There are some things magical and mystical about coming back to earth after flying. I can still hear Charlie saying, “Any monkey can fly, you can train a monkey to takeoff and fly. The first astronauts were monkeys. The person who can land the airplane, well, those are the people we call pilots.”
The neat thing about learning how to fly at Charlie’s was learning to land. Charlie taught us from the very beginning where to land. Today, flight instructors teach students to carry partial power throughout their landings and to touch down anywhere on the long concrete runway. Unlike students of today, we flew our landings power off. From the abeam position the student applied carburetor heat and retarded the throttle to idle.
Charlie’s students would trim the nose of the Cub into a 55 mile per hour glide and then turn base leg appropriately, depending on the wind conditions. Charlie’s students played final approach with a slip if they were a little high or with a little power when a bit low. The end result was always the same: a full stall three point landing on the bald spot at the end of the runway–just beyond the mulberry bush.
We did not know it at the time, but Charlie was teaching us how to do short field landings without calling them short field landings. To us, it was just a normal landing. There was no pressure to land the airplane on a particular spot. We would naturally land the airplanes on the bald spot in the middle of the grass–again, just beyond the mulberry bush. That was the spot our eyes were drawn to and of course, where we were looking, that is where the airplane would go.
I worked and I worked very hard at my landings. I wanted to get them just as good as I possibly could. When I had about 19 hours total, ten hours after solo, I made what I thought was the most perfect landing I have ever made in my entire life.
Charlie had not mowed the grass on the runway and the grass tassels were sticking up a good ten to 12 inches. He was also complaining about the bald spot becoming too large and told us to land just beyond the bald spot. The grass was deep, rich, and green in color and as I brought the Cub around for the landing, I flew past the bald spot and dragged the wheels through the grass tassels.
I could hear the tassels hitting the bottom of the Cub’s wheels as the little airplane danced just above the grass and settled in. I could see the wheels start slowly rolling as they gradually made contact with the grass. I did not feel the familiar “bump” that typically heralded the transition from flying to rolling. One moment I was flying, and all of a sudden, I was rolling.
After all these years of flying and the thousands of hours in my log and all the landings I have accomplished, I still think of that landing.
To this day, I regard it as the only almost near perfect landing I have ever made.
© 2010 J. Clark
Landings were the most difficult part of flying for me after I got over the fear of doing stalls and slow flight. I kept trying to flare too early time after time. I just could not get the right site picture of how things were supposed to look for when I should flare. Finally I got it and it felt so sweet to get it right!
They were difficult for me, too. I think that’s why I enjoyed them so much – for the challenges presented.