(Dr Mark Holliday) – One of the wonderful things about gliding is that you learn the names of obscure turn points and can thereafter talk authoritatively about the geography of rural farmlands. Daniel Rodic, the famous Russian fighter pilot, who settled in South Africa and flew gliders claims his Afrikaans wife was impressed on their first date by the fact that he knew where she came from – a very remote turnpoint 350 km from Gariep called Marydale (population <100).
The small town of Makwassie was my first competition out-landing that caused no damage. I had previously broken a wing on a road sign in the 1987 Transvaal Regionals when I ran out of ideas and touched down on a road in a moment of panic. The bean field at Makwassie looked perfect from the air and the only surprise I got was the dust cloud that burst into the cockpit when the wheel of my ASW20 dug into the soft drought-stricken soil.
The retrieve was not that straight forward because the trailer couldn’t negotiate the access into the field. The farmer was most helpful in showing us how to drop the fence and I have always carried a wire-cutter since that day. The trick is not to cut the fence, but to cut the little wires holding the fence to the embedded uprights. Do this to 2 or 3 sections and you can hold the fence flat by foot while the car and trailer drive over it. The fence is then easy to reconnect to the uprights with a little wire afterwards and you won’t have a grumpy farmer to contend with.
If you don’t have a 4×4 and are going to land in a ploughed field, do so near the road. Frankie Kienhofer’s first out-landing was in the centre of a 2 km square field near Hartswater and the furrows were about 40 cm deep, too deep to negotiate a 4×4 so we had to carry the glider out piecemeal, making for a very tiring retrieve. Conversely don’t land too close to the fence – remember your wingspan.
When landing on a road you are almost always going to break something
When landing on a road you are almost always going to break something. The one exception is in Namibia where they grade the roads and shoulder about 18m wide. The Namibian CAA seems to have no problems with aero towing off a road. Namibia is also littered with salt pans that make for easy landings and aero towing, as I experienced at their one and only championships in 1997.
Learn about fences. I very rarely land in ploughed fields these days. I prefer to find a cut grass field, the road through/between ploughed fields and the perimeter road around big centre-pivot fields if suitable (you can always land into wind). If I see a farmer’s car tracks on a cut grass field I try and land on the tracks as he is unlikely to have driven over a burrow.
Remember that if your field selection is too short and you are going to run into a fence, you do not have to die by strangulation. You can do several things to slow down more rapidly; push the nose into the ground whilst braking hard, raise the undercarriage or ground-loop.
Also remember that a ground loop develops quite slowly so plan to do it well before the fence.