4. LESSON 34 - DECISION MAKING

Key points of attention:
  • Fly an alternative circuit if this is the safest way to approach the airfield
  • Solve a problem by remembering what is most important : aviate - navigate - communicate 

Normally, we always fly the circuit following set guidelines. That is a safety precaution. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, one day you might not be able to start the circuit from the prescribed direction and height. In this exercise we will practice how to approach the airfield and how to land from an unfamiliar angle and altitude. Your instructor will deliberately take you to an unfamiliar landing position before handing the controls to you. This lesson prepares you for unexpected situations and teaches you how to approach unusual situations in a structured way. 

ZIG-ZAG CIRCUIT
The prescribed circuit is a safety measure that gives you time to be well prepared for a safe landing. It also regulates the incoming flow of gliders and other aircraft at an airfield. You have already learned what you should do if any of the three key factors are incorrect during the circuit (altitude, height and angle). If you are too high and too close, move out of the circuit until the angle with the airport is correct. If you are too low and too far away, move in closer. If you have to make multiple corrections, do so! We call this a "zigzag" circuit. 

STRAIGHT-IN LANDING

Never try to fly the normal circuit if you don't have enough height for that! You are always allowed to deviate from the normal circuit for safety reasons. Use the radio to communicate what you are planning to do. Either fly a shortened circuit instead of the normal circuit (see Lesson 28) or make a field landing. If you can still safely enter the circuit directly on the base leg or final approach, do so. Proceeding directly on final approach is done more often. This is called a “straight-in landing”.

FORGETTING THINGS
When you deviate from the normal procedures you are more at risk of forgetting important things that you wouldn’t forget normally. For example lowering the undercarriage, preparing the glider for landing and completing the landing checklist. Be extra alert and try to do all the things you would normally do during a normal circuit.

AVIATE - NAVIGATE - COMMUNICATE
If you have to solve a problem, it is wise to establish the right order and distinguish between what is important at what time. 

1)  The most important thing is of course flying your airplane. Always make sure you have enough airspeed and that the configuration is correct. Try to use the trimmer as much as possible to reduce the workload. We call this part "aviate". 

2)  Only when we have full control over the glider can we focus on other things. What is my position and what are my options? How much time do I have to come up with a solution? In a glider, your altitude usually determines how much time you have left before something has to be done. Sometimes you will have to act quickly, but always stay calm and carefully consider what is going on before choosing the safest solution. This part in which you both check your position and make your decisions is called "navigate". 

3)  Once the situation is under control and only if it does not interfere with flying or navigating, you can make a radio call to communicate what is going on and what your intentions are. 

DO THE RIGHT THING
Technical problems are very rare when flying without an engine and the vast majority of incidents are the result of the pilot making a mistake. But rest assured that most incidents are caused by an accumulation of errors; it is almost never the case that one error causes an emergency. Everybody makes mistakes every now and then. The important thing is not to make mistakes that could have been avoided easily.

"Do the right thing" is sometimes easier said than done. Yet this summarizes the main task of a captain. Soon you will be the captain (or "pilot in command") and you are expected to make the best decisions independently. This starts with your flight preparation. Do you remember the I'm safe checklist from chapter 1? If you cannot honestly say "I'm safe" then don't fly. Use your experience while flying, look out and pay attention to other traffic, and do what you have learned. If something unexpected happens, stay calm and use the aviate-navigate-communicate sequence. By doing so, you can solve almost any situation.