At this point, my inexperience in this aircraft truly became obvious. We passed over the tree line on the southeast side of this field, and I realized that we were too fast and too high to make a safe landing, even with a slip. And, since I was unfamiliar with the flaperons and their effect on aileron controllability, I determined they weren’t a safe option either. I was faced with a critical decision: use the 50 percent or so of power I was still getting from the engine and my excess airspeed, which I would build up in a dive, to check the field for any potential obstacles and execute a tight turn, bleeding my excess energy off and then landing, or force the landing now and risk running into the cattle fences, barns and trees at the end of the field. I gave the engine all it had and used my 40 to 50 mph of excess airspeed in the descent to turn out and around and attempt a landing.
After we got turned around, at about 300 feet the engine stopped producing power altogether. I deployed the flaperons to bleed of speed and altitude. Again, my inexperience with this aircraft became evident. I nose-dived toward the green beneath me in a steep turn, and I lost some of my aileron effectiveness. I quickly retracted the flaps, pulling my nose up as we descended over the tree line. At below roughly 50 feet, we were still in a 20-degree bank, and the nose was still pulling through the horizon. Finally, I was able to align myself with the field and level out. I maxed out the elevator movement as we entered ground effect and settled nicely into the grass in a three-point landing before gently rolling to a stop and quickly evacuating the aircraft.
Luckily, the people who owned the field brought us in for a cold drink of water and let us use their trailer to bring the aircraft to Volk Field, which was only 10 miles away. For some reason still unknown at this writing, the fuel system that had functioned for hours of flight before my flight became unsealed at some point and let an excessive amount of air into the fuel lines.
Although I wasn’t looking for an experience like this to happen to me, I learned the importance of safe decision-making. At the point that we decided to execute a landing, it was still a precautionary landing. Although during the last minute of the flight it became an emergency landing, if we had waited for the emergency to occur before making our decision, the outcome could have been different.