This is a piece from the Flyer Forum

Hello Iolanthe

Everybody makes mistakes, even very experienced pilots so do not worry about it. Increased life expectancy comes from learning by the mistakes of others!

Grass runways present completely different visual cues to the pilot, especially a student, so it’s not surprising that you had some problems with alignment, gliding angle. and touch down point.

Grass is useful for landing on especially if pre-planned!

Aiming to land on the runway or field threshold is a very bad habit to get into because it can remove your option of safe undershoot at many airfields and if you have an engine failure for real you will be lucky to survive an approach undershoot into a hedge. Once you saw the aircraft was aiming for the threshold you should have commenced a go around yourself (that was your major error)- if there is any doubt, there is no doubt, GO AROUND!

Trying to stretch the glide is a common problem. We teach aiming for the far end of the runway, clean and then bringing the aiming point back with flaps to a point one third the way down the landing runway.

We also teach increasing the best glide speed by 10 kts on base leg. This allows a greater safety margin on the finals turn and also keeps 10 kts in hand to correct any undershoot on final. (this is non standard and you should follow the advice of your own instructor)

Most students and many instructors, fail to realise that best glide speed is also Vmd, in other words the bottom of the drag curve. Once the speed goes below Vmd you become speed unstable and you need much more power to recover the airspeed and the ROD will increase dramatically, another reason for our + 10 kts. If you are flying a glide approach at Vmd you must ensure that you are flying the speed spot on.

If your tarmac runway has ice on it I would also expect the braking action on the grass to be poor. Any runway with poor braking action needs special attention and care, if not avoidance!

This advice from the CAA via their excellent safety sense leaflets:

Short wet grass should be treated with utmost caution, it can increase landing distances by 60% – it’s like an icy surface! Take account of all of these most carefully and then add an additional margin for safety before deciding. (Safety Sense Leaflet No. 7, ‘Aeroplane Performance’, recommends a 33% safety factor for take-off but 43% for landing.)

If you already have ice on it you may see why I would be very cautious!

From what you have posted I would recommend that you develop your situational awareness alongside your technical skills, as you progress. There tends to be a major concentration on technical skills in PPL training with not enough attention to SA. Knowing when and how to fly a go around is much more important than making a good landing.

Grass strips are great to fly out of but there are many traps for the unwary, have a look at these safety sense leaflets

Strip Sense
Aeroplane Performance

And remember the poster advice, THINK HEDGEROW not HEATHROW

Fly safe!

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Beware of unofficial met websites

It is essential for pilots to have accurate, current and comprehensive met information before flight.

The internet allows pilots instant access to weather information and apart from our own UK Met Office there are many other unofficial sites offering information. This unofficial information comes with two big important questions, is it reliable and is it current?

Wellesbourne, they claim, was the first GA airfield to provide live weather so I put ‘wellesbourne weather’ into the Google search engine and came up with this:

Wind NE – 6 kts QNH 1016

I became immediately suspicious when I saw the QNH of 1016 as at the same time the Staverton, (Gloucester) QNH was 1009 and such a pressure difference over a short distance would be rare unless it was a deep depression. In fact the correct page for the Wellesbourne weather is

Further investigation of the first Wellesboune site revealed that the currency date shewn was August 2011 – 4 months out of date, not bad for an actual!

So the first lesson is to always check the currency date, if it is shown of course, as well as backing it up with other information. We always use QNHs to get a guessed QFE for destination (to prevent mis setting of altimeters), so we always look and compare pressure settings.

I also spent a few days puzzling why another site was showing a Birmingham TAF with the same weather every day-it turned out to be locked and 3 months out of date but all the other UK TAFs seemed OK!

So be very careful of any website other that the UK Met Office. Before flight always check the Met Office TAFs and METARS and form 215.

While its good to see all these new weather sites you do need to be careful. It’s a shame that our own UK Met Office cannot provide a user friendly attractive website that is easy to navigate and is more in keeping with 2011. The met forms, especially 215, could do with a complete redesign and made to present information in simple English that a PPL can read easily.

