Discuss the problems and solutions to all of the situations that Pilot X finds himself in.
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Sunny Side Up

Kim Taylor tells us how Pilot X takes delivery of his own brand new aircraft and makes the first flight to his very own airstrip. The sun is really shining for Pilot X

Pilot X was feeling smug. He’d been flying what some people called ‘proper aeroplanes’ for many years, but had recently been persuaded to try a fixed-wing microlight. He was impressed – very impressed. The performance, economy and simplicity appealed to him, particularly at his time of life, now there were a few grey hairs on show. The simpler NPPL and medical requirements, together with the lower operating costs, meant that he’d been able to fulfil his lifelong dream of owning his own aeroplane. No more tired club aircraft! If he could fly a more complicated, heavier aeroplane, then a microlight must be easy, obviously. In fact, Pilot X decided that all this talk of a conversion course would be a waste of time and money. What more did he need to learn?

He was not the sort to make do either. If he was going to own a microlight, it would be the fastest, most comfortable and fully-equipped he could get. He’d found a field in which he could prepare a short strip and build a hangar, and now he was set up to fly whenever he wished. Having pored over magazine articles and internet sites, Pilot X had chosen his aircraft some time ago and today was
a big day – he was to collect it from the distributor’s airfield. The weather was even playing ball, with no cloud, superb visibility and only a light westerly breeze.

His shiny new aeroplane was there, waiting, as promised by the dealer. It bore his personalised registration and had all the extras he’d ordered. Reluctantly, he accepted the more experienced pilot’s offer of a few circuits to familiarise himself with the aircraft. He knew that this man would still be trying to pressurise him into having some formal conversion. He would surely soon see that that Pilot X didn’t need it. This was a lighter, simpler aircraft for goodness sake – it must be easier.
The excitement of his first flight was magical. The lively climb rate followed an impressively short take-off roll – shorter farm strips were going to be easy. In the circuit, they were catching up and almost overtaking some of the older club aircraft – this pleased Pilot X – he’d made the right decision, despite some scepticism from his fellow pilots. Yes, his approach and landing were rough, but he was new to this type and these aircraft were strong. ‘Come on,’ he thought. ‘Let me get away from here and off to my new home strip.’
The dealer tried, one last time, to get Pilot X to agree to a conversion course. He failed, and he watched as the expensive little aeroplane, with only its new pilot on board, leapt into the air.

Picture perfect

Pilot X was beaming. He was flying his very own aeroplane, going to his very own airstrip and hangar. What more could he wish for? It was early winter and by the time he arrived at his new airstrip the sun was low in the cloudless sky. The bright orange, brand-new windsock still indicated a light westerly. The shadows of the hedges at either end showed clearly against the freshly-mown grass, which was still shiny from the rain showers earlier in the day. He flew his carefully prepared circuit – designed to keep the neighbours happy – lowered the flaps and established himself on final. Although he’d read the Pilot’s Operating Handbook, Pilot X was damned if he could remember the exact trimmed approach speed. No matter, he knew roughly what it was and he added a few knots to be on the safe side.
This should be straightforward. He trimmed for his first final with his brand-new aircraft on his very own strip. Fantastic! But... there was just one problem. The sun was full in his face on this heading and he was having difficulty in seeing ground detail in the glare. ‘So much for planning an east-west runway,’ he thought. ‘It will have to be an easterly approach then – only a few knots tailwind – bound to be all right.’
Pilot X executed a text book go-around and established himself on final for 09. The world was going by a little more quickly, but at least he could see properly. For the first time the new strip looked a little shorter than he’d anticipated and he wasn’t losing height very quickly. He wished he’d learnt to sideslip his new aircraft. He decided that he’d have to dive the height off instead – besides, the extra knots would be an insurance against his vagueness about the recommended approach speed. ‘This little aeroplane really is fast,’ he thought, as he crossed the threshold hedge. Even with the throttle fully-closed, the sink rate was not what he was expecting – he was floating on. He was now quite some way along the runway length, so he raised the nose further. The little plane abruptly surrendered to the principles of flight and touched down very firmly. Pilot X was shocked at the sudden stall close to the ground and instinctively applied the brakes... hard. The aircraft immediately began to snake on the wet grass. The far end hedge was now very close.
Pilot X had read about the ‘loud silence’ that follows a massive collision and was now experiencing it. The engine stopped abruptly as the propeller was choked by the dense hedge which wrapped itself around the plane. There was a smell of brand new aeroplane, expensive leather seats, hot oil and fuel.
He fumbled for the master switch and fuel shut-off valve – at least he remembered those. There was no fire, yet, but he knew he must get out quickly. The design of the aircraft had protected him from serious injury but he was bleeding from his broken nose. The door opened easily and he fell from his aeroplane. The farmer, who had come to see the brand-new aircraft arrive at its newly-prepared home, sprinted across to the wreckage.

