Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Greasing It On: 20 Tips To Get ’Er Done

It’s all in the details. And in the pilot’s attitude.

16. The touchdown is a dance where speed is traded for altitude.
As the airplane slows down in flare, it will want to flop onto the runway unless we increase back pressure and the angle of attack. But if we pull too much, too early, it will balloon. This is where our eyes and our fingertips both talk to us. Our eyes tell us when the airplane is no longer floating but is slowly coming downhill. At the same time, we can sense the pressure in our fingertips decreasing, telling us that both speed and lift are going away: time to increase angle of attack (and deck angle).

17. Set a desired deck angle in our mind’s eye, and hold it.
There’s a limit to the deck angle we want. So as we approach, we set the ideal angle in our mind, and as we slow down in ground effect and hit that angle, strive to hold it, even as decreasing elevator effectiveness tells us to continue increasing back pressure. The “greasyness” of the grease job is rooted in the “touch” we have with the yoke/stick: Our fingers read the way the pressure is decreasing with speed bleed-off, and our brain combines that with what our eyes are telling us about the airplane falling toward the runway. Our mental computer is whispering, “Hold it off, hold it off,” and the way in which we obey determines the quality of our touchdown.

18. When you touch down, it isn’t the end of the landing.
A grease job means more than touching down smoothly and gently. To make it complete, the rollout has to match it for quality, and that includes the aforementioned gentle nosewheel-off-the-ground rollout. After touchdown, visually fixate on the far end of the runway and the top of the nosebowl. When touching down, note exactly where the nosebowl lies in relation to the end of the runway, and hold it there. This will require slowly increasing the back pressure as the airplane slows down. Gradually, the pressure in our fingertips will begin to decrease as the airplane slows. At that point, slowly lower the nose to the ground. We lose “grease job points” if we let it fall to the ground like a clump of dirt.

19. It’s all about consistency.
We can’t set up a good approach unless we’re in the same place on downwind every time to start the approach. We can’t hold the speed on final without being consistent with the nose attitude. We can’t hit the desired spot on the runway unless we do our best to hold the same glideslope. And on, and on. Inconsistency breeds inconsistent landings. Consistency breeds control, and with control comes grease jobs.

20. Grease jobs are an attitude, not a skill.
Grease jobs aren’t necessary for safety or efficiency. Actually, grease jobs are totally unnecessary. However, they come from an attitude that says that flying an airplane is more than punching buttons or pulling levers at the right time. They’re part of an attitude that buys into the concept that flying an airplane is an art to be understood and perfected, not a mechanical skill to be applied. And the difference in the attitudes spells the difference between people who simply drive airplanes, and those who make love to them. The latter are known as “aviators.” The former, simply “pilots.”


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