Report of a Stupid Landing

Please tell what happened and how it might have been avoided. Names should be ommitted. This forum should help others learn from mistakes that caused or nearly caused a mishap.
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Greg Kendall
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Joined: Sun Dec 24, 2006 9:42 am

Report of a Stupid Landing

Post by Greg Kendall » Fri Jun 19, 2009 9:41 pm

Here's a story about a screwed up landing that I had recently in my Litespeed S4. After sinking out, I headed for the landing zone with about enough height to do one normal pattern and land. The wind was probably 60° cross from the East, but it was light. On my upwind pass over the LZ, I hit some light lift but I opted not to work it because it would probably just take me over the houses.

I went on downwind and wasn't loosing any altitude, so I delayed the turns to base and final. I didn’t mean to, but I busted the no fly zone rather blatantly. Even so, I ended up on final, projecting a landing right at the base of the runaway glider ramp. Okay, I thought, embarrassing, crappy approach, but at least I won't end up missing the LZ.

Then I got turned to the left. The edge of the plateau slid by quickly. I decided I was too low to perform the maneuvers required to get back on track and opted to land straight ahead in the shitty part of the wash. The reasonable part of the wash was out of reach.

I knew I needed a good, on-time flair. Fortunately, that’s what I got. The glider came to a complete stop in the air and I basically plopped down on my butt on the edge of a small berm, luckily, without damage.

Joe Greblo ran over and pointed out that my VG was most of the way on. I had no clue. Actually there were plenty of clues, the slowed descent, the sluggish turns, the really nice flair. I just hadn't put it together. I have 360 hours and 185 landings on that glider (I still log that stuff), but my recent airtime has been somewhat sparse.

So what about the left turn? Joe, who saw the whole thing, thought that it either resulted from my hand change, or that the hand change impaired my ability to correct the turn. I don't remember the hand change and there's no video that I'm aware of (sorry if you missed it), but I would have been moving my right hand (the left was already on the upright), which might result in a left turn. However, I don't think that a hand change would have been enough of an input to make a Litespeed, with its VG on, turn. I make hand changes all the time without turns. Still, a hand change is a bad time to get hit with something. In any event, I probably gave it the VG-off turn correction, which wouldn't have been effective with the VG on.

I’ve accidentally landed with the VG on a few times before, without incident, but this one has me thinking I need a better way of preventing that. I’m also rethinking the hand change issue, but no conclusions on that yet.


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Post by Christian » Mon Jun 22, 2009 9:40 am

Thanks for an incident report useful to everybody.

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Post by stebbins » Mon Jun 22, 2009 1:36 pm

Thanks Greg. I'm glad you are ok, as is your glider.

It's always hard to post this stuff, I know. I thank you personally. I could easily see myself missing the VG off thing. I don't think I have more than once, but I could see it happening. So thanks for the reminder.

As for the hand change, there are many opinions, as I'm sure you are aware. Many top pilots insist that they only do it at the very last second. Many taught by Greblo insist that you do it high, and go to the downtubes early. I used to go one-up-one down high, then switch the second hand just before reaching trim. Then I started having issues and traced it to transitioning my hands earlier. I never turned, but I ended up slowing down a bit too soon (thus allowing the transition) and having to flare from 5 feet instead of right on the deck. No moon walk available at that altitude! I'm working on that. I have been doing it the Greblo way lateley: Hands low on the downtubes from several hundred feet in the air. Then slide them up. It seems to work. A bit more bar pressure than one-up-one-down, but worth it. The only exception is when it is particularly windy. If there isn't going to be a flare anyway, and I really want the easy pull in, I still do one-up-one-down. (Of course, nobody should be changing their hand position at intermediate altitudes. Either right on the deck, or high enough to fix any issues. Stalling, turning, missing the downtube etc. at 40-50 feet is not something any of us want!)

Your mileage may differ. As I said, many excellent pilots disagree with Greblo on this. I think he's right, but that's not my call to make for anyone but me. One thing that I am willing to argue for is making sure that your feet are out and down early. As Greg DeWolf said many years ago: "You can run faster on your feet than on your ears." Imagine if Greg had been prone. :o

Whatever you decide, Greg, thanks again for the post.

BTW, I flew my new Litespeed sail Saturday at Bear Mountain, in Tehachapi. (Semi-private site - not mine, I was a guest.) Got to 8500' and a bit. Fun. Landed in 20 mph winds at 4000 feet, so one-up-one-down. Then I found out it was only 10 on the ground. Not a big surprise, of course. High winds often mean high gradient. And I had lots of speed. But I did start to do the "rise up" thing, but I fixed it immediately. Then I did the moonwalk. Not hard in 10 mph. ;-)

Sorry there's so much here. This whole issue has been on my mind due to my temporary landing sloppiness.
Fly High; Fly Far; Fly Safe -- George

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