As the door opened, a sheet of paper wafted from the cockpit in the light wind. The farmer caught it and handed it to the stunned pilot, just in case it was important. It was a brochure from the airfield he’d just left – amongst other things; they offered a type conversion course. With no hull insurance, Pilot X definitely wasn’t going to need it now.

Clearly Pilot X should have taken the conversion course, but what are all the other factors he needed to consider and what could he have done, in order to prepare for this important day?
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By Neil MacG
Chances are details of the key Airspeeds would have been available to study prior to delivery of the aircraft. He could have studied the Flight Manual (or at least extracts from it) before the flight and also made a note of the key speeds on his kneeboard before take-off.

He should also have arranged with another suitably experienced pilot to fly into his new strip ahead of this first flight so as to become familiar with operating into and out of it.

If he had arranged for the flight to be undertaken during the middle of the day, the low sun should not have been a factor in his landing decisions, thus eliminating the need to land with a tailwind.

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By Keef
The main problem was X's overconfidence.

"Pilot X decided that all this talk of a conversion course would be a waste of time and money"
He (thought he) didn't need to be trained properly on type, even though he was flying a very different aircraft from what he was used to. That was a dangerous, potentially fatal assumption.

"it must be easier"
I wonder how many people have died from that assumption?

The overconfidence led to carelessness:

"Pilot X was damned if he could remember the exact trimmed approach speed."
It should have been written on his kneeboard or on a card stuck to the panel.

"he added a few knots to be on the safe side."
Not knowing the correct approach speed in an aircraft that slippery is a good recipe for an experience with a hedge. Extra knots on touchdown are only helpful when landing in a howling headwind (also not something to try on the first flight in an unfamiliar type).

And then, just to compound it all, he decided to land downwind!
He's lined up nearly all the holes in the Swiss cheese against himself.
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By GrahamB
He should have done landing and take-off performance calculations for the prevailing conditions before the flight, for both upwind and downwind runways, and had a suitable diversion airfield already in mind had these shown that a downwind landing was inadvisable.

Given the overall lack of preparation shown, did he ever work out whether his strip was going to be suitable at all.
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By Gertie
GrahamB wrote:He should have done landing and take-off performance calculations for the prevailing conditions before the flight, for both upwind and downwind runways, and had a suitable diversion airfield already in mind had these shown that a downwind landing was inadvisable.

Even without any of this preparation, having arrived at the strip and realising that he hadn't a clue at what speed to land or how much runway this would take up he could have diverted to somewhere with 2km of tarmac and landed safely, albeit a bit fast.
By alanevans
As others have said, he should have prepared properly for the first flight on type. However, even ignoring that for a moment. You can add the "short, wet grass" to the downwind landing on a short strip and too-fast approach speed and the recipe for disaster is complete.

Two things he could have done in the air: make a better estimate of the over-the-hedge speed based on his lift-off speed when he departed the dealer's airfield. Secondly, he could have waited the short time for the sun to set, allowing him to use the westerly runway.

One thing he should have done is to go-around of the the second approach.

What would have been good is for the dealer to have priced-in a couple of training hours into the sale deal.

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By KNT754G

Low sun and a westerly runway so it was straight in his eyes, shadows of the hedge at the far end so he has an obstacle to clear landing easterly, no idea as to what the approach speed is (does his ASI not have green/white arcs? approach speed is 1.3 times bottom of white arc with full flap), freshly mown grass still damp from the showers that day it was all apparent in the text long before the float and touchdown.

