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PFL tips wanted

Old 5th Sep 2011, 20:48
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: UK
Posts: 148
PFL tips wanted

I've yet to make a decent job of PFLs and it's starting to emerge as an obstabcle ( I hear most students find there's at least one thing that seems to be tricky to master). Any tips, or any suggestions of good places to read about the technique?

How long does this normally take to get right? I've had about 5 attempts I guess - but only ever one attempt in a lesson. Not yet having done one good one, it's not as if I feel I have got the basics sorted out. If I can get the basics under control, I figure I would then refine it.
CharlieDeltaUK is offline  
Old 5th Sep 2011, 21:06
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Join Date: Nov 2005
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Best solution is go learn to fly a glider!! Every landing is a forced one!!
S205-18F is offline  
Old 5th Sep 2011, 21:16
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Join Date: Feb 2000
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Has your instructor given you a full groundschool session on PFLs? If not, I'd suggest asking for one. It's a complex subject not well taught by doing it all in the air.

Genghis the Engineer is offline  
Old 5th Sep 2011, 21:17
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I tried the glider route, but it just didn't want to come down, so was not at all like a SEP with an engine out.

I'd recommend asking your instructor to demonstrate the constant aspect approach and see how you get on with that. I found it much easier than trying to fly a standard pattern.
soay is offline  
Old 5th Sep 2011, 22:13
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Join Date: Jun 2001
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Practice makes it better, there are lots of variables wind, height, gliding characteristics but what is taught in the ppl is a basic formula for you to develop later.Don't try to over complicate it.

We used to do a technique which will probably get shot down because its too formulaic. It was:

Engine failure
1)Trim for gliding speed
2 )Turn into wind
3) look on the left (thats your field).
4) fly your left hand circuit around the field.

Most ppls cant fly a pfl for toffee and waste most of the first 1000' of gliding looking for a field to land in. Doing the above sorts all that out (the instructor won't start you on a pfl where you can't make a decent circuit unless he's really mean or thinks you can handle it)

5) Get used to constant aspect which means the field should always in the same place down the wing(when they are level in a low wing a/c) . If the field is beyond the wingtip you wont make it, it needs to be within half to 3/4 of a wingspan for the average ac to reach it.The raf used to say it had to be within the roundels on a chipmunk)

obviously theres the relight, mayday and shut down checks to fit in. It also assumes you are at sufficient height to get around the field but for training the engine failure usually happens at 2500-3000' so unless theres a howling wind blowing thats enough.

You actually have a lot of time, just follow the training.

Once you get used to a standard pfl you can do variations. (eg pfl at 500', turn into wind and accept whatevers ahead of you)

Don't know if that helps but Good luck
18greens is offline  
Old 5th Sep 2011, 22:15
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Join Date: Dec 2009
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If you have done glide approaches before you are almost halfway there, just conceptualize that all the other stuff at altitude is done to get you into the correct position to perform a glide approach then the last part is easy.

But the most important piece of advice is, fly the plane.
flyinkiwi is offline  
Old 5th Sep 2011, 22:24
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Join Date: May 2007
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Fly it - Point it - Sort it

Trade speed for height as you look for a field

Get it to 75, or whatever suits your aircraft

Try a restart / mayday (Simulated)

Fly the pattern to arrive with a Long base/Short final

No flaps until you know you are going to make it.

Most of all, be ready for the instructor to fail the engine a second time, a few seconds after he gives you it back and tells you to climb away.
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Old 5th Sep 2011, 22:34
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Can you side slip the aircraft you are learning on? If yes, get some instruction on how to and all your problems will go away.

