Discuss the problems and solutions to all of the situations that Pilot X finds himself in.
By Echo Delta
#1040216
Seven hours hanging on

Four airfields logged on the Saturday, and a new one for the logbook planned for Sunday – which Pilot X finds a far longer day than expected... by David Young

As the rain continued to drip off the soaking wing onto his supposedly waterproof flying suit, Pilot X started to feel the wet seeping through to his inner clothing. At the moment, he was most concerned about the safety of the aircraft as the 30kt wind forced the flexwing harder onto the ground, bending the wing profile batons. He hung on grimly to the flying wires as the gusts came and went and tugged at the nosewheel and his tie-down. He really wished that he’d gone fishing!
He’d so looked forward to this weekend, planning to take in five airfields with an overnight camp at Plaistows. He’d checked the weather on Friday afternoon and it looked fine, though maybe a little bit windy on Sunday. He’d even read the Airmet, as well as checking the TAFs.
Saturday had been brilliant and even though his Quantum only cruised at 65mph he had covered nearly 200 miles during the day and finished at his number four airfield for the night. He phoned a friend with Internet access to ask about the weather for Sunday... “I’d make a really early start if I were you and get on home, the wind’s going to get up,” came the reply.
Pilot X was always realistic and considered he didn’t take risks. He would see what it was like in the morning but he was going to make the hop to Panshanger – he’d never been there and wanted it in his logbook.

No take-offs before nine!
As the hustle and bustle around the airfield diminished with the failing light, Pilot X prepared his tent and looked forward to a good kip, dreaming of all he had achieved today. The last local pilot to leave called out goodnight and added, “Don’t forget it’s Sunday tomorrow. No take-offs before nine!”
Pilot X remembered straightaway he’d seen the Sunday opening time in the flight guide, but forgotten in all the excitement. His heart sank a little. His friend was warning of stronger winds and now he couldn’t take off until 9am, but he really thought everything would be fine.
The morning dawned with the promise of another beautiful day and the high cloud suggested the incoming front was hundreds of miles away yet. The tail of the windsock slapped lazily around its post as he packed and prepared for a 9am take-off – but as time dragged by, he had the impression that the wind was picking up, as his friend had warned, suggesting he fly straight home. Pilot X comforted himself with the fact it was only 10kt, maybe 15, straight down R30 and the runway at Panshanger is 29. As he took off there were a few lumps and bumps, but the machine shot skywards.
Just 30 uneventful minutes later he landed – inadvertently took off again in a gust – and landed a second time. The Tower had given 18 gusting 26kt on the approach, but it was only really as he taxied that he appreciated the problem. It was the gusting as much as anything else and he was really having difficulty holding onto the wing.
The Tower told him where to park with a line of light aircraft and he dutifully obliged. He swung the aircraft around so that he could lower one wing directly into the wind. As he did this, once the wing had the force of the wind on top, it was taken down to the ground with a loud thump. As a sense of relief washed over him, he even thought about enjoying a breakfast. Pilot X did rather think he might be stuck for the day, but had no idea he would soon commence a seven-hour vigil hanging onto the aircraft – not just for the sake of his own machine but because 100 yards downwind was another line of very expensive looking aircraft!
The people at Panshanger were typically helpful but the fact was Pilot X had got himself well and truly stuck. With the wind gusting 30kt, he just could not get the aircraft into wind to de-rig it and he couldn’t risk trying to push or taxi it to the shelter behind the large WWII hangar because he would surely lose control. The crosswind taxi limit in the manual was just 13kt! He asked himself why on earth hadn’t he asked ATC if he could taxi behind the hangar when he first came in? The answer was all too clear: he hadn’t wanted to admit he had made a mistake, any mistakes! He’d concentrated on sounding like Mr Cool on the radio. The result was seven hours hanging onto his aircraft, desperately trying to stop the gusty winds from proving the prescribed parking technique wasn’t satisfactory. The gusts jolted the trike and moved the nosewheel to face downwind and constantly tugged at the flying wire wing tie-down and threatened to pull it out completely.

Seven hours later
It was past 5.30pm before the wind started to ease. Pilot X was cold and tired. Four of the airfield’s instructors came out to help move the Quantum into the lee of the hangar.
Once he got dry and warm, Pilot X did get a good night’s sleep. In the morning, he was even given a free breakfast! And, with a little bit of help walking the wing, he got a safe take-off and home again – and he realised just how far he’d pushed his luck.
There was one more surprise in store. Having flown back to base, the CFI grounded the aircraft for de-rigging and a thorough inspection. Sure enough, the pressure on the lower wing when it was parked had distorted the aluminium wing baton profiles, reducing camber and lift.
“No wonder it had a turn in it,” said Pilot X, “And I guess it could have been interesting near the stall!”

Questions
1 When should have Pilot X have checked the weather before his flight?
2 What was the critical Met Office forecast service he should have referenced?
3 When Pilot X took off from Plaistows and ‘shot skyward’, should that have rung any more alarm bells?
User avatar
By DBo
#1041224
1/ The story suggests he checked the met on Friday night, but another check on Saturday morning would have been prudent.

2/ I guess the Airmet outlook might have been useful, but my favourite is the 60 hour forecast synoptic charts - they give a lot of information about what's going on over the next couple of days.

3/ Shooting Skyward would suggest inversion conditions - a classic for early-morning balloon flights! After a night with clear skies a stable ground layer exists with calm or light winds near the surface despite whatever the wind is doing a couple of hundred feet above it. His ground speed on the way to Panshangar should also have given him an idea about what the wind was doing and the advisability of landing there rather than going straight home.

All-in-all a classic example of sticking to the original plan despite the circumstances changing.

At least this one had a pretty benign outcome!

Dave