At least he didn't make the mistake I read so often in the accident reports - realised not enough room to stop so attempted to get airborne again. Better to hit the hedge at 20 knots with the engine switched off that at 70 knots and full power.
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By Morley
Approach speed is 1.3 times stall speed in approach confuguration so he could've worked that out.
As Keef said he loined up all the holes.
1, not studying the POH particularly the V speeds and whether it can be side slipped. wally
2 Not doing a performance calculation for the home strip with all the safety factors. duh! wally
3 Not doing a conversion course (not vital if you are a good pilot and have studied the POH) arrogant wally
4 Not landing a bit earlier or later when the sun wasnt in his face - impatient wally
5 Coming in downwind too fast then speeding up! Boy racer wally.
6 Finally, when holding off at probably 2 times stall speed not going around. waaallllyyyyyy.
7 being a wally
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By Johnno
KNT754G wrote:... no idea as to what the approach speed is (does his ASI not have green/white arcs? approach speed is 1.3 times bottom of white arc with full flap.

Not so long ago I flew with a pilot who had recently gained their PPL. During the flight we talked about the approach speed for one reason or another. Scarily it transpired that said pilot was not aware of the approach speed of this aircraft and upon probing did not correlate it with the factor you mention.

It made me wonder if the speed selected on approach was just going to be a best guess had the topic not happpened to come up in conversation. Needless to say, I kept a close eye on the airspeed indicator.. Just in case!
By Tony Hirst
He should never have contemplated flying an unfamiliar aircaft to an unfamiliar and challenging strip

Also if he was the kind of guy who would study the POH and do performance calculations (conciously incompetent), then he would also be the type of guy who would get some tuition. If he was experienced and conciosly competent enough to know that a conversion wasn't necessary, he would have allowed enough time to some general handling enrote and alowed more than enough time for a low pressure arrival to a familiar airstrip or made sufficient effort to familiarise himself prior to the day!

A prime example of being thoroughly unconciously incompetent.
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By Steve R
KNT754G wrote:
... no idea as to what the approach speed is (does his ASI not have green/white arcs? approach speed is 1.3 times bottom of white arc with full flap.

Is it?

I thought White arc was to do with airspeeds at which damage can be done to flaps/gear? With a very light aircraft is it not the case that the stall speed will vary quite widely with fuel load and POB?

If I'm a little rusty in my own shareoplane, or differently loaded, or in a type I've not flown for a while I want to know how she feels in slow flight, approach configuration, up to and including the power-off stall. While I'm there I note the ASI. My approach speed is then going to be 1.3 times current stall speed.

Pilot x did his best to line up the holes, but if he wanted to fill one of them in, the one he was closest to noticing (that he didn't know how fast to cross the hedge), he could have climbed for a little height, lose most of it in incipient stalls, and calculated his approach speed. Rather than 'add a bit' for uncertainty (no need unless gusty or wind shear or rollover anticipated) he could then have even taken a little off - having educated the seat of his pants to how slow flight felt and sounded.
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By KNT754G
TOP end of the white arc is traditionally limiting speed for full flap deployment.

Bottom end of white arc is traditionally stall speed at MAUW with full flap (and CoG on fwd limit for that weight?)
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By Steve R
Thanks for that, I needed the reminding (or perhaps the news).

So my suggestion has some merit. Leaving aside all the other wrong things, he was far too fast over the hedge. He'd have probably been slower if he'd used bottom of White arc to get to an approach speed. As a plastic fantastic microlight, the percentage MAUW which is flesh, blood and fuel is higher than for a metal 4-seat tourer and with only one POB and a while since refuelling the stall speed is likely to be quite a lot lower. Can anyone confirm?

The first thing I want to know about any new aircraft which I'm hoping to land soon is how it feels just before it's about to lose its grip. I want to know what to avoid when I want to keep flying, and what to achieve when I want to stop it.
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By Vince C
He could have carried out an approach-configuration stall at a safe height to determine a safe indicated approach speed, and also to find out how the aeroplane and the controls feel just before and into the stall.