Techinque to land a glacier


Swiss glacier pilots’ approach and landing procedures: Upon arriving over the glacier, over-fly the landing area at 2,000 AGL, paying particular attention to the snow, wind, visibility, and light and remaining aware of other traffic while reviewing the landing area and announcing intentions on the glacier flight frequency 130.350, in the blind. Then it is time to complete the pre-landing checklist. Here it is important to adjust the mixture for the appropriate landing elevation. From this point, hold a comfortable true airspeed, as is customarily flown on a base leg. I typically fly 70 mph in a Cub.

Next step is to determine the optimal landing place including its length and slope and considering wind strength, sun location and light quality. Is the light diffused, or is the snow surface clearly defined? Depending on the terrain, select a right- or left-hand pattern. If the landing area looks promising, execute a second over-flight at 1,000 feet AGL. At 1,000 feet the snow condition is much clearer; crevasses, snow drifts, clear brown or icy areas, depths and form of earlier ski tracks must be considered.

If the landing area appears to be suitable, start the last low overflight, setting the necessary flaps (in a Super Cub 10 ) and flying over the landing area at 100 feet AGL. After a meticulous surface check, just over the landing spot, checks the altimeter. This altitude of the 100 feet over the landing spot is to be used as the pattern height. It is important that on the last overflight before landing to get bearings on the downhill run and to look for a target point on the horizon or on an opposite mountain formation to be used during the takeoff.

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After the overflight across the landing area, enter the downwind at a 45 angle. Allow a mile or so on the first landing. The strip should now be in a 45 angle of either side ahead. After eyeballing it and checking for correct pattern height, there is still time to make changes.

On base, conducting a wind check is very important: look straight ahead — is the plane being pushed toward or away from the strip? Depending, there may be a tail or head wind to reckon with. Let’s assume, for simplicity, that there is no wind. .



At a distance of about 1 1/4 mile turn for final approach, eyeball a target point 330 to 360 feet ahead of the intended landing point and fly straight at it. The glide path now 6 percent, the final approach speed should be 20 to 30 percent more than a normal Vref depending on the slope. Typically a Super Cub should be flown at be 70 mph on final.

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Check: are the target point, starting altitude and approach speed correct? Before reaching the target, pitch up. During this flight phase apply power, depending on steepness of terrain, up to full throttle. Keep pulling until the plane gently makes a three-point landing on the glacier. With engine power, taxi up the landing strip — most likely will necessitate full throttle.

Upon reaching the top of the strip execute a left turn to point the nose more or less down hill. If the terrain is too steep, stop at the so-called "dead point" with the wings parallel to the slope. If this maneuver is not successful, restart right away.



Align the plane on the point selected during the last low pass and smoothly apply full power. Relieve the pressure off the tail slightly, but not too much, in order to reach rotation speed quickly. As the speed is reached, rotate only slightly and allow the plane to fly off the surface in ground effect. As the plane accelerates a transition into a climb away from the terrain will soon be possible.

All these approaches have — unlike an approach to an airport — one thing in common, which is that each has a point of no return, where an approach cannot be aborted. It is of benefit to be absolutely sure of the situation. An experienced pilot should be psychologically ready to abort, but also prepared to execute the landing regardless of the situation once the point of no return is passed. An extremely high training status is absolutely necessary to be able to recognize this point beyond a doubt.


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