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Precautionary landings - would anybody do one, really?

I think the concept was OK in the WW1 era, when the rag and tube planes had a Vs of about 30kt and could be put into 100m of grass and flown out again before the farmer found you.

Also, back then, there was no way to navigate other than map+compass so few people would have ventured into difficult territory. Today, GPS has dropped the bottom out of the navigation business so it is trivially easy to fly into totally unfamiliar territory.

Today, very few owners of PA28s and above are going to do it, because they will have a bill well into 4 figures carting the plane out, and that’s assuming no damage.

I guess a renter is more likely to do it, but still the evidence is that virtually none of them do.

Psychologically, it’s not hard to see why people who are surrounded by weather rather kill themselves (fly into terrain in IMC / loss of control in IMC) than put the plane into an unprepared field, from which they probably can’t fly out again.

Should there be a different training emphasis e.g. some sort of usable instrument flying competence?

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

A hot topic certainly.

One consideration though. If we are talking Europe, I would say that in 90% of all flying there is always some sort of suitable runway (an airport, a farm strip, a gliding site, a military airport, a disused airport) within 5 miles or so. Germany is full of glider sites. UK is full of disused airfields. France has lots of of private airfields. All these will always allow a subsequent departure in flight.

I think this is what training should be more focused on. In my experience, most PPL students – when faced with a precautionary landing scenario in training – fail to realize how many suitable runways there are close by. A consequence of over-regulation (am I allowed to do this?) killing common sense.

Last Edited by boscomantico at 11 Jan 17:47
Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

That’s my favourite reason to always fly as HIGH as possible. From FL 95 you are almost always in gliding distance to SOME field over Germany

Yes, but Peter was not talking about glide approaches (engine failure) but precautionary landings. So no need to be within gliding distance for that reason. An airfield within 5 or maybe 10 miles will save the day in most or all “bad weather” scenarios.

Last Edited by boscomantico at 11 Jan 18:12
Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

MY craft is at the forefront of progress of course, it was built in 2011 and its stall speed is a hefty 25% higher than the stated WW1 figure. But I was trained to consider an out-landing a non-event, indeed, and that’s the way it should be. Didn’t have to do any, as yet; but the one time I felt close to it my adrenaline levels went sky high – which could not be said for the aeroplane.

On every test or examination I took, the other person on board cut the engine at some moment – once it happened when only a few feet off the ground so I landed again, another time overhead at circuit altitude plus 500’, I performed a normal power-out landing – non-events, really.

But the one place I would distrust for an out-landing is a disused airfield (unless I knew the place): at least there will be potholes, and likely as not there will be barriers set up. Or the place might have become a natural reserve, like the one at 51.317953 N , 4.800940 E for just one example, landing there would unleash all the green devils.

And I absolutely agree with Alexis that we should fly as high as practical – but for a lot of my flying this is still limited to 2500 AMSL, and never more than 4500’ in my own country. Luckily, it’s not a big one.

As for the “cautionary” bit: yes I was trained to do this rather too soon than too late. The one thing that would surely prompt me to it is unusual vibration in the engine.

Last Edited by at 11 Jan 18:22
EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

A precautionary landing is not a deadstick landing. It is a deliberate landing in a field, or perhaps on a road.

It is for PPL pilots who cannot officially fly in IMC, and are thus trained to land more or less immediately below (if faced with IMC is all directions).

UK is full of disused airfields. France has lots of of private airfields. All these will always allow a subsequent departure in flight.

That’s certainly not true for the UK. Most long-disused airfields are ripped up (you would smash the plane up landing on broken up concrete) or covered in junk, parked cars, etc. The only disused runway I can think of immediately which is fully usable is Coltishall, near Norwich.

Last Edited by Peter at 11 Jan 18:32
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Yes, you have a point. I would only use one (whose condition I don’t know) in cases which are on the verge from “precautionary” to “emergency”. Probably still much better than landing in an agricultural field if that’s the other alternative.

Also, as mentioned, a precautionary landing entails a previous low level overflight of the landing surface in order to assess its condition.

Last Edited by boscomantico at 11 Jan 19:23
Mainz (EDFZ), Germany


I would not hesitate to do one in a suitable aeroplane (C152, C172 or Pa28 for example). An instructor colleague of mine once performed a precautionary landing because his “bladder pressure” had reached a dangerous level and no aerodrome was within ten minutes reach and he could find no suitable container to drain some of the painful liquid…

EDDS - Stuttgart

I must admit I think I would try all other reasonable tactics than a precautionary landing in a field, particularly where it one that one might be able to get into, but one might not be able to get out of safely. Depending on the surface, besides anything else there may be wheel damage or something. The hassle of securing the plane, explaining yourself to the farmer or landowner, getting home, explaining it to other people who may or may not be sympathetic.

I got my IMCr so if it was purely a weather problem, then I could handle it for a while, and try and get D&D on 121.5 find me a safe airfield / airport to land at instead. If it was a mechanical issue (loss of oil pressure, funny noises), then I probably would, as at least there would be some ‘evidence’ it was not a foolish decision. Plus, unless you really do circle the field 2 times or whatever the preferred method for a precautionary landing is, there is no guarantee your field of choice will be any better than one on an engine out failure. Adding to my reasoning for trying to find an airfield, even a disused one. In the UK, there’s a old WWII used/disused airfield every 20 miles or so (loosely speaking).

Vfr into imc is still the main killer for ga. Imc can surround you very quickly and an airport 5 miles away, will be too far away.

My own mindset is if on a vfr flight and I got caught out by weather or a partial loss of power/rough running, I would certainly plan a precautionary landing. It is a life saver and not emphasised enough in the gft for ppls.

It is one of the reasons I am fond of FG SEP, a PA28 is quite robust to protect you, and more importantly passengers in a precautionary landing. If it can’t be flown out, who cares, your passengers are safe and the Caa will not be criticising this aspect of the flight.

Higher kinetic energy aircraft, and multi, I always would advise should be flown with IFR currency.

Cirrus has designed a $750 k aircraft where it sincerely hopes the pic will pull the caps if the situation requires it, to protect the passengers.

I am sure Cessna and Piper designers, who arguably have made a great effort to design safety into their aircraft, planned their designs to be landed in a precautionary landing.

The renaissance of strip flying, especially in the US, with aircraft like the Cub, Citabria and rans S7, suggests that the skills needed for precautionary landings are not consigned to ww1 nostalgia.

Ps just noted my avatar has a Super Cub at a WW1 airfield, so I guess there may be some nostalgia in my opinion.

Last Edited by RobertL18C at 12 Jan 07:17
Oxford (EGTK)
27 Posts
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