- By 2000 FT. If landing appears probable, fly to a suitable area, preferably flat and unobstructed. Remember you will cover far more ground if you fly down wind.
- By 1500 FT. Pick an area with 2 or 3 potentially suitable fields: consider the surrounding terrain.
- Are there hills to create turbulence or surface wind problems?
- Are there TV cables, TV masts or other large obstacles?
- Does the ground slope visibly? If so is it to steep?
- Stay orientated with wind direction experienced during the cross-country – relate to sun position.
- By 1000 FT. Select your field considering the following:
- Surface Wind – assess the wind by means of your drift or by smoke. Always aim to land in a direction, which will give you a substantial headwind component.
- Field Length – remember the apparent size of any field is seen relative to the size of those surrounding it. Know the topography of the country over which you are flying. A good field for a modern glider would be 500 – 600 yards long with relatively unobstructed boundaries.
- Obstructions – obstructions reduce the useable field length by at least 10 times the height at which you clear them. Trees and buildings will also create turbulence.
- Slope – any visible down slope in the field is unacceptable. A similar upslope would be acceptable (the wheel brake will be needed). Examine surrounding fields for slope indications. Fields at the bottom of a valley often suffer from excessive slope.
- Surface – look for fields in the following order of priority:
- Grass – but beware of strip grazing indicating electric fences – any shading in the grass surface almost certainly indicates the presence of fencing.
- Short Crop – the surface should appear more brown than green.
- Other cropped fields may present a hazard on landing – remember half-ripe crops may look like stubble – consider the season!
- Stock – Sheep panic, run and sometimes jump up. Cows are curios, horses bolt. A solitary cow is probably a bull! Try to avoid fields with stock in them.
- By 800 ft AGL – Position the glider well upwind and well to one side of your field – visualise the length of the downwind leg at your home airfield. Use pre-selected ground reference points to maintain orientation and positioning. Be conscious of the tendency to cramp your circuit and plan to avoid doing so.
- Base Leg Position – Plan to be abeam your touchdown by 400 to 500 ft. resist the common tendency to position the base leg to close – plan for a half airbrake approach. Select a safe approach speed. Excessive speed will usually result in overshooting the field. Allow an adequate margin of height over obstructions. Once you are certain you can safely clear them use full airbrake to achieve an early touch down. Aim for minimum touch down speed on rough surfaces. Ground looping is common when landing in crop. Concentrate on keeping the wings level and retract flaps if necessary.
Guidance for glider pilots following a field landing
Glider pilots almost always set off on a flight that will result in a landing back at the base airfield. Occasionally a flight does not quite go to plan and can result in a field landing. So glider pilots need the co-operation of farmers and landowners. Their assistance and goodwill is imperative for the future of our sport. What follows is set of guidelines, based on a document produced by Lasham, to assist glider pilots in their interaction with farmers and landowners after a field landing. Field selection and how to land in a field are separate topics not covered by this document.
By landing in a field without first gaining the landowners permission, a pilot is committing an actionable civil wrong. In the eyes of the law the pilot is trespassing. With this in mind, it is clearly appropriate to be humble, polite and apologetic having landed uninvited on someone’s land. Think about how you would feel if someone appeared uninvited in your back garden.
Meeting the Farmer
Of course you must find the farmer or a representative of the farmer – it's time well spent while waiting for your crew. First impressions count and your being there is going to cost the farmer time if nothing else. Farmers are very busy people. Bear this in mind when introducing yourself. Stress that your landing in his field was not planned. Explain what you were trying to do. Let the farmer know that you will try to ensure you will be as little trouble to him as possible and that with his permission you can remove your aircraft with the minimum of fuss and trouble.
Almost always when landing in a field, a road retrieve is the only or best option. Aerotow retrieves should be approached with great caution. If an aerotow retrieve is appropriate, ask the farmers permission and explain what will happen. Understandably, most farmers will have no prior experience of an aircraft taking off from their land, let alone two aircraft joined by a rope. So take time to explain it clearly.
Damage to the Field or other Property
If damage has been caused to crop etc, your glider third party insurance will cover any related costs. Do not offer to pay compensation there and then and do not admit any liability. The landowner or farmer may quickly estimate the value of any damage and demand that you pay up. Accurately valuing crop or other damage is a job for a professional assessor and your insurance company will make the arrangements. Exchange addresses and insurance company names with the landowner, and contact your insurance company as soon as possible. The insurer will assess the damage and if appropriate, will reimburse the farmer. If possible, take photos of any damage as this may help in the event of a dispute.
Farmers have been known to request a landing fee for both balloons and gliders. Balloons are mostly commercial ventures and may have up to 20 people on board all paying their way. The farmer quite understandably expects a slice of the action. Gliders are different – we aim to get back to our base airfield and are not commercially operated. If the farmer wants a landing fee from you;
- Do not dismiss him out-of-hand
- Ask why he thinks it is necessary