Chap 19: Spot
Stretching Glide II
Deep Stall / Parachutal
When Ship Hits the Fan
fury of a dust devil
Stretching Glide Part 2
One Story of Stretching Glide
While planning the Panama Canal flight an interesting subject came up
regarding selection of altitude. We all know that the higher you go, the
farther you can glide. This flight had one portion that followed a
railroad track, including two stretches where your only viable
engine-out option was landing in water next to the
tracks. It was the only way rescuers could affect a quick
retrieval. Power lines and thick jungle dictated the requirement.
So the question that some asked was "why fly high?" They had a good
point. During the periods where an engine out was going to result in a
water landing regardless of height, it didn't matter as much. But it
still was a tradeoff as the graphic shows. For three reasons: 1) at
altitude, time spent within range of landing options was greater thus
lowering exposure and 2) you would have time to find the best place for
an approach, 3) more time may allow restarting the motor.
We had a height limit of 2500 feet imposed by the Canal Authority so
that air traffic could continue overhead. They had been limited to a
floor of probably 3000 feet so they wouldn't conflict with our flight.
During the overwater/jungle portion there were only two landing spots
that would have been dry. They were spaced about 7 miles apart. There
was no way to remain within gliding distance but height did increase the
amount of time you spent within range of those spots. So I chose that
option. As high as I could for the least amount of exposure.
Is one choice "better" than another? Not at all. Just like you could
argue that choosing not to fly a paramotor is a better choice because
it's safer. Each of us makes our own trades. Phil and I, who went high,
missed out on some sights and experiences that those who flew low got to
enjoy. Of course we also got to mingle with the clouds by flying higher.
Most of us (maybe everybody) had floatation so going in the water
shouldn't be that big of a deal.
My hope is, however, that pilots make informed choices on
their risk. Check out the graphic at right and then understand the
variables. If you're over water without floatation, then choosing to fly
low risks a lot more. About 1 in 10 pilots (approx) who go in the water,
drown if they don't have floatation.
Choose knowingly and have fun!