• Cat 3 IFR Approach

Many modern pilots, aircraft and some airports have the capability of flying approaches in bad weather that allow landings in almost zero zero conditions. So-called Cat 3 approaches depend on the autopilot to fly a very precise approach. The ceiling can be at eye-level height of the pilot in the cockpit with the aircraft firmly on the ground. With the nose pitched up, as it is on approach, the main landing gear can be firmly on the ground before the pilots sees much of anything. Here's what such an approach into Brussels, Belgium looked like. The call-outs you hear are the number of feet above touchdown.

Often the biggest challenge is finding your way back to the ramp and your parking slot at the terminal.

But if that seems like a hair-raising way to fly wait till you read CDR Edward Frankiewicz USN account of landing on the snow in the Antarctic in an R4D, the Navy version of the venerable DC-3.

...sometimes during white-outs it was very hazardous. We could locate a tractor train by radar and we would make a descent, controlled descent until the skis hit the snow, we didn't know where the snow was. And land and then with radar, turn around and taxi back to the snow Cats or tractor train and refuel them and the like and then take off again. So that's one of the first, at least my only opportunity ever to make a zero-zero landing and a zero-zero take off.

Douglas made a sure strong airplane. When we'd land on that sastrugi, which is wind carved little ridges of snow anywhere from four to eight inches high on a slope. And if you landed right into them, it was really-really rough. And I can remember many a time landing - the instrument panel would just jiggle up and down, you could not read it. And your ear-phones would fall off your head. And so would your sunglasses. And your teeth would go like that (Eddie make a rapid clicking sound). And you wonder why the airplane didn't fall apart.

The first time I tried to make a zero-zero landing, I established a 300 foot minute descent and this was at Byrd Station and Byrd Station is supposed to be at 5100 feet elevation. Well, descending at 300 feet a minute, I hit the ground at 5300 feet elevation by my altimeter and it was a hard landing. Why the gear didn't give out, I don't know. So from then on, my descents were 50 foot a minute to 100 foot a minute and they would be rather gentle. When the bottom of . . . when the rear of your skis would touch the snow, you had a split second or two to flatten out your descent and that would usually result in a pretty good landing.


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