Remember this advice below from the CAA safety sense Leaflet, VFR Navigation:

Get an aviation weather (including area) forecast, and if the actual weather
turns out worse than predicted KNOW WHEN TO TURN BACK OR DIVERT

Check NOTAMs at for latest airspace/frequency information
and Freephone 0500 354802 for late Restrictions/Red Arrows Displays

Get this PDF document from the Met Office to help with the understanding of met information and how to get hold of it:

Sign up for Met Office briefings here:

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Situational Awareness – essential for safe flight!

There are many definitions of situational awareness, a simple one is, knowing were you have been, where you are and where you are going! I also like this one from the FAA but it should be remembered that SA is not just about geographic position it is also concerned with what is happening to the aircraft and its systems too.

Situational awareness is the accurate perception and understanding of all the factors and conditions within the four fundamental risk elements (pilot, aircraft, environment, and type of operation) that affect safety before, during, and after the flight. Thus, loss of situational awareness results in a pilot not knowing where he or she is, an inability to recognize deteriorating circumstances, and the misjudgment of the rate of deterioration. (FAA)

Situational awareness is mainly about staying ahead of the aircraft, never let the aircraft go anywhere you haven’t already planned for! SA starts on the ground with comprehensive pre flight planning. You should already however be very familiar with the aircraft and its systems before you even arrive for briefing.





Now shall we deice the aircraft or not?

All of the following decided not to deice their aircraft or not to de ice and anti ice correctly

“On November 28, 2004, about 0958 mountain standard time, a Canadair, Ltd., CL-600-2A12, N873G, registered to Hop-a-Jet, Inc., and operated by Air Castle Corporation dba Global Aviation as Glo-Air flight 73, collided with the ground during takeoff at Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ), Montrose, Colorado. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and snow was falling. Of the six occupants on board, the captain, the flight attendant, and one passenger were killed, and the first officer and two passengers were seriously injured. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and postcrash fire. The flight was en route to South Bend Regional Airport (SBN), South Bend, Indiana.“

The probable cause of the accident was given as:

“…the flight crew’s failure to ensure that the airplane’s wings were free of ice or snow contamination that accumulated while the airplane was on the ground, which resulted in an attempted takeoff with upper wing contamination that induced the subsequent stall and collision with the ground. A factor contributing to the accident was the pilots’ lack of experience flying during winter weather conditions.”

On 4 January 2002, a Challenger 604 operated by Epps Air Service, crashed on takeoff from Birmingham, UK, following a loss of control due to airframe icing.

This is an extract from the History of Flight section of the official report into the accident published by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB):

“The next morning, the handling pilot and the observer arrived at the aircraft together at approximately 1040 hrs. Evidence from the dispatchers indicated that the APU was started at about 1050 hrs. The commander arrived at approximately 1100 hrs. At different times, each of the two crew members was seen to carry out an independent external inspection of the aircraft. Aircraft refuelling commenced at about 1105 hrs and the aircraft fuel tanks were reported full at about 1140 hrs. Then, following the arrival of the two passengers, the aircraft doors were closed. The occupants were the same as on the arrival flight. During the morning, various witnesses had seen frost/ice on the wing surfaces of N90AG. Other aircraft had been de-iced during the morning, with associated reports of severe to moderate ice accumulation. Evidence from the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) indicated that the operating pilots discussed the presence of frost on the leading edge prior to engine start. However, neither requested deicing and N90AG was not de-iced. The Birmingham METAR at 1150 hrs was as follows: surface wind 150°/6 kt; visibility 8,000 metres; cloud scattered at 700 feet agl and broken at 800 feet agl; temperature minus 2°C with dew point minus 3°C; QNH 1027 mb.

