I read with interest the insights learned by an Australian friend, Dave, a middle-aged (as he refers to himself) young person as he is learning how to fly. For his insight #13, he wrote, “Watch the airspeed on late finals! I made one really slow landing on which I was going as low as 50 knots even before I was over the runway threshold. That’s too close to the stall (even though I had full flaps out). Need to maintain about 65 knots over the airport fence and 60 knots over the runway threshold.”
Dave, you’re working too hard! Sit back and relax! Enjoy it! Trim the airplane and let her do most of the work.
One of the simplest things a pilot can do to help him or herself in flying the airplane, particularly during landing, is properly to trim for the correct airspeed. I have sat in airplanes many times as a check pilot or instructor watching students struggle with slow flight. They sit in the left seat working really hard to keep the airplane right on altitude, right on airspeed.
I watch student pilots struggle and remember back to the time when I did the same. It seems we all fight with the concept of flying slow. Combine that with the fear of stalls and falling out of the sky and merge with the idea of flying an approach close to the ground and you have the equation for impediment of learning.
Dave, keep in mind that once you get the airplane properly established on the glideslope at a particular approach speed, if you trim the airplane correctly, it will arrive at the landing area with only small inputs from you. It also will stay right on speed because you trimmed her for that speed.
All that remains after reaching the runway is that you fully reduce the power and ease her nose up into the stalled condition—right at the correct moment and height. The wing should quit flying and the wheels should start rolling all at the same time. If you manage that, the landing will be smooth with hardly a bump at touchdown and you will transition the weight of the craft from the wings to the wheels at once.
Then the trick is to keep the stick (wheel, yoke, or elevator control) full aft as you roll out while at the same time, programming the ailerons into the wind if there is a crosswind.
And there it is! No sweat! A perfect landing!
Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention you have to use your feet to keep it going straight down the middle of the landing area, or on the centerline of the runway.
Fly well, learn a lot, be safe.
© 2011 J. Clark
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Thanks so much for reading my blog and for your interest. I read your feedback today with much interest myself!
There’s a kind of zen about doing a good landing, isn’t there? With the exception of the one landing I wrote about (as described in your post today), my landings are now all good with the exception of flaring just a little high and not holding back on the control column quite enough. My instructor says he thinks I’m perfectly ready to solo right now, but he really wants me to get that last critical piece of the landing working better. He described it to me just now as “the difference between learning to fly, and learning to be a pilot”.
And you’re right. In the majority of landings I’m doing now, I’ve got my PA28 trimmed right and needing only minor control inputs on the yoke, combined with very occasional judicious use of the throttle. Every landing I’m doing is getting better and better. I’m now naturally doing all the things that I need to be doing, including keeping a quarter of an eye on the ASI to make sure I’m not going too close to the stall. I just need to get that “stall on the ground” happening properly, and getting the tires to kiss the runway rather than hit it.
It’s a truly fascinating learning experience. There’s so much to learn, process and integrate, and it gives me a fresh insight into the magnificent power of the human mind. Just 3 weeks ago I had never had a flying lesson in my life. 2 weeks ago I was in the storm of workload, anxiety and (yes) fear that comes after you do your first circuits lesson and struggle to take it all in. And now I’m doing the circuits quite well and ready to do one by myself. (*guards against complacency*)
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We read your blog with interest, sounds as if you are going well, you lucky devil . We watched the 4 Corners programme on the engine failure of the A380 last night, those guys were really lucky to get out of that,and they were a lot busier in the cockpit than you have been.
All the best.
John & Margaret.
Hi John & Margaret, thanks for your best wishes. Your comment came through to my friend Joe’s blog (rather than mine), hoping my reply gets to you.