I've been curious about backcountry landings, but one part of the practice still seems to based more on instinct and experience than on well-explained processes. I've read about making sure the strip is long enough, looking for power lines, avoiding campers and wildlife, checking your GA area, and other stuff, but what about mud?

Everyone seems to say that you do a pass close to the ground or a touch and go, but after that they seem to just make an educated guess based on how the ground looks and feels. Given that a misjudgement here could be disastrous and prevent you from being able to accelerate to a take off, what's the actual process and list of things to consider to make sure you're landing in a good airstrip and not a foot of deceptive-looking mud? Does a touch-and-go give you enough information or do you need to carefully consider things like recent rainfall, watershed shape, etc.?

Muddy landing in a tail-dragger on a riverbed Image from this video.


Usually, it's a combination of making a couple of low altitude passes over the landing site and visually observing the conditions of the terrain in the area and personal experience selecting a site based upon the knowledge of the local terrain and soil, recent weather conditions, local flooding, ground vegetation, etc. It's a bush pilot skill based partly on intuition as well as instruction from senior airmen with experience flying in the area.

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