Following ATC clearance, engine start was at 1156 hrs and N90AG was cleared to taxi at 1201 hrs. All radio calls during the accident flight were made by the commander, seated in the right cockpit seat. During taxi, the crew completed their normal Before Takeoff Checks; these included confirmation that the control checks had been completed and that anti-ice might be required immediately after takeoff. Flap 20 had been selected for takeoff and the following speeds had been calculated and briefed by the pilots: V1 137 kt; Vr 140 kt; V2 147 kt. By 1206 hrs, the aircraft was cleared to line up on Runway 15. At 1207 hrs, N90AG was cleared for takeoff with a surface wind of 140°/8 kt. The pilot in the left seat was handling the controls. Takeoff appeared normal up to lift-off. Rotation was started at about 146 kt with the elevator position being increased to 8°, in the aircraft nose up sense, resulting in an initial pitch rate of around 4°/second. Lift-off occurred 2 seconds later, at about 153 kt and with a pitch attitude of about 8° nose-up. Once airborne, the elevator position was reduced to 3° aircraft nose-up whilst the pitch rate increased to about 5°/second. Immediately after lift-off, the aircraft started to bank to the left. The rate of bank increased rapidly and 2 seconds after lift-off the bank angle had reached 50°. At that point, the aircraft heading had diverged about 10° to the left. Opposite aileron, followed closely by right rudder, was applied as the aircraft started banking; full right aileron and full right rudder had been applied within 1 second and were maintained until the end of the recording. As the bank angle continued to increase, progressively more aircraft nose-up elevator was applied. Stick-shaker operation initiated 3.5 seconds after lift-off and the recorders ceased 2 seconds later. The aircraft struck the ground, inverted, adjacent to the runway. The last recorded aircraft attitude was approximately 111° left bank and 13° nose-down pitch; the final recorded heading was about 114°(M).

Causal factors identified in the report included:

“…The crew did not ensure that N90AG’s wings were clear of frost prior to takeoff…[and]..reduction of the wing stall angle of attack, due to the surface roughness associated with frost contamination, to below that at which the stall protection system was effective..”


Still not conjvinced, here are some more examples of professional pilots not understanding what being a professional pilot entails

  • SH36, vicinity Edinburgh UK, 2001 (GND LOC HF) (On 23 February 2001, a Loganair SD3-60 suffered double engine flameout shortly after take-off from Edinburgh, subsequently attributed to snow and ice accumulation in the engine intake systems. The crew ditched the aircraft into shallow water but the aircraft was severely damaged by the impact with the water and the forward fuselage was submerged. Neither crewmember survived.)
  • JS41, en-route, North West of Aberdeen UK, 2008 (HF GND WX LOC) (On 9 April 2008, an Eastern Airways BAe Jetstream 41 operating a passenger charter flight departed Aberdeen for Vagar, Faroe Islands in snow and freezing conditions, but had not been de-iced and anti-iced appropriately. During the flight the crew experienced difficulties controlling the aircraft. Descent into warmer air was initiated after an emergency was declared.)
  • D328, Isle of Man, 2005 (RE GND HF) (On 28 November 2005, a Dornier 328 being operated by EuroManx on a scheduled passenger service departing from Isle of Man for an unspecified destination was unable to rotate at the speed calculated as applicable and the take off was successfully rejected.)
  • C208, vicinity Pelee Island Canada, 2004 (WX HF GND LOC) (On 17 January, 2004 a Cessna 208 Caravan operated by Georgian Express, took off from Pellee Island, Ontario, Canada, at a weight significantly greater than maximum permitted and with ice visible on the airframe. Shortly after take off, the pilot lost control of the aircraft and it crashed into a frozen lake.)
  • DH8A, Ottawa Canada, 2003 (GND RE) (On 04 November 2003, a de Havilland DHC-8-100, being operated by Air Canada Jazz, was on a scheduled flight from Ottawa, Ontario, to Montréal (Dorval), Quebec, with 19 passengers and a crew of three. After deicing, the aircraft taxied to Runway 07 and was cleared for take-off. The crew carried out normal pre-take-off checks and commenced the take-off run. As rotation was attempted, the pilot felt a restriction to movement of the pitch controls and, as a result, the take-off was rejected.)
  • MD81, vicinity Stockholm Sweden, 1991 (GND HF LOC FIRE) (On 27 December 1991, after take-off from Arlanda Airport, Stockholm, an MD-81 operated by Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), experienced a failure of both engines following the ingestion of clear ice detaching from the wings. Subsequently, the crew executed a successful forced landing.)
  • B463, en-route, South of Frankfurt Germany, 2005 (LOC GND) (On 12 March 2005, a BAe-146-300 climbing out of Frankfurt experienced a loss of elevator control authority and an uncommanded descent at up to 4500 fpm whilst in a nose high pitch attde which was eventually arrested and subsequently attributed to the freezing of re-hydrated ground de/anti-ice fluid residues. The crew decided to continue to their originally-intended destination since it offered the prospect of more favourable weather conditions for landing. The aircraft later landed at Stuttgart after using elevator trim to control pitch attitude.)
  • CL60, Montrose USA, 2004 (GND LOC HF FIRE) (On 28 November 2004, a Challeger 601 operated by Global Aviation crashed on takeoff from Montrose, Colorado, USA, following loss of control due to airframe icing.)
  • C208, Helsinki Finland, 2005 (WX GND LOC HF) (On 31 January 2005, a Cessna 208 stalled and crashed on take off from Helsinki-Vantaa following failure to properly de-ice the aircraft.)

