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Thread: Caught above

  1. #1
    Founding Member - See my blog entries for help using the forums VinceG's Avatar
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    Caught above

    Hello people.

    I am sharing this in an effort to learn from my almost fatal mistake.

    I went to the airfield yesterday with a friend of mine. The idea was to fly to the coast at Scarborough, then follow the coast south, land at Beverly for a cuppa, then back to the home field of Rufforth in York.

    The weather wasn't brilliant and a low cloudbase delayed our departure, but it started breaking up as forecast and the blue bits of sky started opening up all around us. So, we got in the quik, and set off for a quick circuit, the cloudbase was about 1000 ft and we quickly went through a hole and climbed above, and were above at about 2000 ft, looking out over this very clear layer of cloud, but all time in site of the surface. We dropped down under the cloud, then scooted back to Rufforth to fill the tank and make sure we were all set for the trip.

    Off we set, climbed above again, it was much nicer up there, and I navigated to Scarborough via sky demon and the A64 on the ground, however as we approached Scarborough, the cloud thickened and we started to loose sight of the ground, so we turned round and went back to Rufforth. When we got there, it was completely closed in. We could not see the ground at all, in a panic, I went for a gap in the clouds that looked like a deep valley does from the air. My thoughts being that it wouldn't be far through that valley to the underside of the clouds. We were then totally blacked out in cloud and at that point I thought "stuff this" and decided to climb. I jammed my foot on the throttle and pulled the bar straight and watched the compass to tried and keep flying straight. This I couldn't manage because the compass was the other orientation, and turning left had the wheel going the other way. I didn't have a clue what sort of speed we were doing, or which way was up, but we must have been close to VNE, the wind noise indicated it.

    Now we weren't going up with my foot jammed on the throttle, we were going down, and reflecting on it now, we must have done a sort of wing over as I tried to climb, but anyway, suffice to say we popped out of the bottom of the clouds within about 10 or 20 seconds. As soon as I saw the ground I steadied the ship and scooted back to the airfield with my legs literally shaking.

    It could have easily been fatal. The airframe was under a lot of stress, I've just checked the log on skydemon and the maximum speed reached on the flight was 124 mph. That must have been in the spiral dive. Here is a picture of the close up of the last bit of the flight from the log on skydemon.

    Not to self, stay close to the airfield in those conditions, and if the holes start closing up, find one and get below ASAP. That's what I would have / should have done differently and all would have been fine.

    But now I'm reaching out to you lot to ask, how could I have gotten down safer faced with that scenario again? Spiral dived down with no throttle ( I did know it wasn't fog all the way to the ground because there were gyrocopters on the radio doing circuits at Rufforth, and the circuit height is 500 ft)

    Or should I have called mayday on 121.5 and asked for a routing to an airfield that had "holes" above it? ( I had about 1.5 hours of endurance left in the tank)

    I hope my mistake helps others, and not one I want to repeat, but I sincerely hope, that the answers given here will enable me to not be in the same position again.
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  2. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to VinceG For This Useful Post:

    Aerial (17-02-15), Blade 582 (16-02-15), DavidR (18-02-15), Deeekent (16-02-15)


  3. #2
    Co-Pilot WobbleWing's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing... That's a bit of sphincter nipper, Vince.. and a useful bit of 'human factors'!

    It's always so difficult to get some kind of 'useful' post analysis, especially as a discussion on a forum. If it were me (and I stress that I'm in no way any kind of sage on the matter!) and thinking how could I avoid the same thing again, I would ask myself:

    How much could you have predicted a visibility issue initially? The vis in my area was pretty poor yesterday and only started to clear later in the afternoon (but it was still crap). I wonder if it was because you were so keen to get flying in your new Quik that you couldn't resist the temptation? If it was an aircraft you'd been flying for a while and the novelty of the new toy had worn off a bit, would you have gone?.. I know you've just got it permitted so were gagging to get flying! This sounds harsh and is no way meant as a nasty criticism (apologies if it reads that way).. but the reason I say that is I have been guilty of something similar myself!

    How much early warning of the clouds closing in did you have in reality? Was it a case of you knew of the clouds were closing in but you decided to wait and see how it went (you thought you could get back to Rufforth?), or was it that you had an instant close of the clouds? I would suspect the former but your decision to get below the cloud wasn't early enough?

