A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Safe landing on iced over Lake Potanipo

January 16, 2017
Emilie Phillips

Monday I squeezed in time for regular landing practice. While in the air, I started eyeballing the smooth ice on Lake Potanipo.

That day, I found a glimmer of spare time to hop in my RV-4 and freshen up my landing skills. Isaac came along too. My landings were not as good as when I trained for Wentworth. The biggest skill I was missing was consistency. On base leg and final, my airspeed varied by 10kts. The extra speed carried me farther down the runway. The other effect, was I was flying with a passenger, albeit a small one. Even Isaac’s light weight was enough to noticeably change the center of gravity. I did not account for it, and landed hard on the tail most of my landings. There were wind shifts as the hills and trees blocked the cross winds, but I should fly better anyway.

Isaac on the RV-4 beside the house

After a few landings, I took a break and we flew a mile east to inspect Lake Potanipo. Clear, smooth ice covered the lake. A few bob houses congregated in the middle of the lake where snowmobile tracks from the public launch intersected the east-west drag strip. It looked really inviting to land, but I saw only a few ice fishers on foot, no trucks. Also, the edge of the lake was dark with water where the ice had melted out. So I flew a low pass and went back to the airport for more landings.

This time, my landings were better. And Jerry, who lives on the lake, texted with updated ice conditions. Last night, he saw lots of trucks on the ice. He was sure it was thick enough to land on as long as I stayed away from the edges. He also suggested avoiding the drag strip because the surface was quite rough.

Armed with my improved landings and information on the ice conditions, I headed back to Potanipo. The winds blew 5-10kts from the west, so it was obvious which way to land. I planned my landing for a section of lake with no people or structures. My approach over the trees was faster and higher than I wanted. I definitely need to practice landings more. As I descended to the lake, I surveyed how much lake I had already used up, how much was left, and how fast I was flying. Should I go around and try again? There was tons of lake left. Had it been a paved or grass runway where I could use my brakes, I knew I could easily stop in a fraction the distance. But without brakes I wasn’t quite sure.

I touched down smoothly just past the smaller crossing drag strip. We slid effortlessly across the lake. I waited and watched as the airplane slowed and the far shore approached. There wasn’t much I could do while waiting. We were too slow for a go around. The farther we slid, the better things looked. Finally we coasted to a stop past Jerry’s house with plenty off ice left. I’m sure the headwind helped. Next time though, I want to come over the trees slower.

So that was my first time landing on Potanipo. Tyson and Russ have already landed the RV there prior winters.

Jerry came out to say hi. Isaac chased and caught a dried oak leaf blowing across the ice. Then he fell smack on the ice. Isaac says we should bring ice skates next time.

The takeoff was uneventful. I taxied all the way back to the east end of the lake and we rose above the trees in no time.


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Comments (1)

  • Hi, I live on lake Potanipo and watched you land that day, beautiful airplane you have, I have a nice panoramic picture and a I believe a video of you taking off, shoot me an email if you would like them