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A great trip, a lesson learnt and experience gained


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Hi All

 

I just thought I would post about a trip that I did on Sunday as I got a fright and learnt a big lesson - we are all human!

 

I went from Riddells Creek up to Shepparton - great trip with some small puffy clouds hanging around at about 3,000ft. I really enjoyed zig zagging around them although I could have gone under or over but I was just enjoying being up there with them.

 

Landed at Shepp and as usual the landing was like putting your hand on the bottom of a new born baby - really smooth with only "just" feeling the wheels touch the ground.

 

Went over to Echuca - yes another perfect landing even with a slight 8kn crosswind, and it was even commented on by a guy standing there who is just putting the finishing touches on rebuilding a GT that he was very proud off so naturally I wanted to have good look and I congratulated him on it.

 

Left Echuca and went down to Ballarat for their briefing - great to meet up with some of you guys from here - the briefing was on what nuts and bolts you can touch but only in GA. Stayed for the barby afterwards and with the odd scattered cloud high in the sky left at about 4:40pm - just over an hour to end of daylight at 5:56pm. It was only going to be a 30min trip so no problems and the sky looked ok.

 

About two thirds of the way there the sky turned black, the ground turned black and all of a sudden I realised that night time was arriving early with the help of complete cloud cover that had hit really quickly. My immediate thoughts were do I turn back, precautionary search or what. Turning back may have put me from the frying pan into the fire as my trip had already taken an extra 5 to 8 mins due to heavy tiger country that I decided to go around as there was airspace right above me at 3,500ft and a precautionary wasn't warranted just yet so I full throttled (well nearly) running the revs at 5,499.99 for the remainder of the trip to Riddells Creek.

 

Now before I go any further when I got to Riddells I will clarify what I mean by "dark" in this case. It was 5:30pm - 26 minutes before last light but it was half way between day time and night time in terms of light and in fact I would say it was probably slightly more night time then day time. My thoughts were that I would use my landing light just to brighten things up a bit and help me to see.

 

As I approached from the West I could see what I believed was the windsock pointing to 02 although with the failing light it was hard to see. This was a relief as I was very frazzled/worried about getting in whilst it was light enough to see as to do the mandatory 3 legs of a circuit I was able to just join downwind, turn base and final. Coming in over the fence I was going 60kts indicated but it really felt more like 75 - I just put this down to the darkness. Now remember I only have one eye and little did I know that this, I believe, played a part in what was to follow.

 

I hit the runway very fast, not my normal type of landing, and bounced up. I couldn't gauge how high I had bounced as I couldn't clearly see the black bitumen of the runway in the failing light nor could I gauge my height from the surrounds in the semi darkness - a clear result of only having one eye as with only one eye you have to be very aware of not having that 3rd dimension. The throttle went to full as I immediately thought "unknown and unstable situation - go around" so off I went doing a full circuit and came in again.

 

On short final I was more aware this time of my speed, looking outside and at my ASI which didn't seem to agree but I was concentrating on trying to land and before I knew it again I had bounced and again this time being unsure and not confident of the situation I went full throttle.

 

What I couldn't understand is why do I seem to be coming in to fast which I had initially put down to the non-clarity I had in the dark surrounds and also why did the strip just look all black with no clarity - like going down into the depths of the deep sea. Putting the speed problem aside I needed to work out my vision first as if I can't see the runway properly then how do I know when to flare which is what I thought was my basic problem.

 

At this stage it was even darker then when I made my first attempt at landing - time was unknown as I didn't look. I was also starting to get worried which caused some anxiety that wasn't helping the situation. My thoughts were - do I try again, do I contact ATC with my problem, I need to calm down and analyse the situation better - relax. I decided to fly over the strip really low and look at the sock because if I had been wrong then that would account for the speed - one problem at a time. Sure enough what I had thought the sock had been telling me 02 it was in fact 20. My anxiety to get down by just joining down wind from the West instead of flying over the strip had caught me out and this is why my speed was confusing me causing a distraction when I was trying to flare.

 

I immediately joined down wind for 20 but I had to account why I wasn't able to see as good as I should have been. WOW, it suddenly dawned on me that the CT had just had her post delivery 25hr service. To do this they have to remove the lower engine cowl where the landing light is - I bet the LAME had forgotten to plug the light back in and my fault for not checking the lights on my walk around.

