Learning How to Land

This one is for all the students trying to master the technique of bringing an airplane
back to earth.  This is from the notes I kept when I was trying to learn how to land.


Now, how does one learn to land an airplane?  Let me tell ya—through lots of trial and error and practice.

(Found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aOrKlcCyKM.)

In the parlance of flight instruction and general educational terminology, there are certain elements of the maneuver a student pilot must master.  An experienced pilot lands an aircraft without even thinking about what he or she is doing.  A student on the other hand, not only thinks about all those elements, he worries and frets and considers each one—almost to the point of forgetting to fly the airplane.  This is normal for student pilots and that is why God protects little children and drunks—and student pilots.

Something else a student must keep in mind is controlling the aircraft on the centerline of the runway, or in our case at Charlie’s, keeping it in the center of the grass landing area.  Maintaining the airplane on the centerline is the first problem.  Coupled with this is controlling the speed properly.  Another consideration is the wind.  Wind affects both centerline control and airspeed control.  Oh, and let’s not forget about coordination: the student has to control the stick, the rudders, and the throttle all correctly and in concert to affect the landing and control all the elements just mentioned.

There is a very time proven and traditional method used in learning how to land an
airplane.  The instructor takes the student out and teaches him the basics—­something known as the “four fundamentals.”  The four fundamentals include flying the aircraft in straight and level flight; flying the airplane in a climb; in descents; and finally in turning flight.  The student then learns how to fly the airplane in slow flight and recover from referred to as a “stalled” condition.  (The word, stall, in this case, means the pilot is flying the wing at too high an angle of attack; it has nothing to do with the engine quitting or failing.)  After the student masters these basics, the instructor “demonstrates” a landing or two and then tells the student to do it.

Yea, . . .  Right!

During the instructor demonstrations, the airplane comes down to the landing area very obediently, perfectly staying where the instructor bids.  It will track straight and true down the middle of the runway.  It will touch down right on a predetermined spot on the runway.  Finally, it will roll out in a straight line along the runway.  That is what happens when the instructor demonstrates.  Then the student tries it.  Suddenly the airplane develops a mind of its own!

When the student starts practicing landings, the airplane will change from a docile, lazy sleepy housecat, into a cantankerous, moody, and highly unpredictable lion or tiger.  What’s more, it seems to be prone to turning around and taking off the student’s head.  Just for the fun of it.

Every now and then, just to keep the huge beast in line, the instructor reaches out with his training whip and pistol and puts the big cat in its place.  Then he looks at the student and says something like, “See?  Nothing to it.  What’s your problem?”  The student then thinks to himself, “Yea, sure!  When you do it.”  Then the instructor says something about keeping the nose straight with the rudder pedals and stopping the drift with ailerons.  Simple, he says.

Yea, . . .  Right!

I quickly learned the key to learning how to land was simple—never give up.  Just keep on working it.  It takes a while, but eventually, you will master landings.

Even if it seems impossible at times…


© 2011 J. Clark

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