    It's so hard to say what someone else would do in the same situation of course, only you were there, so you made what you thought was the correct judgement at the time. For me, if there is anything that really scares me about flying, it's the potential for loosing control in poor vis - I'm hyper paranoid about it, but will perhaps accept wind conditions that perhaps I shouldn't sometimes.

    In a 'this is a forum with the benefit of hindsight' posting situation.... I think what I would have done was stayed on top, turned back to where the cloud gaps could have been (you flew past them initially) and then called a MAYDAY to get some help from D&D. But even having said that, the situation could have got a lot worse with no 'holes' (in fact only thick cloud) available within your range.

    Glad you got away with it mate. It may be a useful exercise (although perhaps a bit geeky!) to look how the METARs progressed in your area to see if there is a useful pattern to learn from.

    It's a great topic to discuss.. although I fear may degenerate into a 'don't do this, don't do that' discussion as it always does.

    I do wonder if in these situations that once you've made a commitment to 'descend through cloud', you've got to stick with it, so you can concentrate on keeping the wings level by looking at the instruments you have. Powering out or turning 'half way through' causes disturbance in the attitude and the 'wings level' situation which is then impossible to deduce or correct. Not sure really, but would be an interesting topic.

    I await the advice from the sage's!
    Last edited by WobbleWing; 16-02-15 at 14:48 PM.
    Andy
    Wobbling all the way to the clouds.


  4. #3
    Founding Member - See my blog entries for help using the forums VinceG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WobbleWing View Post
    Thanks for sharing... That's a bit of sphincter nipper, Vince.. and a useful bit of 'human factors'!

    It's always so difficult to get some kind of 'useful' post analysis, especially as a discussion on a forum. If it were me (and I stress that I'm in no way any kind of sage on the matter!) and thinking how could I avoid the same thing again, I would ask myself:

    How much could you have predicted a visibility issue initially? The vis in my area was pretty poor yesterday and only started to clear later in the afternoon (but it was still crap). I wonder if it was because you were so keen to get flying in your new Quik that you couldn't resist the temptation? If it was an aircraft you'd been flying for a while and the novelty of the new toy had worn off a bit, would you have gone?.. I know you've just got it permitted so were gagging to get flying! This sounds harsh and is no way meant as a nasty criticism (apologies if it reads that way).. but the reason I say that is I have been guilty of something similar myself!
    None taken whatsoever. You're absolutely right. I was keen to go flying, I've not been in ages.
    Quote Originally Posted by WobbleWing View Post
    How much early warning of the clouds closing in did you have in reality? Was it a case of you knew of the clouds were closing in but you decided to wait and see how it went (you thought you could get back to Rufforth?), or was it that you had an instant close of the clouds? I would suspect the former but your decision to get below the cloud wasn't early enough?
    We were in sight of the surface pretty much all the way to Malton, it closed in more as we got towards York. Sounds like I should have gone back.

    Quote Originally Posted by WobbleWing View Post
    It's so hard to say what someone else would do in the same situation of course, only you were there, so you made what you thought was the correct judgement at the time. For me, if there is anything that really scares me about flying, it's the potential for loosing control in poor vis - I'm hyper paranoid about it, but will perhaps accept wind conditions that perhaps I shouldn't sometimes.

    In a 'this is a forum with the benefit of hindsight' posting situation.... I think what I would have done was stayed on top, turned back to where the cloud gaps could have been (you flew past them initially) and then called a MAYDAY to get some help from D&D. But even having said that, the situation could have got a lot worse with no 'holes' (in fact only thick cloud) available within your range.

    Glad you got away with it mate. It may be a useful exercise (although perhaps a bit geeky!) to look how the METARs progressed in your area to see if there is a useful pattern to learn from.

    It's a great topic to discuss.. although I fear may degenerate into a 'don't do this, don't do that' discussion as it always does.
    I fear you might be right, but it's too late, what's done is done, now I need to learn from it.

    Quote Originally Posted by WobbleWing View Post
    I do wonder if in these situations that once you've made a commitment to 'descend through cloud', you've got to stick with it, so you can concentrate on keeping the wings level by looking at the instruments you have. Powering out or turning 'half way through' causes disturbance in the attitude which is then impossible to deduce or correct. Not sure really, but would be an interesting topic.

    I await the advice from the sage's!
    You and me both.
    Happy Safe Flying
    May your Landings = Your Take Offs
    Vince Gledhill
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    http://www.microlightforum.com
    http://www.greeneru.co.uk to save the planet by changing to LED lights.