 

So now I had to assume that what I could see on the previous attempts was all I was going to be able to see so a different thought pattern was needed when trying to land.

 

This time I came in over the fence at 50kts and 40deg flaps and with Riddells being a short strip my speed was feeling much better. I gently lowered her down and felt one wheel touch the runway on its own and then a split second later the other wheel made contact and there they both stayed - phew.

 

I taxied back to the hangar, quickly pushed the CT in, jumped in my car and drove off - I was still feeling very rattled but I needed to collect my thoughts before I came back to my CT and check that darn landing light.

 

I learnt some big lessons that day - how many of us when doing our walk around actually turn the aircraft power on and check the lights - probably not that often cause I don't always. How many of us think more about the rules to the letter then what circumstances may change those rules like end of daylight isn't always the latest that you can fly - it can be even earlier.

 

I am man enough to admit I made some mistakes this day but I think we do learn something every single time we fly that helps us to fly the next time and the next and the next!

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Good safety story and it had me on the edge of my seat.

 

On my return from a flight on Saturday the strip was deserted except that the final 300m had a mob of cattle on them, it had me wondering then what would have happened if I had been pushing end of daylight and had to do a low pass to clear the strip. Luckily I was early than expected but I also learnt a lesson similar to yours.

 

 

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Windsock direction.

 

Ian, you're not the first person to read a windsock the wrong way & you won't be the last. Thanks for writing the article,very candid.

 

I trained a single sighted chap many years ago and his landings scared the cr** out of me, for a while but he came good. As you know ,you compensate. The diminished light is a challenge.

 

I had another monocular friend who used to rub it in by giving me about 50 start on a billiard table ( full size ) & beating me EVERY time, sooo.

 

Good one Nev...

 

 

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Guest danda

Ian a great lesson for us all however I am glad that you are OK.

 

Experience is the best teacher although that same experience can scare the pants off us its a lesson we will never forget.

 

Don

 

 

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sounds like an interesting little adventure, Fortunately my favorite time to fly is a few hrs before Last light!

 

Funnily enough, while doing my NVFR years ago, i found the landing light ON to be a distraction at night

 

If approaching an airfield in even fading light well before last light, don't be afraid to turn on the Pilot operated Lighting! the runway lights will help immensely in giving you a reference in the flare and judging height about the runway, in complete darkness, with runway lighting only, its surprisingly easy to judge flare height, i find the landing light on a little distracting as it takes your focus from the runway sides and length when the runway itself becomes lit from the landing light, and you seam to naturally focus on the section that is light up, and not focus down the length of the runway that is highlighted by the runway lighting..

 

 

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It won't happen to me. Actually, the effect of the flash in the cockpit made the outside appear somewhat dimmer than it really was - but, yes it was a bit later than I would have liked. If I had any buttons in the upolstery on the seat, they would have been sphinctered off in this one exercise !

 

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Landed at Shepp and as usual the landing was like putting your hand on the bottom of a new born baby - really smooth with only "just" feeling the wheels touch the ground (Chris here would vouch for my landings).

 

There comes a time Ian where they get a bit lumpy, just wait till Camden Haven, with a hundred people watching the smoothness of your landings. The skill of a landing is inversely proportional to the amount of people watching.:big_grin:

 

One tip for landing towards or after dark is if there is any light or glow to the west it's better to land away from that light if possible. It's better to take some downwind and see where your going than land slow and be blind. Next time your flying (or driving for that matter) just after sunset have a look at the difference between the viz west to east. Looking through a grotty or scratched perspex window eccentuates the problems.

 

 

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Guest lovetofly

I haven't done any lessons yet, but have started doing some reading, so this made me think of a few questions.

 

You aren't allowed to fly after dark unless you have a night licence, so what happens if you actually do land after the posted dark time? Are you supposed to report it? (That sounds a bit silly dobbing yourself in!) Would someone else who saw it report it?

 

I was surprised to hear you have only one eye! That obviously did not effect your medical? or do you have some restrictions on your licence?

 

If that landing had (heaven forbid) gone bad, would you have been in the poo? And if so, would the mechanic who didn't hook up the light go down too?

 

 

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*Danger Will Robinson, Danger*

 

Scary stuff Ian... very scary.... :;)2:

 

But what is even scarier could be the ramifications of flying an RAA registered aircraft under RAA rules (VFR) when so close to the complete end of daylight.

