Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Setting Stabilized Approach Criteria

Just because the FAA doesn’t get specific doesn’t mean you don’t need criteria

Because they're generally not working in the same structured environment as airline crews, general aviation pilots probably won't have specific criteria unless employers prescribe them or the pilots take the time to calculate them before or during a flight. Sometimes, if you can just remember to have a Vref speed of 1.3 times stall in landing configuration as you go over the runway numbers, everything will be fine.

The FAA doesn't impose speed, descent or other numbers for landing various aircraft. You have to rely on your own research, what you've been taught, and the real-time judgment and performance facts you've accumulated through experience.

Most GA pilots have an advantage over pilots of jet airliners in that their piston engines and smaller aircraft are more immediately responsive. In fact, many may pride themselves on occasionally being able to turn an approach that's "all over the place" into a touchdown that has the tires barely kissing the pavement and the passengers being thoroughly impressed.

When salvaging an unstabilized approach doesn't quite work out, or the pilot hasn't recognized that a real problem exists, the NTSB will be called upon to explain what went wrong.

Beech C23
A Beech C23 on an instructional flight in day/VFR conditions was damaged during a hard landing on runway 09 at Campbell Airport (C81), near Grayslake, Ill. The instructor and student pilot were uninjured. The flight originated from Chicago Executive Airport (PWK).

The flight instructor stated that they had made two landings at C81, a stop-and-go and a full-stop and taxi back. The third landing was supposed to be a stop-and-go. The student reported it started getting dark, and he didn't see runway lights on. The airplane was configured with full flaps during final approach.

The student pilot said he knew that he maintained proper speed and altitude because the flight instructor didn't "complain" about it. The student pulled the throttle back to idle. He said he didn't know how far the airplane was above the runway when he pulled "too far back on the yoke," which made the airplane "slow too much and drop." The flight instructor exclaimed, "Power, power!" just before the airplane hit hard, bounced and banked to the right. The airplane slowed down and impacted the runway. The flight instructor then applied full engine power and performed an aborted landing. They then flew back to PWK.


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