off run from short grass would have required an additional multiplier. Wind isn't mentioned, but may have been better to land uphill? Also possibly carb heat not turned off for go-around?
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By Ridders
3. What should he have done to have avoided the situation in the first place?
In addition to that already stated by Charles, Pilot x should have calculated his W&B, Takeoff and landing distance calculations before setting off, he might not have been surprised at the extra ground run.

Pilot x also seems to have only checked for full flap after passing the runway threshold (having it seems only 2 stages on approach). He then attempted to go around with full flap, not surprising the climb performance was worse than the takeoff experienced before. He should have gone around as he crossed the threshold and realised he was too high, but that need to find a hedge to hide behind was PROB90 the most pressing matter in mind. Pilot x certainly found a hedge in the end.
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By Keef
He should indeed have done his W&B and takeoff run calculations, and the critical part would have been doing the density altitude calculation. When you've once done a takeoff in density altitude approaching 10,000 feet, you remember!
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By AfricanEagle
1. What had caused the sluggish climb?

Heat / density altitude. Rule of the thumb: with 30°C is 40% increase in take off distance and 30 % decrease in climb rate.
Also on the go around he was with full flap.

2. Why did Pilot X initially think that his approach to the strip was too shallow?

Perspective error for a downward sloping runway (already said)

3. What should he have done to have avoided the situation in the first place?

Peed into the empty water bottle.
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By Steve H
Cuases of the accident

The pilot was relatively inexperienced. It was a hot day and although I can't see any mention of the pressure setting, the heat alone would create a density altitude issue affecting performance. Also on a hot and (normally in this country) also a humid day, carb icing is a possibility. His first clue was the sluggish take-off and climb performance. He then got 'spontaneous' and decided to have a go at his mate's grass strip despite very little 'stripping' experience. The downslope would have made his normal approach look as though he was low as the runway would be presenting a 'flatter' pictire than normal, so he created the 'correct' visual picture he is used to on a level runway by approaching too high. He could and should have gone around and probably given up at that point, but he pressed on with a poor position until too late, then didn't have the performance for his belated go-around, probably mainly due to the density altitude issue but also possibly due to some carb icing and / or not taking the carb heat off.

How he could have avoided it
Plan the flight and fly the plan, don't go getting all spontaneous! Do the density altitude calculation and check the performance on the aircraft, inexperienced or not, this should have been fresh in his mind from the PPL exams surely? He had a bottle of water, use it to relieve yourself into, call of nature problem solved. Don't press a poor approach into an unfamiliar and short strip, instigate an early go around, as my instructor always used to say 'a good landing comes from a good approach'. He should have realised that the slope of the runway would cause problms in his approach unless he was consciously adjusting for it (again lack of experience, but deffo covered in the PPL exams). He could have side-slipped some of the height off, but was probably too inexperienced to do that, I am amazed that it is not routinely taught (it doesn't seem to be). After all of this, the rest was probably always going to happen.
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By KNT754G
The answers all seem to be in the responses above.
Hot day = less performance so longer TORR and poorer climb.
Classic visual illusion on approach to a sloping strip. It is all in the Human Performance exam!
Worse climb on the "go around", sounds distinctly like flaps still extended and carb heat still applied.

Unfamiliarity with the strip just compounded the situation when the impending call of nature introduced an element of get-there-itis into his m indset.
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By Peter B
3. What should he have done to have avoided the situation in the first place?

Well, all of the above, obviously; but he could also have resisted the modern myth that you will die if you go more than five paces from a bottle of water. In our climate, even in the summer, it is next to impossible to get seriously dehydrated. You need a bit extra in hot weather is to provide enough fluid to perspire, but if you're taking on so much that it's filling your bladder rather oozing onto your skin, then you didn't need it. Unless you're doing manual labour in the open, a cup of water (or tea or anything else for that matter) every hour or two is plenty. Over-heating (with the attendant degradation in mental and physical performance), rather than dehydration, is the main risk, and that is better managed by loose clothing, keeping in the shade, having a source of ventilation or free air movement etc, pretty much like the anglers with their umbrellas.

Also, although we are traditionally taught to "aviate, navigate, communicate", this version omits the item that belongs at the head of the list. The full set of priorities is "urinate, aviate, navigate, communicate", analagous to the pre-travel check familiar to parents... :-)
By SteveKR
What went wrong?

All said above - hot, humid, no performance calcs etc. On the go-around, all of these plus carb-heat on and full flaps would have given him no climb to speak of.

What could he have done different?

He was not familiar with the strip - if he really had to land (he didn't), an overhead join would have let him take a look before commiting, and allowed him to check the wind-sock. Wind was described as "perfectly still" so having confirmed that this was the case from the overhead, a short landing uphill in zero wind would be far preferable, and he should have had full flap (3 stages??) to fly a stable slow approach. High (and fast if he was pushing the nose down to lose height) at the threshold should have been enough for him to go around then and might have given him time to realise why he wasn't climbing as anticipated.
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By Morley
1 High density altitude caused the sluggish climb as there was "less air in the air" thus reducing the power of the engine. Consider approaching the service ceiling of your aircraft when even with full throttle and optimum leaning you cannot climb any more. You have full throttle but nowhere near full power.

2 A downsloping runway gives the impression on a low approach and possible adjustment to a higher approach and overshoot.

3 A Proper performance plan would have let him know his take off run and distance at that density altitude. Its all in the POH including leaning for take off. In the case of the strip landing he probably wouldnt have tried if he had done the performance planning but assuming he was foolish enough to try, again many mistaked were made so, one by one, coming in at the right approach angle on a short field landing technique, landing into wind would both help. Leaning for a go around? Hmm, perhaps if he remembered the exact setting for take off and the airfield was at near enough the same elevation it would work but what are the chances of that? Its not something I would recommend. Leaning for best RPM after applying full power would be distracting and almost certainly get ugly. Drink less water?
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By Jim Jones
When I saw Morley's name I thought it would relate to the problem of owning an MGB and having to spend lots of money on it.......

But having the resources to fly a wider range of aircraft including one suitable for hot/high conditions may be a learning point too. Being able to use a Warrior instead of a Cherokee for example, or a 172 instead of a 150.
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By Rob P
As above, but I hate the thought that we can't allow spontaneity into GA.

Rob P
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By Morley
A Warrior is a Cherokee. Do you mean a 140 hp vs a 161? They both have POHs and one can always calculate the take off run.
A 152 has an impressively short take off run of you do it properly but spontaneity will be likely to kill you if you are hot, high and fast.
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By Rob P

That never occurred to me. Good job you came along.

Rob P
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By Jim Jones
Morley wrote:A Warrior is a Cherokee. Do you mean a 140 hp vs a 161? They both have POHs and one can always calculate the take off run.
A 152 has an impressively short take off run of you do it properly but spontaneity will be likely to kill you if you are hot, high and fast.

The Warrior has a bigger wing innit? And usually more powerful engine.
My experience is that load for load the Warrior needs a shorter take off run, but need to watch the float tendency on landing. My point is if you only ever fly the one type you are unlikely to think of flying a more suitable one, (assuming you notice all the other stuff like weather, full bladder affecting judgement and a mate's field is not likely to suffer fools gladly).