 

Im not being a wowser, but a realist, who has flown and made last landing just before last light with an instructor, and it is bloody difficult to do at the best of times... even on a strip with lights... and does Riddells have runway lights?

 

Correct me if I'm wrong, but night VFR endorsements are only available to GA trained pilots who have undergone the appropriate training and that NVFR flights can only be made in a VH registered and appropriately equipped aircraft?

 

Somehow I can hear the sound of insurance companies washing hands at the sheer thought at these circumstances....

 

Food for thought....

 

Ben

 

 

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yep, NVFR rating can only be done by a PPL holder and in Vh rego aircraft, fortunately when i was flying out of Bankstown, the flying School would hold Night flying/BBQ nights 1st Wednesday of every month.(in non daylight saving time) so it was about 2 hrs of night flying, either in the Syd basin training area or circuits at Bankstown. than at 8 pm the BBQ would be fired up..... all in all it was a good evening and well attended.

 

though i love flying in the late afternoon, i have always made sure i am on the ground at least 15 mins before Last light.. (ever tried locking up a unlit hangar in the dark? not fun.!)

 

 

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Went for a trip today from Riddells to Latrobe Valley - fantastic air and nice and smooth. The interesting thing is when I did my walk around I checked the lights and the landing light was working - it looks like the landing light is more to scare the birds and let others know you are on final then to use as an actual light for landing.

 

I have sent an email off to Chris (Techman) to confirm whether or not I should file an incident report but as it wasn't after last light, no one was injured and no aircraft was damaged then I am presuming I don't but it never hurts to check whether one should file an incident report or not.

 

Also, I just thought I would note that Riddells is a fairly short strip (they are in the process of extending it), no lights and not even white lines, markings etc on the strip. There also isn't anything that you can gauge your height on with your peripheral vision close to the sides of the strip as well.

 

I am however really glad now that every CT that comes into Australia now has the thicker and much stronger undercarriage.

 

I am very glad that you all think that posts like this help others out and this is what these forums are for so please if you feel comfortable with posting things like this then do so - you can even post these types of things in the Incidents & Accidents forum anonymously as a guest so no names are mentioned - we all learn from each other!

 

 

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Guest J430

Ian,

 

Having done some CCTS at last light for the educational experience at my home strip I can tell you all another thing to be wary of....SKIPPY and all his mates, between 1 billion ibis and other birds that love the rubbish tip next to YCAB, it seems YCAB is allso a skippy sanctuary!!!!

 

Just a tip for everyone that I have used for a long time, forget about using Last Light, ignore it and look at the GPS or BOM for "SUNSET" at your destination. Now further south this will give you a greater margin for the twilight, but it gives an average 30 min to last light say, and a bigger margin in your planning.

 

Also remember if there are hills or mountain ranges to the west of your strip.......last light can be earlier than theory suggests!

 

Cheers

 

J

 

 

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dobbing one-self in?

Yeah, that can be a hard call.

It may be worth submitting the story to the crash comic people for the prize money to help make up for the time to be spent on the ground in the near future.

 

I got caught out in a similar way a few years back, chatting in a hangar unawere of the time, then realising the sun was very low and I had a twenty minute flight ahead of me, I knew if I sat down to do all the calculations to see if I would make it, it would then most likely be too late.

 

So I got in and went.

 

Turned out the sun wasn't behind the band of cloud on the horizon, but had actually set giving me now less than the twenty minute last light for that area.

 

Add to this the 15kt headwind I flew in to get to where I was, had turned around to become a 5kt headwing for my return!

 

There was a full moon and clear skies so navigating wasn't a problem, but the PAL lighting at the runway I was returning to, turned out to be only emergency lighting that was locked up.

 

Fortunately there were others that had contacted my visited destination, offering to come and get me in a car, only to find I had already departed.

 

They had the time to calculate the light available and realised I would need some ground light to land, so cars were positioned.

 

End result, a safe landing, a round for everyone at the bar, a metaphorical kick up the **** by the Senior Instructor (and later, the CFI) and a valued lesson learned.

 

Unfortunately, some 'do-gooder' at the departure point, after determining where I was going and doing the calculations as well, took it upon himself to 'dob me in' for some brownie points I guess.

 

So after worrying all my mates and half scaring myself silly, I then got to be grounded for six months to learn my lesson, while being told I should be greatful that CASA wasn't involved as they would have to collect some extra taxes for Johnny.

 

Arthur.

