[SystemSafety] Flying in Cloud

From: Les Chambers < >
Date: Sun, 27 Sep 2015 10:36:34 +1000


Not long ago we had a discussion on risk management strategies for flying in cloud without instruments. There was a suggestion that one could just remove one's hands from the controls and the aircraft would fly straight and level as per design. That contributor may be interested in the following. Though somewhat dated I believe it still has relevance for today's ultralight pilots.



It's England, 1917 and newly graduated Flight Lieutenant Bill Taylor is delivering an Avro 504 biplane from Upavon to Filton ...  

About 20 kilometres from Devizes he saw a grey haze ahead, which rapidly developed into a bank of cloud, rising well above the level to which he could climb. Intuition told him that he should turn back, but it was only about 35 kilometres to Filton, so he decided to press on.

It was a mistake.

"In a few minutes I was in the cloud and immediately the world vanished. I could see nothing around me except the wings and the struts of the Avro, and a vapour was smoking by, thick enough even to obscure the wing tips. I had not up to this moment realised that without sight of the Earth there would be no datum from which to control the machine and keep it in level flight. Instrument flying off course was years ahead at this time. I just flew on into the cloud, totally ignorant of the danger into which I was heading.

Very soon I felt strange things happening. The controls seem to be resisting me and wind was blowing on the side of my face. This could mean that I was turning sharply. The engine noise rose and there seemed to be a great unnatural rushing through the air. I drew back instinctively on the stick, in time to see green grass streaking by only a few feet below. Then I was lost in the cloud again, the engine note falling away and the aircraft on the edge of stalling. I pushed the stick forward and got the machine more or less under control again. But it was all a nightmare in which I had no idea if I was going up or down or sideways.

For a moment I thought of the cloud top, wondering if I could reach it and climb out into clear air. But I knew the machine would not climb, not even in clear visibility when I had it under perfect control.

The wind came on the side of my face once more, and the roaring of the engine increased. Then I saw the grass again, a smooth stretch clear before me and the aeroplane rushing along a few feet above it. I made a quick decision; to hang on to that strip of grass, somehow to keep it in sight and attempt a landing on it.

A few hundred yards ahead the cloud shut down again. I laid the Avro round on a steep turn, with the wingtip pivoting just clear of the ground. I had to keep the grass in sight. As the aeroplane came around in the turn I could see some distance back on the track I had come, so I straightened up the turn and flew back just clear of the grass. Before the end where it disappeared in the cloud which lay flat on the ground, I put the machine up into an almost vertical turn, came around again, and shut off the engine. I just had time to straighten up and hold her off, before the wheels touched down. The aeroplane rolled on over smooth-cut grass. I was down.    

>From the biography: The Man Who Saved Smithy: fighter pilot, pioneer
aviator, hero: the life of Sir Gordon Taylor  

Les Chambers
Chambers & Associates Pty Ltd
 <http://www.chambers.com.au> www.chambers.com.au

Blog: <http://www.systemsengineeringblog.com/> www.systemsengineeringblog.com

Twitter: <http://www.twitter.com/chambersles> _at_xxxxxx M: 0412 648 992
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systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Received on Sun Sep 27 2015 - 02:37:00 CEST

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