By: George Hurt
A couple of years ago I had my only 'forced landing'. I was giving the neighbor kid a ride and we went up to about 5,000 AGL and shut down the engine. We had a nice glide back to the airport and were on final when it looked like I might come up a little short. Ordinarily, this would not be a problem as that would have put me in a nice field.
This being spring though, that field was all black gumbo mud and touching down there would not be good. I tried a restart but did not get enough prime into it as I did not want to flood it so it would not start. I had just crossed a gravel road that ran about 45 deg off to my right. I gave up on the restart and concentrated on my options.
At this point, I felt I could make the runway but was not absolutely sure. I was absolutley sure that I could make that gravel road though, so that is where we went down for a nice landing. Now on the ground, I had no fear of flooding so I gave it a little more prime this time around and it restarted fine. I let it warm up, took off, and went back to the runway, under power.
Now this gliding back to the runway and landing was something that I had done at this airport many times with passengers. I always approached high and did S turns on final, but this time I tried something different. I had had several instructors tell me to just do a 360 (turn away from the runway) and since my passenger was light, I tried it. It just didn't work out right and I could have come up short.
What did I learn here? Stick with what you have practiced and only try new things with a little more margin of safety than normal.