Circuits – Out of Position, Downwind

What should you do if out of position downwind?

It’s a long way back into wind to reach the High Key Area

Learning Points

When you are downwind with ‘excess’ height for a straight in approach, but not enough height to reach High Key, how should you use it? Your choices are to make progress upwind for a turn onto Base Leg, or to head for the Approach Leg. Either can be extended if you have height in hand. Should you head for Low Key? Possibly, but it seems daft to head upwind past the Base Leg when you are likely have comparatively little spare height at that point, and will need to make a turn of 135 degrees or so – if not done well, it could cost too much height in itself. Better to extend the Base Leg, and so spend less time turning. This results in a comfortable approach.

Scenario and Demonstration

This pilot drifted too far downwind, comforted perhaps by being around High Key height, unaware he was drifting downwind. When he turns to find the field, he realises he’d better head home, and opts to intersect a long Approach Leg. As he progresses he loses more height than expected, and turns in to intersect it further upwind. Even with approach speed he can see he will overshoot, but waits until he is far enough into the field to open two thirds airbrakes, then holds it there. This settles into a comfortable landing, He will just have to explain why he was so low over the foothills, where he could easily have been caught downwind in sink.

When low downwind, consider the straight in approach

The video is best viewed in YouTube in Full Screen mode, to easily see the on-screen messages during the demonstration. Use view, pause and rewind as needed to grasp the content and timing of the messages displayed, then focus on the action.

Performing the Exercise

The exercise finds you low over the ground well downwind of the field. Decide what action needs to be taken, including configuring for landing (the undercarriage is down when the lever is forward). Fly your chosen route to reach the best position for the Approach, having completed the Final Turn.

Afterwards, ask yourself if your legs were as well positioned as you’d like. Were the heights and speeds acceptable? Did you have time to think and adjust all the way round, or were some parts a bit rushed? If you’d do it differently next time, have another go.

This exercise is part of a set placing you in a variety of ‘Out Of’ positions.

Further Reading and References

Gliding From Passenger to Pilot, 2nd Edition: Page 114-115

BGA Instructors’ Manual, 4th Edition: Section 3, Chapter 14 Pages 9-10

BGA Instructors’ Reference Cards: Ex 12b

BGA Gliding Basics – Circuit