Safety Briefing Field Landing

Safety Briefing
Field Landing
Field landings can stretch any pilot’s experience and flying
abilities. This safety briefing is aimed at all glider pilots,
regardless of experience.
Plan Ahead - and Above All, Fly the Glider
Field selection and flying a circuit into a field can easily
result in stress and distraction if the pilot allows that to
happen. Late field selection is a known cause of many field
landing accidents. It’s obvious why. Planning ahead helps
any pilot reduce the pressure and reduce distractions.
Before flight, think what are the fields are like at the time
of year and in your area. Is the wind likely to be light
or strong during the flight? Light means longer landing
areas and it’s easier to get the direction wrong. Strong
might mean challenging turbulence and wind gradients
on approach.
Field Selection
Well before reaching circuit height, identify an area with 2 or
3 potentially suitable landing fields. Consider the surrounding terrain.
Are there hills that might create turbulence or surface
wind problems?
Are there power cables or other significant obstacles?
Does the ground slope visibly? If so, is it too steep to
land uphill if other factors allow that?
Select a field having considered the following:
Size. Pick the biggest available and suitable field. Consider corner to corner.
Surface Wind. Stay orientated with the wind direction at
all times. Assess the wind through a mix of PDA wind,
cloud shadow, drift or by smoke. Always aim to land in
a direction which will give you a substantial headwind
Surrounds. How will the field surroundings affect the
approach? Obstructions reduce the useable field length
by at least 10 times the height at which you clear them.
Wires are tricky to see. Trees and buildings will also
create turbulence.
If you can self-retrieve with an engine, practice flying
a circuit at your home site with the engine deployed
but not running. Refer to your Flight Manual and other
experienced pilots.
Slope. Fields at the bottom of a valley often suffer from
excessive slope. Slope is best seen from the side rather
than above. Any visible down slope is unacceptable.
Upslope is acceptable but needs great care particularly with approach speed, round-out and hold-off. Be
prepared to use the wheel brake to prevent the glider
rolling back.
Inadvertent stall/spin is a known cause of many
life-changing injuries. At all times and above all else,
Stock. Sheep panic, run and sometimes jump up. Cows
are curious. Horses bolt. A solitary cow is probably a
bull! Try to avoid fields with stock in them.
Surface. Look for landing fields in the following order of
preference, taking into consideration the time of year:
Always fly a glider so that if necessary you can comfortably reach a suitably flat and unobstructed area that
you can be confident of landing on safely. Remember
that you will normally cover far more ground if you fly
down wind.
Incorporate field landings into your soaring plan. Once
you have surveyed the sky ahead, spare a thought for
the terrain below – even if you are fairly high. When
the signs are trying to tell you that you are not going to
be airborne for much longer, it is important to accept
that you will soon need somewhere to land. Denial or
misplaced self-belief can result in dangerously late
Field Landing
Edition 1.1, April 2016
1. Known safe landing strips/runways
Further Information
2. Stubble fields
In addition to the mandatory Cross-Country endorsement
field landing requirement, it is recommended that pilots
undertake periodic field landing refresher training in an
3. Grass fields. Beware of surface unevenness and strip
grazing indicating electric fences. Any shading in the
grass surface almost certainly indicates the presence of
something potentially hazardous
4. Short crop fields. The surface should appear more
brown than green. Some cropped fields may present a
hazard on landing. Remember half ripe crops may look
like stubble
Read more and check out the field landing briefing videos at
If you have a turbo, jet, FES or other means of propulsion,
having identified a potential field, you can attempt an engine
start knowing that you have a carefully selected field on
hand if needed.
The Circuit, Approach and Landing
Make sure you can identify your chosen field even if you
lose sight of it briefly. It may be helpful to select a unique
ground feature that can help you identify the direction from
which you shortly intend to approach.
Increase the frequency of airspeed monitoring. fly the
As per any other circuit you’ve flown, position the glider well
upwind and well to one side of your chosen landing area
(the field).
Be conscious of and avoid the natural tendency to cramp
the circuit. Always use height, distance and angle to get
the ‘picture’ looking right. Don’t forget that airbrakes can be
used in any phase of flight if required. Monitor the airspeed.
Plan for a half to two-thirds airbrake approach. Select a
safe approach speed. Excessive speed will usually result in
overshooting the field. Be extremely wary of approaching
between trees and finding wires in the gap. If you have to
overfly obstructions, allow an adequate margin of height.
Once you are certain you can safely clear any obstructions,
use full airbrake to achieve an early touch down. Carry out
a fully held-off landing. To reduce the risk of running into a
hole, avoid taxiing. Ground looping is common when landing
in crop. Concentrate on keeping the wings level and retract
flaps on the ground roll if that will help.
Field Landing
Photograph © WJP Photography
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