Rod1 is offline  
Old 5th Sep 2011, 23:44
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You will probably feel more confident if you get the chance to actually do a practice pfl to a landing. Not always easy to find an airfield to do this but well worth the practice if you can.
Agree with Rod re s/slipping,but not sure if this is current practice in the GA world, and it also helps to reduce shock cooling the engine on the training machine.
Half the battle with a real emergency is overcoming the fact that it has happened.If you adopt a simple system that you find easy to remember (with occaisional practice if poss) then you will then go into 'auto mode', and give yourself more clear time to deal with it.
Remember military trained pilots will have spent a large part of their time learning to cope with emergencies (prob more time than the entire PPL course in hours time) so you will have to keep it simple and concentrate on the important things like not loosing control or trying to stretch a glide. I could add that your choice of route when planning a flight can give you a useful edge, and In fact you are already improving your capabilities by seeking input from others.Good luck (but dont rely on the luck factor)
POBJOY is offline  
Old 6th Sep 2011, 07:11
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And here are two more proverbs.

As soon as the aircraft lets you down (e.g. by failing its engine) it's no longer yours but belongs to the insurance company.

It's better to have a good landing (under control, at the lowest possible airspeed) in a bad field, than a bad landing in a good field.

Fly it - Point it - Sort it
I like it! Far easier than a five-step approach, or a circuit with different checkpoints and heights. Keep it simple!

Personally what I do in a PFL is pick a field quickly that I know I can easily make. I then fly whatever circuit is necessary to align myself with that field and more or less into the wind. I then use flaps and side slips to get rid of whatever excess height I have.

For starters, this means that you don't have to worry about careful trimming for best glide speed straight away. After all, I'm trying to get the plane down in one piece, not make a record gliding flight in the process. Obviously you're not going to maintain cruise speed all the way down, but just doing one or two turns on the trim wheel will give you a speed which is reasonably close to best glide, and that's good enough.

The other thing that is implied is that sorting out the problem and attempting a restart is *only* attempted when you've got the plane under control and you've got a plan to get the aircraft down. Only then, and only if you have spare mental capacity and time, do you attempt a restart.

And obviously that restart is from memory, not from a paper checklist. The planes we typically fly are so simple that if you have fuel, air and ignition, the engine should run. If it doesn't, well, there's nothing you can do about it.

Fuel: On the correct tank (switch tanks if possible/able/needed), fuel pump on, mixture rich.
Air: Alternate air/carb heat on, full throttle
Ignition: Check and cycle the magnetos.

If the engine is fully stopped (not windmilling), try to restart by air start or with the starter. (Note that this really only applies to aerobatics flight. If you have a full engine stop - not windmilling - during cruise flight, it's almost 100% certain that you have a mechanical failure of some sort that will prevent the engine from turning.)
BackPacker is offline  
Old 6th Sep 2011, 19:46
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As others have said the most important part of the PFL is flying the aircraft. Many instructors, especially new ones try to teach everything at once when you get to the PFL exercise, so the poor student is trying to use some elaborate field selection protocol, while doing checks and passenger briefs and radio calls, which means the "flying the aircraft" part inevitably suffers.

I start with a demo on a field and the only talking I do is about what I am looking for out the window (ie the constant aspect) and emphasizing the importance of trimming for and holding the glide attitude. The student then practices just the flying part and only when he/she has that well in hand is all the other bumph added.

And remember about 80% of all engine failures are caused by the actions or inactions of the pilot, with fuel exhaustion/contamination/mismanagement and carb ice on the top of the hit parade.

The least likely cause of an engine failure is a sudden mechanical failure which gave no warning. Also flying schools train the hell out of sudden total power loss situations but they almost never talk about a partial engine failure which is a far more likely scenario.

Last edited by Big Pistons Forever; 6th Sep 2011 at 21:00.
Big Pistons Forever is offline  
Old 6th Sep 2011, 20:03
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Join Date: Oct 2004
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Posts: 5,876
The secret of flying a PFL is to assess and maintain the correct angle to the field. Forget about all the other things you have to do, just learn to fly the pattern. The aircraft needs to be in trim, then you can relax and it flies itself. You need to be shown the correct angles and how to establish them, then simply sit back and watch the aiming point, if the angle steepens, turn away, if it shallows turn towards. Remember you have to take the aircraft to the field, it won't come to you.
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