(Summary) Corner of the Lost Planes

There is a “Corner of the Lost Planes” at the HHAMS Aerodrome. This section of the flying field is just a bunch of tall trees, seemingly indistinguishable from other thousand tall trees that surround the aerodrome. But almost every member recalls running into difficulties flying in this corner, if not losing a plane or two while flying near it. All else being equal, we lose alarmingly greater number of planes to this corner than the rest of the field.

Corner of the Lost Planes in yellow. Greater Corner of the Lost Planes in orange.

Corner of the Lost Planes in yellow. Greater Corner of the Lost Planes in orange.

Why this should be puzzles all new members. But veterans know that together, the geometry of the Aerodrome, the prevailing wind pattern and the position of the Sun conspire to make the Corner of the Lost Planes a trap for oblivious pilots.

First, the geometry. A Google Satellite image reveals the shape of the aerodrome – it’s a square on the left and a triangle on the right. The pilot stands at the blue rectangle, facing the runway. The North is to the to the right of the pilot. The prevailing wind at this field blows southward, therefore the pilot usually takes off from the runway due North, and approaches for landing from the South (left side of the pilot).

Geometry of the Aerodrome, wind, flight path (red), Greater Corner (orange) and the Corner proper (yellow)

Geometry of the Aerodrome, wind, flight path (red), Greater Corner (orange) and the Corner proper (yellow)

The most common flight pattern used at the aerodrome is a counterclockwise oval, shown in red. More often than not pilots fly well above the tree skyline. The majority of actual flight paths do not form an oval centered in front of the pilot. Despite declared intentions of pilots, in most flights a plane stays longer on the left side or the oval, and flies further out South than it does North.

Many people inexplicably find it “easier” to fly their planes in the area marked by the orange rectangle on the map which we’ll call the Greater Corner. Some may feel that their planes “want” to stay in this Greater Corner. But these are illusions. The wind helps the plane on its southbound leg and fight it on its northbound leg. Pilots would find, on a typical day, that it is easy to fly a plane into this corner, but harder to steer it out, back North.

If a pilot does not recognize this phenomenon, his plane would tend to linger over the canopy of the Greater Corner, far away and barely visible. When flying over 60-foot-tall trees, a pilot does not enjoy the same ample room for recovery, as available when flying at 3-mistakes high over grass. When dumb thumbs strike, a plane skimming the treetop has 10 to 20 feet of working space, not the usual ground-to-plane height of some 80 feet. It is almost as if one were flying a plane at 10 feet above ground, two runway-length away. And this is the number one cause for losing planes to the Corner of the Lost Planes, marked as a yellow rectangle on the map – a plane either drops below canopy before its pilot completes recovery moves, or rams sidelong from above the Greater Corner into mighty tall trees in the Corner proper.

Sometimes, one flies below the tree skyline within the confines of the trees, above the grass, especially when flying 3D planes. From where the pilot stands on the ground, the tree skyline looks like a flat expanse stretching from the far left to the far right, in “one straight line”. It seems to the pilot that they could just fly their plane in a straight line from the far left to the far right, and back, in front of the trees. And this illusion of a straight expanse causes pilots to fly their planes from above grass straight into the Corner.

Illusion of a straight expanse

Illusion of a straight expanse

Similarly, when making landing turns to approach the runway from the South, many pilots do not take into consideration the Corner and its deceiving look. They plan a curved approach path “in front” of the Corner, with their planes descending from above treetop to below treetop. Many a time the planned path intercepts a tree in the Corner, and the landing is cut short.

Yet another schemer is the Sun. It moves from the Southeast to the Southwest, and strives to blind the pilot that flies his plane on the Southern side of the field which happens to be, you guessed it, the Corner of the Lost Planes. Even when a pilot manages not be blinded by the Sun, flying a plane over the Corner is still a challenge, as the silhouetted plane appears as a dark contour. If the pilot is distracted for a just a moment during a maneuver, the plane could move into an ambiguous orientation, due to the lack of visual details from the plane surface that would otherwise be available. Couple this with the fact that the plane may be only 10 feet above treetop, the pilot has very little room for mistakes, while trying to assess the true orientation of his plane.

Which way is this plane heading?

Heading away or towards? Upside down?

The Corner of the Lost Planes is a tricky section of the HHAMS Aerodrome. If it has already taken your sacrificial planes, then likely you’ve already thought about what was written here. If you haven’t paid your dues yet, hopefully this article will save your planes from the Gods of the Corner of the Lost Planes.

If you have an opinion or feedback on this topic, please head to the full article where you’ll also find ideas on how to best evade the Corner.

About Xinhai Dude 辛亥生

The name Xinhai Dude 辛亥生 is a pun in Chinese, as it means both “he who was born in Xinhai” as well as “he who studies Xinhai”. I had an ambitious plan to write something about the great Xinhai Revolution of 1911, thus my blog https://xinhaidude.com. But after an initial flurry of activities the initiative petered out. One day I will still carry it through. But for now, this website has turned into a conglomerate of my work on various topics of interest to me, including travel pictures, RC model airplane flying, inline skating, ice skating, classical music composition, science fiction short stories, evolution and atheism.
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