By Alex Gibbs
Airstrip Out Landings
Better than a Field?
In the lock-down I wanted to prepare well for doing some cross country flying. Like many of use I used the “Condor” simulator to prepare. But I also looked at the land we fly over to work out potential airfields and landing spots that you could use in event that you need to land-out. Having had few landouts I must say the ones on airstrips highly preferable to farmland!
In the UK we there are several sources* showing these landing strips, these along with satellite pictures give you a rather good idea of, if it should come to worst, I could get my glider down there! Over flying these places and taking a good look is a better still. In this article I share some of the locations of landing strips I have “discovered” and programmed into my Oudie glide computer. As many of the places are private there is no one single guide to all the airstrips in the UK. Finding them is a bit of “project”.
The importance of land out planning may be diminishing in gliding, just take a look on the BGA ladder and you see the vast majority of very long flights are done by gliders with a “MoP” (that’s Means of Propulsion, more commonly known as Engine).”.
This year I am been fortunate enough to start some serious cross country flying. Over the years I been around gliding I have tried to build up a kind of wisdom on how it should be done. Steve Williams, once told me that he knew a chap from NASA (from which I assumed he know a thing or two about flying) who did not do so much cross country gliding due to the amount of planning required. From this my takeaway was that you need to think through and visualize a flight and consider all the diversion options and what could possibly go wrong. I noticed in the planning that the “British Juniors” do for non-racing tasks (so called AAT tasks where the idea is to see who can fly the furthest in a set time and space), at the top of the page the mantra is “We don’t land-out”. Achieving this is a combination of good flying and not trying to go beyond what the “Met” (weather) enables you to do. From Kevin Atkinson I picked-up a thinking which says always have three options – Cloud A if no good Cloud B if no good Cloud C. In my rather limited experience, most xc flights are not perfect and at some point in the flight you will be working with Option C. We therefore have to accept that landout risk crops up at some point. In this event you can manage the risk somewhat by knowing some good options in advance and having them set on the computer / moving map.
There are several advantages in at least knowing some options before and during a flight…
A landing strip is a surface where other aeroplanes land! This takes out some of the surface, slope size risks. Stubble fields may be OK, but just take a walk around them lots of ruts, holes and stones; lovely.
You can plan the flight over areas where viable landing options exist, this gives you additional confidence about where you are going and how things could play out if landing out.
Airfields can give you a better option for an aerotow out – this can save quite a lot of disruption to your and other people’s lives (except the tug pilot’s). eve.
An airstrip may be easier to access than a field for a road retrieve.
The draw backs are, they are made for GA planes so may be bit narrow for a “big ship”. Many are used by Micro-lights so have runway whilst usable can be a short as 400m. Some places are OK about non PPR (Prior Permission Required) visitors, some may be not. Many take the form of a strip on the edge of a field and so not so easy find.
Of course, from an airmanship perspective it critical that just like at the home field you get the glider clear of the runway immediately after landing! There have been instances where some members of the gliding community have left their gliders on private airstrips runways for the owners to “discover” when they return from a day out in the Cessna. What great way to introduce yourself!