Discuss the problems and solutions to all of the situations that Pilot X finds himself in.
#1092851
Sparkling performance

Adrian Bleese introduces Pilot X to grass strip flying. A few trees, a few wires, a slight slope and a bright sunny day. No problems, surely…

Pilot X was a bright spark, so he knew that when his flight guide said that PPR was required at a private 500m farm strip, it was an instruction to be followed, especially when a telephone briefing was described as ‘essential’. He knew that half a kilometre of grass was quite a lot for some people with their Super Cubs and bar talk of bush flying, but to X, in his rented 150, this was his personal minimum.
He called the airfield owner the day before the flight and was treated to what seemed to be a very thorough briefing. The east/west strip was, apparently, a smidge over 500m and there were clear areas at either end. The grass was due to be cut the following weekend, so the runway itself was a little indistinct but Pilot X was just pleased to have a little more insurance than he’d expected and started to relax slightly.
There were no overhead joins allowed, with circuits to be flown not below 800ft (except at the obvious moments) and all carried out to the south of the field to avoid overflying a nearby village, meaning that 09 required a right-hand circuit and 27 a left-hand one. There were triple 33kV power lines mounted on wooden poles which ran north/south on the undershoot of 27, with orange ball markers on the lines themselves. The undershoot of 09 had a small copse of trees which were of various heights but some distance from the threshold and not a problem as long as pilots were aware of them.
There was a slight upslope from the 09 end but it was nothing to really concern yourself with, he was told. The surrounding trees and farm buildings could make things a little interesting if it was gusty, but Pilot X was told to arrive positively and felt sure that he could manage that. He booked himself in for the following day and sat down to plan his trip and check the Met.

Impressing the parents
The flight went swimmingly, with his girlfriend thoroughly enjoying what was only her second trip with him. The day was warm and clear with unending blue stretching out all around them and the coast just discernable in the distance. This was to be his first ever meeting with her parents and the Cessna was an attempt to impress.
Once he’d found the village, he spotted the differing greens of the field surprisingly early. The wind was from the southeast making a 09 arrival the most appropriate. He set himself up to arrive on downwind nice and early, giving him loads of time to assess things.
As he selected 30° of flap on final, the strip looked awfully short and the trees in the copse appeared alarmingly tall, but X had an element of headwind and the upslope to help him if he should land a little later than he wanted. He wondered, for a fraction of a second as he returned the carb air to cold, whether he was just particularly cowardly and other pilots found this so much easier.
Over the trees and no crunching or cracking; over the hedge; just grass now beneath the tyres; flare; close the throttle. Were they floating too much? No, the wheels touched, they were down and decelerating quickly. Actually, he was quite pleased with his landing and was even glad to discover that her parents had arrived early to pick them up and witnessed it.
Her father liked him immensely and made lots of approving noises around the little Cessna, far more than it had heard for many years! Her mother thought that he was some kind of fighter ace and actually used the word ‘dashing’ when she thought that he was out of earshot.
After a delightful meal at the local pub, he walked hand-in-hand with his girlfriend to her childhood home where X chatted for hours with her father about aeroplanes and airshows and, at some point much later in the afternoon than he’d expected to still be there, he offered to take her Dad for a quick trip before heading home.
When they arrived back at the strip, her father was as excited as a Labrador puppy. The wind had backed round to slightly favour a 27 take-off, but Pilot X didn’t mind as this gave him the downslope to use. He taxied out and lined up, making a blind call before opening the throttle. The aircraft was a little slow to pick up speed but once they were rolling down the slope that changed noticeably. Back over the trees with loads of space to spare he turned left and headed off to show her Dad his house from the air. There wasn’t that much to this strip flying after all.
The flight went well with her Dad treating him like a long-lost son, confiding his secret desire to build and fly a kit aeroplane following his retirement – which X was, understandably, keen to encourage. He joined on left base for 27 and was thinking well ahead of the aeroplane, planning to touch down nice and early because of that slight slope away from him.

The glare of the sun
He turned final and the glare of the low evening sun found every imperfection, blemish and squashed bug that the little 150 had picked up in all its years of service. Pilot X squinted through his shades but could clearly make out the airfield and the copse at the far end; his height was good, his speed was spot-on, he was really getting to grips with this strip flying.
Everything looked right until the point at which the aircraft seemed to swing left and stop in mid-air. The strip owner was standing near to Pilot X’s girlfriend and her Mum; all three later described seeing a bright sparking flash before the aircraft seemed to just drop, already in flames, before disappearing from view behind a barn. There was nothing left that was recognisable by the time they reached the crash site.

Questions
1 Everything seemed to go right for Pilot X so why did the wires catch him out?
2 What might he have done to remove or diminish that hazard?
3 With his newfound confidence in strip flying, were there any factors (apart from 33kV ones) that he overlooked?
#1092856
I'm puzzled by this. The downward sloping runway may have double bluffed him. Theory says you will percieve yourself as too high on such an approach, so he perhaps over compensated and ended up low.
Not being able to see the wires due to glare clearly didn't help, perhaps a pre flighting matter?

Confidence and ego buit up by his successful first landing and the praise from girflriend's father, plus a bit of pressonitis in regards to the approach may have added more holes to the cheese
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By kanga
#1092890
Jim Jones wrote:..
Not being able to see the wires due to glare clearly didn't help, perhaps a pre flighting matter?

..


.. particularly cleaning the windscreen ..
#1092896
Also, if he isnt used to a runway that size, he could think he was further away than he actually was - both not expecting the lines to be there (yet), and also lower than he thought he was.
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By Steve R
#1092970
I like to think that I'd have taken the uphill runway with a very slight tailwind. I've been badly caught out by landing into sun. Three approaches where I was trying to follow footpaths and hedges out to either side but still finding the runway centreline nowhere close enough when I could finally see it properly.

Smack forehead moment: 'there's very little wind, go the other way' and landed no problem off the next.
#1093009
Being a pedant, if the wind had BACKED from South East it would need to have gone round a long way to favour a 27 departure.
Nevertheless unless there was a significant amount of wind a 09 landing would have been the better option.
#1095988
Maybe runway slope perspective change allied with a pressure change since he landed and not resetting altimeter. He may well have been flying on the altimeter due to being unable to judge the height visually because of the glare.
By spaughty
#1105479
A couple of things:

2) Maybe just 10-20 minutes later the glare from the sun might have improved.

3) That long grass might have helped slow him down, but surely would not help the take off roll.