Having the motor quit is no big deal if you've followed the admonition to
always stay within glide range of friendly terrain. Sometimes, though, even
the best plans leave you needing to stretch your glide. The PPG bible covers
this in nicely except for one situation--the shoreline situation.
paralleling a long landing zone, like a shoreline, there are some special
Look at the diagram at right. You're cruising north at 20
mph in the face of a 10 mph headwind. The motor dies. Anywhere along the
green area is safe landing territory. Which is your best option, A, B, or C?
If you answered anything other than B, read on.
When trying to make a
fixed point over the ground with steady winds down to the surface, it's
always best to make your ground track exactly towards the point. In
the example, if you were going for a specific point, you would choose A,
provided that was where you wanted to end up and indeed, your heading would
be as illustrated--somewhat into the wind. But if you can land anywhere
along that safe landing area, Choice B is best.
If you're thinking that the most direct route, a tangent to shore, is
best then you're still thinking about a point. We have the entire shoreline
to work with. Yes, you'll travel over more water but ALL your progress will
be towards shore instead of burning some fighting the wind.
Consider if the headwind were 20 mph. You would be standing still out
there over the water all the way to splashdown. But if you head west, due
west, now you are going 20 mph towards shore while drifting 20 mph to the
left (south). Yes, you'll land way down the shore but at least it's shore.
Actually, your glide ratio, relative to the shore line, is identical
in this situation than if there is no wind whatsoever.
When faced with a
long landing area like this, your best bet is to fly a heading that's
towards the area but perpendicular to it. Then just accept where you drift
Choice C is never best even though you build in a tailwind. The
increased distance more than counters any benefit from a tailwind.
Tacking to go Upwind
Another misconception you'll hear is the idea of "tacking" left and right
to improve upwind penetration. That's entirely false. A sailboat tacks into
the wind by virtue of having water to push against. A paramotor is flying
through the air in what we call wind. With no ground to push against,
tacking has no benefit.
Here is what to remember if Mr. powerful craps out. 1) when trying to
make a shoreline or other long landing area, head straight towards it
and accept the downwind drift. 2) When trying to make a point, adjust
your heading into the wind enough to make your ground track directly
towards the point.