Circuits – Out of Position, Land Downwind

Let’s look at some badly out of position scenarios. This one is low upwind. What to do?

Below 600′ (200m), 2km upwind and flying in the wrong direction

Learning Points

Consider the Options

If you are too far out of position, then by definition you have reduced your options. The next few exercises explore the limits, not because it is a good idea in the real world, but to approach the airfield differently. Their goal is to allow you to explore whatever options remain available to you.

Field Landing

The area around this airport has very few nice looking fields nearby. In this case, maintain a high level of awareness of where you are in relation to the airfield at all times, and especially as you get low. Stay in the ‘landable cone’ projecting out and above the field. In real life, get to know the local field landing options as well, just in case.

Getting Back to the Airfield

If you are upwind, you can afford to fly a little more slowly, nearer to Min Sink, and let the wind carry you some of the way while you conserve height. You will be traveling downwind, and will cover the ground relatively quickly. Aim straight for the landing area until your options to turn onto a normal circuit open up.

Choose the Landing Area and the Position of the Final Turn

As you approach the airfield, decide where to land, and where the Final Turn should be. Remember it should be completed above 300′ (100m). If you can reach the normal base leg then do so. Consider turning 180 degrees from the downwind leg onto the approach, or better still, consider turning in early for a landing upwind in the nearest part of the airfield. Finally, you may have to land downwind. If so, radio ahead if at all possible. No-one on the airfield will be expecting to arrive from upwind, nor will they be able to see you easily.

Scenario and Demonstration

This demonstration shows our pilot low, far upwind. When he turns back, the airfield looks a long way off. He heads straight to it, to reach it in the shortest possible distance. It becomes obvious he will not be able to put in any sort of circuit to land upwind, and so opts to land downwind.

Landing downwind is an option

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 leaves you in an awkward position, well below 600′ QFE, over 2km from the field and flying away from it.

Decide what action needs to be taken, including configuring for landing. Fly your chosen route to reach the best position for 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.

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