    Find help here with various aspects of using the forum in my blog


  5. #4
    Co-Pilot Arielarts's Avatar
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    Something that catches us all out from time to time if we fly in the UK Vince. If we listened to the naysayers we would never fly. The neat thing about flexwings is you can almost close the throttle and take your hands off the bar (well try to provide no input), and they will usually stabilise into a reasonably straight decent. And one in which the compass is almost believable.
    Dave


  6. #5
    Co-Pilot jonkil's Avatar
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    Thanks Vince, brave of you to post this.
    happened me years ago, sufficient to say I had to route over 100 mile south to get "down through it", on the deck I had about 3 litres of fuel. Valuable lesson learnt. To be honest I don't think there is a right way for us non instrument rated flyers to get down through it.
    Remember when I owned my c42 I was going to fit an artificial horizon and get a bit of training on it....... I thought it would "get me out of trouble" if required.... but realised after talking to an experienced IFR pilot that it would get me into trouble quicker !.
    put it down to experience and a valuable lesson learnt.


  7. #6
    Co-Pilot WobbleWing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VinceG View Post
    ...what's done is done, now I need to learn from it.
    Indeed! Take time to reflect and move on.

    Thanks again for sharing, always best to learn from others' mistakes! Great to post for others to read and learn!

    It may be slightly sadistic, but I remember ages ago we discussed if there should be a forum section dedicated to: "I wish I hadn't have done that!", for others to read, learn and generally share each others experiences of bad choices (anonymous postings allowed!).. There was a lot of debate and it never happened for whatever reason.
    Andy
    Wobbling all the way to the clouds.


  8. #7
    Co-Pilot FlexWing-UK's Avatar
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    Interesting story Vince - Just about most pilots worst nightmare. I've been trapped and cut off from landing in the HG before now and it scared the hell out of me.

    I'd had the same thought about fitting some-kind of gyro-attitude-sensor for just this situation. Jon: What were the reasons he gave that it would get you in to more trouble?


  9. #8
    Trainee Pilot Deeekent's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing your experience Vince, as a low hour pilot I'm not in a position to comment on right or wrongs. However you did get down safely so your judgment was good.
    HONI SOIT QUI MALY PENSE


  10. #9
    Founding Member - See my blog entries for help using the forums VinceG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WobbleWing View Post
    Indeed! Take time to reflect and move on.

    Thanks again for sharing, always best to learn from others' mistakes! Great to post for others to read and learn!

    It may be slightly sadistic, but I remember ages ago we discussed if there should be a forum section dedicated to: "I wish I hadn't have done that!", for others to read, learn and generally share each others experiences of bad choices (anonymous postings allowed!).. There was a lot of debate and it never happened for whatever reason.
    I'll look into that so that we can post without signing in, I may have to incorporate some kind of capcha to prevent spam. Great idea, maybe it didn't happen before because I either forgot, or didn't see it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Deeekent View Post
    Thanks for sharing your experience Vince, as a low hour pilot I'm not in a position to comment on right or wrongs. However you did get down safely so your judgment was good.
    I was really lucky. If the cloud was 1000 ft thicker I don't know that I would be here to type this.

    Edited:
    New anonymous area is here http://www.microlightforum.com/forum...us-Safety-Area
    Happy Safe Flying
    May your Landings = Your Take Offs
    Vince Gledhill
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    http://www.greeneru.co.uk to save the planet by changing to LED lights.

    Find help here with various aspects of using the forum in my blog


  11. #10
    Captain MadamBreakneck's Avatar
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    No harm in Mayday, they would have been happy to help. Better ashamed than dead.

    Interesting and relevant data on pages 11 & 12 of this scary paper by Guy Gratton. It seems in the typical flexwing, Dave Arielarts' suggestion of close the throttle and stay away from the controls is indeed the least dangerous approach. (I'm not a flexwing pilot, so I must trust others' opinions on this).

    As has been said, it's a mistake so many of us make at least once in our lives. I typed this into google " microlight forum cloud descent" and got an interesting(?) list of threads on related topics. Here's one on the BMAA forum I participated in a couple of years back which developed into a very interesting discussion.

    Well done Vince for sharing so publicly.

    Joan



    Back to just bimbling in the TST.

    No longer instructing - just pontificating..


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