Landing Out

The general flying area within 150km of New Tempe is predominantly arable agricultural and consequently there are many fields that are suitable for landing out. The fields are generally large and flat therefore the main selection criteria are surface type and condition, obstructions and access.

Stubble fields would be first choice, followed by ploughed fields, and salt plans. Green fields are rarely pasture and tend to be scrubland, likely to be full of holes and anthills (similar to the centre of New Tempe Airfield). Treat them as minefields and definitely best avoided. There are also many circular fields – these are fields that are irrigated with a centre point irrigation system. Such fields may be as much as 800m in radius and if clear of standing crops can be used for landings. However beware and plan the landing run so not to roll across the wheel tracks of the irrigation system as these may be like ditches and could seriously damage the landing gear.

Fields with a uniform brown surface are probably ploughed fields. The plough rows tend not to be deep, but the earth can be very soft and fine so a fully flared landing is essential. Do not fly the glider onto the ground. As you flare, providing that you have enough space ahead, bleed off the air brakes so that you touch down at the minimum possible speed. Be prepared for a sudden deceleration on touchdown, ensure straps are tight and that any loose objects are secured before landing.

Fields with the brown surface visible between crops rows are generally acceptable if there are no other options, but the farmer may not appreciate you landing in his juvenile crop. If the surface is not visible, then the crop is mature. Summer crops in this area are mielies (maize) and sunflowers which can be up to 1.8m high – not landable.

Saltpans are dry lakes which in some cases may be used to harvest salt. However if there is no obvious evidence of workings the surface will be flat but may not be strong enough to support the glider. The edges will be firmer than the centre and if there has been recent rain then care should be exercised. Vehicle tracks would confirm the integrity of the surface and show an unobstructed run. On some pans there are fences and they can be difficult to spot. Access to saltpans can be difficult and many are now within a game reserve created by the farmers.

Obstructions are limited to electricity wires, telephone wires, and fences. If landing close to a farm or other substantial habitation, be aware that there somewhere there will be an electricity line running to the housing. Fences in fields are usually indicated by a change in colour in the surface.

Access to fields can be a major issue but must be treated as secondary to a safe landing. There are relatively few tar roads in the general flying area and the dirt roads can become heavily rutted or corrugated, limited driving speeds to less than 20kph. Fields are generally large, and access into the field may not be obvious from the air.

As guidelines:

When get below your comfort level, _ to 2/3 of the cloud base and finding another thermal is not a certainty, start routing towards, towns, tar roads, farm houses, things that will make a retrieve easier if you don’t find a thermal.

As you get lower look for areas where there are landable fields and fly towards them also, call on the radio advising your position and altitude.

When getting really low, start down-selecting landing fields to a few options and try and spot the access into the field itself, the route from a tarred road to the field access, and the nearest farmhouse or equivalent.

Try and stop near the side of the field and close to the access point. Bear in mind that if landing in a soft field you will stop in a short distance. Also bear in mind that in the flare your head is only a metre or so above ground level and it becomes very difficult to judge distance at this low height.