Plane & Pilot
Monday, October 1, 2007

Myth Bustin'

Exploring 20 aviation myths

Right up front I should post a very clear caveat: Myths within any technological field almost always have a grain of, if not truth, at least enough fact that they have some ardent supporters who swear by them. (They “know” it’s true and can prove it because a friend of an uncle knew someone who had it happen to a cousin.)" />

Myth 6 Short-field approaches require hanging the airplane on the prop from a mile out.
Wrong! Short-field approaches require you to control the speed, gradually slowing and transferring glideslope control to the throttle as the speed decreases, so you arrive over the threshold at a predetermined speed (stall plus five knots) with your touchdown point picked out. Dragging it in is dangerous. Besides, it’s better to roll off the end of the runway at 5 mph than to land 10 feet short (old bush-pilot proverb).

Myth 7 Flying approaches at higher approach speeds is safer.
Busted! Any speed above or below POH recommendations wastes altitude and carries its own disadvantages. A fast approach means you’re going to float longer and leave more runway behind on touchdown. In addition, while you’re floating, the crosswind has more time to mess with you and the extra speed promotes ballooning, a popular cause of landing accidents.

Myth 8
2,000 feet is a short runway.
Busted! According to their POH’s, the average general aviation airplane has a landing roll of 500 to 750 feet, and this includes everything from C-152s to Bonanzas. That being the case, what makes a 2,000-foot runway short is the amount left behind on touchdown. Hit the runway in the first 600 feet, and you’re in fat city.

Myth 9 Pumping brakes is more effective and easier on brakes than steady pressure.
Busted! Pumping brakes rather than using a steady pressure goes back to the old days of drum brakes, which loved to heat up and fade. Disk brakes don’t. If, however, the runway is wet or slick, gently pumping or a very light touch may be necessary to keep from locking them up.

Myth 10 Wear lighter-than-normal shoes for increased rudder sensitivity.
Sort of busted! Wearing super-thin-soled shoes can offer you more feel of the rudder, but it’s a different feel than normal, so you have nothing to compare it to. It’s more important to make sure the heels of your sneakers are not the fat, shock-absorbing kind that extend back behind your heel and give an offset pivot point.

Myth 11
A calm day is safer/easier than a crosswind day.
Mostly busted! Although a calm day is definitely easier, it’s safer only if your crosswind technique stinks. With the exception of 90-degree crosswinds, there’s always a component down the nose that’s making your groundspeed slower. Since practically everything having to do with landing is a function of the square of the speed, knocking off a few knots definitely makes the landing both safer and easier.


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