Chicago Convention- always asked in PPL aviation law exam

Everyone moans about the Chicago Convention questions in the air law exam-your captain says,

“stop moaning and start learning”!

Article 1: Every state has complete and exclusive sovereignty over airspace above its territory.

Article 5: (Non-scheduled flights over State’s Territory): The aircraft of states, other than scheduled international air services, have the right to make flights across state’s territories and to make stops without obtaining prior permission. However, the state may require the aircraft to make a landing.

Article 6: (Scheduled air services) No scheduled international air service may be operated over or into the territory of a contracting State, except with the special permission or other authorization of that State.

Article 10: (Landing at customs airports): The state can require that landing to be at a designated customs airport and similarly departure from the territory can be required to be from a designated customs airport.

Article 12: Each state shall keep its own rules of the air as uniform as possible with those established under the convention, the duty to ensure compliance with these rules rests with the contracting state.

Article 13: (Entry and Clearance Regulations) A state’s laws and regulations regarding the admission and departure of passengers, crew or cargo from aircraft shall be complied with on arrival, upon departure and whilst within the territory of that state.

Article 16: The authorities of each state shall have the right to search the aircraft of other states on landing or departure, without unreasonable delay…

Article 24: Aircraft flying to, from or across, the territory of a state shall be admitted temporarily free of duty. Fuel, Oil, spare parts, regular equipment and aircraft stores retained on board are also exempt custom duty, inspection fees or similar charges.

Article 29: Before an international flight, the pilot in command must ensure that the aircraft is airworthy, duly registered and that the relevant certificates are on board the aircraft. The required documents are:

Certificate of Registration
Certificate of Airworthiness
Passenger names, place of boarding and destination
Crew licences
Journey Logbook
Radio Licence
Cargo manifest

Article 30: The aircraft of a state flying in or over the territory of another state shall only carry radios licensed and used in accordance with the regulations of the state in which the aircraft is registered. The radios may only be used by members of the flight crew suitably licenced by the state in which the aircraft is registered.

Article 32: the pilot and crew of every aircraft engaged in international aviation must have certificates of competency and licences issued or validated by the state in which the aircraft is registered.

Article 33: (Recognition of Certificates and Licences) Certificates of Airworthiness, certificates of competency and licences issued or validated by the state in which the aircraft is registered, shall be recognised as valid by other states. The requirements for issue of those Certificates or Airworthiness, certificates of competency or licences must be equal to or above the minimum standards established by the Convention.

Article 40: No aircraft or personnel with endorsed licenses or certificate will engage in international navigation except with the permission of the state or states whose territory is entered. Any license holder who does not satisfy international standard relating to that license or certificate shall have attached to or endorsed on that license information regarding the particulars in which he does not satisfy those standards”.