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