Precautionary landing

Submitted by on Tue, 15.01.2013 - 00:00

There are times during flight training when I sense some students feel they are doing a lot of training for an incident that will probably never occur. This may be true and I hope that none of us have to experience a serious in-flight emergency. However, statistics show that an incident can happen to anyone at anytime. And, unfortunately incidents do not choose an ideal time to happen or the most experienced pilot. More often than not it is the weekend pilot out for an enjoyable morning or afternoon flight.


Until this past summer, I did not personally know anyone, other than myself who actually had to complete a real precautionary landing. When I say a real precautionary landing, I am not talking about the one we should do at all times when we are unsure of the surface conditions at an airport, lake (floats) or snow covered field (skis). But, one where we actually have to apply the procedures taught during training in the event of deteriorating weather, a medical or mechanical problem.

In my situation it was the weather. I was in a poker rally one summer, in the mid 1970's, en route from Smiths Falls to Carp. We were aware that rain was moving in from the west, however after a check with the weather office and consultation with other pilots, decided it was safe to depart. All looked fine initially. However, as we got closer to Perth, I started to question my decision to leave Smiths Falls. My co-flyer that day had just received his Private Licence the week before and when I suggested we turn back, he was quick to agree.

To make a long story short, the visibility dropped considerably in a very short period of time and it was getting rather dark. We knew there was an abandoned airfield close by and quickly proceeded towards it. After a pass to check things out we completed the circuit, turned onto final, opened the windows (the rain on the windshield made it impossible to see - something you don't usually have an opportunity to experience during training) and made a safe landing.

There was a farmhouse close by and as the storm passed, we spent an enjoyable couple of hours in front of the fireplace drinking coffee and chatting.

It is not unusual to see Club member Yves Gelinas flying his C150 (C-FJBN) on the weekends and evenings during the summer. On Father's day last year, Yves was en route to the Laurentide area and an in-flight situation arose. The result was a precautionary approach and landing on Regional Highway 125.

After the incident Yves made a point of telling me how surprised he was at the positive response he was receiving from the instructors at the Club and how we were all supporting the decisions he made that day. When I questioned Yves about this, he expected that we would rant on about how he should have done this or that, etc. etc. I pointed out that a major objective of each instructor is to instill good Pilot Decision-Making (PDM) abilities and trust that, when a student obtains his/her Licence, they are able to apply this along with the other skills they receive during training.

When we see or hear about a successful decision being made, we trust that somewhere along the way, we may have had an influence on that outcome. Therefore, how can we not support the practices we teach? Unfortunately, sometimes it does not turn out as positive as this incident and then we question why the pilot did not use the skills or apply the training that we know he/she was taught.

I thank Yves for sharing his experience with us and congratulate him on a job well done.

Safe Flying, Everyone!

Simon Garrett