Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Greasing It On

Smooth handling: some advice on how to make every landing a squeaker

Greasing It OnOn any given flight, the landing is the maneuver that concerns pilots the most. It concerns the pilot because, when it comes to aircraft handling, the takeoff is pretty simple, and once in the air, controlling the aircraft is far less complicated than driving a car in traffic. Nevertheless, at the end of every flight is the dreaded landing. Every professional pilot has found his or her techniques for a smooth landing. A perfect landing every time under all ground and wind conditions isn’t easily obtainable or necessary for a safe flight.

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10 Ways To Improve Your Landings
1. A runway is a runway. Don’t establish turn points for entering, downwind to base or base to final by objects on the ground—use your position in relation to the runway. And learn to judge your distance and height above the runway.

2. Have benchmark pattern speeds for downwind, base, final and short final, but be flexible and know how to modify them when necessary for weather conditions and varying aircraft weights.

3. The majority of landing accidents are caused by either being too high or too low on final. Combine that with the wrong speed on final for the conditions, and a landing can be difficult and even unsafe. Always pick a spot and try for a spot landing.

4. The preferred pattern should place your aircraft at a distance and height where, if you experience power failure, you can still land on the runway.

It’s essential to maintain proper speed control on final.

6. Make every landing as if you were flying a taildragger—control your drift. If applicable to your plane, stall it on at the slowest possible speed. Current instructors teaching in high-performance aircraft, such as the Cirrus and Columbia, and in light twins now give lessons on “landing attitude” (see number 8).

7. If something about your approach feels wrong, abort, go around and set up again.

8. Your plane isn’t a car. Don’t drive it onto the runway. The accepted method for landing heavier aircraft is landing attitude. The nose is positioned in a positive angle of attack, and this angle of descent is held by using power to maintain the correct altitude—if the plane goes below the glidepath, power up; if it goes above, power back.

9. If conditions permit, hold the nosewheel off the runway as long as you can. This attitude helps slow the plane down without brakes and minimizes wear on the nosegear, tire and wheel.

10. Don’t just know the theory of crosswind, short-field and soft-field landings; practice them under controlled conditions or with an instructor. They’re fun and will increase your landing ability.

Landings can be fun when done properly. Practice approaches and landings at various types of airports, but include some controlled fields to stay current with tower practices. Keep in mind that though a perfect and safe landing should be your goal, it’s not always easily otainable. If you continue making the same types of landing errors, fly with an instructor who can help solve any problems you may be experiencing. Above all else, remember that flying—and, yes, even landings—should be fun.



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