Exercise 16 – Operation at Minimum Level

Exercise 16 – Operation at Minimum Level



  • During the VFR training the students have to be familiar with flying at low altitude, there can be many reasons for it and it usually depends on circumstances. Consequently, as part of the general duty of care that every instructor owes to his students, you should at least discuss the considerations in this section and, where possible without detriment to the primary aim of any lesson, point out some factors when flying.


  • You should discuss the following:

1. Regulations governing low flying and the circumstances in which it might be necessary.
2. Low flying requires a high standard of both flying ability and self-discipline and is generally riskier than operating at medium level. So stress the benefits of prudence and early decision-making to avoid being forced to low level.
3. Additional hazards: military low flying, helicopters, birds, wires, terrain. Lookout all round is of paramount importance.
4. Restricted field of view – poorer radio range (RT and navaids).
5. Effect of wind – more obvious at low level.
6. Effect of turbulence – more obvious at low level.
7. Effect of aircraft momentum – apparent skidding in turns.
8. Flying over contours.
9. Obstruction
10. Engine failure – treat as engine failure after take-off
Note: Much reduced time available to locate a landing area.


  • If possible demonstrate the following:

1. The altimeter is of limited use to determine height; show the appearance of the ground at 500 ft agl (minimum go-around height for practice forced landing). Height must be judged visually.
2. Limited field of view (horizon closer in); features with vertical extent (hills, masts tall buildings) show up well and can be useful for navigation: traditional navigation features (roads, railways, rivers) are less useful.
3. The need to anticipate power changes when flying over marked changes in Contour.
4. Effect of wind:
a. Drift is more obvious in crosswinds – tendency to apply “corrective” rudder and to fly out of balance.
b. Head/tail-winds – differences in groundspeed are more apparent: when turning downwind, beware of misinterpreting increase in ground speed as increase in IAS and reducing power!
5. Beware of the additional dangers of rising ground in mountainous areas.