 

 

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Pylon

 

I will tell you a story why I support dobbing yourself in

 

When my daughter was born we were living in New Zealand as I was sent over there to manage the project of selling off the public transport system to private enterprise. Caitlin was born early by Caesarean due to complications. Eight weeks after Caitlin was born my wife Corrine had a severe haemorrhage and she was rushed down to the emergency clinic. The doctor there contacted the specialist who said that it was just hormonal and not to worry about it now as it had stopped.

 

One week later I came home to find Corrine lying on the bathroom floor with masses of blood all over the floor. Her eyes had rolled to the back of her head and she wasn’t responsive to anything. The first and only time I have ever slapped my wife but that didn’t bring any response either. With the amount of blood that was covering the floor no one could still be alive. I picked her up and carried her to the car and then as fast as I could raced back inside and got Caitlin and just placed her on the floor in front of the front passenger seat of the car – stuff the baby capsule there wasn’t any time. Through red lights, hazard lights going and speeding to the emergency clinic and when getting there I almost took out the front windows of the clinic after slamming the brakes on. I raced inside, there was blood all over me, and yelled for help. They came out and carried Corrine inside and she was dead.

 

They worked hard putting all sorts of tubes and stuff into her and brought her back. A MICA ambulance arrived and took her off to a proper hospital whilst I raced home and grabbed the baby capsule so I could safely take Caitlin to the hospital. When I arrived at the hospital Corrine was already in surgery and I was advised that it would be touch and go but the best case would be that Corrine would come out of it ok but would no longer be able to have children again.

 

The end of the story is that the haemorrhage was caused by the surgeon leaving half the placenta in when Caitlin was born 9 weeks earlier and the stupid part about it was that it was a Caesarean where you could easily see everything.

 

That night was one of the scariest nights I have ever had. Now, I could have sued the specialist, the hospital, the emergency clinic and our local doctor to who Corrine’s care was transferred to for absolute millions of dollars. I mean millions!!! But I didn’t.

 

Instead, I sent them a letter saying they had 14 days to provide me with the details on how they were going to change their systems, procedures and policies to ensure this could never happen to anyone else ever again. Within 14 days I received a letter back from the hospital will all the forms that had been changed, the notice that would now be sent to the local doctor, the information kit that would now be given to every new parent etc etc etc. It worked, and although I don't know but I am guessing by what I saw that this experience would probably never or almost never happen again. Still, I would love to know how many lives our experience has saved instead of Corrine and I being millions of dollars richer.

 

The point here is that this is the type of person that I am and irrespective of whether I get into trouble or not – I was just simply caught out in this situation – but I posted my experience for you Pylon, for Paul, for Chris, Andy, Darren etc…for every single person here that reads it because in my opinion, like what happened to Corrine and I in New Zealand, what happens to us can easily happen to many many others out there and if by posting my experience irrespective of whether I get into trouble or not, if it causes just one person, just one to turn 90 deg when they are flying East close to end of daylight to look back and make sure clouds are not about to come over to obscure the last remaining minutes of daylight that is left then the post is worth it, the grounding would be worth it – but whether it does or not we will never know.

 

The RAAus is not there just to punish us if something happens – the incident reporting system is something that is there to help everyone.

 

We can’t learn everything on our own when it comes to flying, we need to help each other to stay alive and stuff the consequences – just my opinion!

 

Ian now steps off his soap box, turns and slowly walks away into the un-obscured sunset…:big_grin:

 

 

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Guest lovetofly

A near tradgic story. Thanks for sharing. I've read several messages here about guys having flying lessons when things have gone pear shaped. Turning the wrong direction in circuits and going into clouds, and now your darkness flight etc. There's obviously nobody that reads here that can get people into trouble after the fact?

 

Would be a pretty low thing to do I guess, especially if the person got found out.

 

 

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Guest Kerry

Wow, great story Ian!

 

Its a good thing to share as much information with others as possible...even if it highlights the mistakes we (all) make sometimes.

 

Being well informed is being well prepared, and better equipped to deal with difficult situations!

 

You did the right thing with the hospital...wealth is temporary, but life is precious and everlasting!

 

Thanks for sharing.;)

 

 

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Thanks for your honest account Ian. We should all learn from that.

 

I see there's another airfield orientated 02/20, same as Murray Bridge. How many times have you got it round the wrong way? I certainly have as have many of the students flying from here.

 

Regards, Doug

 

 

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You did the right thing with the hospital...wealth is temporary, but life is precious and everlasting!

Thanks for sharing.;)

In fact I would go one step further and ask that if Ian had sued, and the hospital did have to pay, where would that money have come from and whose life(s) would then be put at future risk because the new "flux capacitor" or additional nursing staff or whatever was earmarked for the legal compensation money could now no longer be purchased. In knowing that this question was real, how much enjoyment could be gained from any legal settlement attained?

 

If everybody asked that type of question and understood that no matter what the size of an organisation (club through to hospital to national government) there is only a limited amount of funds available then perhaps the calling on the legal fraternity might be smaller than it curently is.

 

Of course I'm old enough to understand that rarely in life is anything so black and white....

 

Andy

 

 

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The key word here is Responsibility.

 

In Ians case he is responsible to us members and we all need to be the same for others.

 

 

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Guest lovetofly
In fact I would go one step further and ask that if Ian had sued, and the hospital did have to pay, where would that money have come from and whose life(s) would then be put at future risk because the new "flux capacitor" or additional nursing staff or whatever was earmarked for the legal compensation money could now no longer be purchased.

The insurance company that covers the hospital? I seriously doubt it would have an effect on hospital funds to the extent you suggest.

 

 

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The insurance company that covers the hospital? I seriously doubt it would have an effect on hospital funds to the extent you suggest.

In consideration of the one hospital alone perhaps what you say is correct. However dont loose sight of the fact that insurance companies exist to make money for their shareholders. In the event of a successful litigation the total payouts vs income for the insurance company is affected and the future year premiums will reflect the new reality.

 

There is no such thing as a free lunch. If the insurance company is involved its more a case of many paying a little bit for the lunch (through insurance premiums) rather than one paying the lot...someone still pays... the money is no longer available for other things.

 

Anyway...... back to discussions on flying ;)

 

 

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Donkey - I didn't see any smoke but there was a lot of fog although after waiting at Riddells for a couple of hours until I rang Trevor who said it was lifting which was about 1pm in the afternoon. The visibility by the time I got there was ok although not completely clear but I still had my legal visibility range. The J160, some other Jabs, a Sapphire and some GAers were buzzing around by the time I got there, met some of the guys that were hanging around - really friendly airstrip with a lot of activity going on - must call in there more often.

 

 

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Guest brentc

You need to get there by around 12pm before all the vultures have eaten all the sausages.

 

PS Ian, you'll probably find that your light might be referred to as a 'recognition' light (by the manufacturers) which is moreso so others can see you coming and your golfball is there to see you going. (others, if you've seen the CT you'd know what I mean)

 

Landing lights in the true sense are usually quite powerful and would probably be at least 100 watts, however at 8 amps the current load might be a bit high for Jabs and the like so most of the ones they fit aren't really unfortunately suitably for landing at night.

 

I've got a 50 watter on mine at the moment which you'd say was similar to a car high-beam driving light, however small form, but that only just barely enables you to see the ground when landing, if at all. It's more for taxxing around than when landing or taking off.

 

When landing at night on a runway with lights you generally don't need a landing light for several reasons, including the fact that you are approaching the landing in a generally flat profile and as such unless the light is pointing down you won't see the ground. You may have seen some proper night set-ups on aircraft where one beam points forward and the other slightly down? This is the ideal setup as it's great for landing and taxxing.

 

It's hard to visualise, however if you treat the runway lights as a rectangle that is sitting up on it's short side. This is the view from when you are at a few hundred feet. As you descend towards the runway, the rectangular picture in your view drops away from you. You continue on until the lines in front of you match and become close to one. At this point you will touch down.

 

It's an interesting feeling when you first land at night with proper runway lights. You really need to avoid looking out the side window or trying to look at the runway ahead as there is absolutely no need to do this at all. Another sensation that you will get is speed. You'll feel like you're zooming along down the runway really fast, however you'll probably just be idling along slowly.

 

 

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  • 1 year later...

Just read this, being put onto it from the other thread Inflight Emergency's...

 

Very good reading Ian, I definitely will take something from this...

 

Just something to think about, It probably wouldn't hurt knowing a bit about night landings, even though it's not suppose to ever happen in a RAA aircraft, but I reckon it wouldn't hurt knowing a bit about it, even knowing how to turn the PAL airstrip lights on (at some airfields anyway) would be something worth knowing I reckon...

 

 

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