Monday, September 27, 2010

The landing slump

It feels like years since I've made a decent landing in an airplane. I'm in a slump. I can't tell you for sure when it began, and now I can't tell you when it's going to end.

This is one of the problem with being a renter: It's too expensive to get out and keep one's skills sharp. Yesterday, Carolie and I flew along the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers to check out flooding that hit last week after some areas got 10 or more inches of rain in 24 hours.

Carolie usually doesn't fly with me, so it was nice to have her along. It was a little bumpy down low and she probably drove up the stock of Benadryl a fair amount, but she's a trooper:

And before the flight, I perform the traditional toast to the airplane.

Actually, I'm checking the fuel sample I just took out of the wing tank.

Then we flew...

The actual flying skills were fine -- better than fine, actually. I held altitude at 1,000 feet AGL in steep turns over Pine Island. While filming.

What else went right? Situational awareness. We flew well, we spotted the traffic (including birds) we needed to find, we did a great job of communicating through some busy airspace around Mankato, keeping everyone alert for us, and helping them navigate around us. We got a great view of tow plane, cutting its tie to a Civil Air Patrol glider over Mankato, and then diving for the ground.

There's just this landing thing to overcome.

We headed over to Red Wing for a bathroom break and a check of the Vikings score. Red Wing is a huge runway (5,000 feet), along the Mississippi, below bluffs on the Wisconsin side. And, sure, it gets a little squirrely, but it shouldn't have been as poor a landing as it was, especially given an incredibly stabilized four mile final.

But it was a bad landing, partially because the size of the runway makes you think you're lower than you really are, and partly because I'm not focusing on the far end of the runway, I'm looking ahead of the nose. I know this is the problem, I'm just not getting out enough to practice it.

So as we bounced down the runway, I firewalled the throttle and executed a go-around, which couldn't have thrilled Carolie, who rarely flies with me and didn't know what I was doing.

The second landing was a little better, but I still dropped it the last 10 feet or so.

And back at Flying Cloud -- a more familiar runway -- I had a better landing, but still not great.

As the RV-7A project nears its conclusion, I always think immediately after landings, "What would have happened if you were flying an RV?" I don't like the answer.

(If you're reading this via Facebook, you'll have to go to the "original posting" to see the video and Flash slideshow)


  1. The problem, as you noted, is simply not flying enough. Don't wait to get proficient with the RV, invest in yourself now. Maybe even stimulate the local flight school by putting a CFI in the right seat for an hour or two.

  2. You probably flew right over me at Stanton, where I was messing with gliders. Stop in sometime. I flew in with a 172 - and managed an awkward landing in that easy to land beastie, watched by friends on the flight line. Now that's pressure. :)

  3. Couldn't see it so not sure, but if the bounces were PIO (ie., porpoise), then consider
    1. Too much airspeed and not enough aft trim. Photo shows a PA-28 - try about 80mph / 70kts for approach speed. No more.
    2. Could be not enough aft trim. Many people, over time, get used to holding a little "pull". Another indicator of this is if, as you're trying to flare, you find yourself pumping the yoke. Try trimming all the way back as far as it will go and see what speed that gives you hands off. You may be surprised.
    3. Try the game of not trying to land. Instead, come over the fence, power to idle, and then fly as close to the runway as you can without touching down.

    Enough! I'm off to bash some more airplanes.

    Good luck.

  4. Good landings start on final. Stabilize the approach at correct airspeed and attitude. Then cross the fence and round out. You should now be at 1.3 Vs -no more. Assess height -the plane should be at 10' if higher go around and try again. Keep doing this until the picture is right. Assuming you got that right, and now close to the runway, try to hold the plane off flairing and closing the throttle. The stall waring should fire when you are 1' off the runway. Keep holding off and you will not bounce but land smoothly and firmly. If you are getting nervous its time for some lessons. You can do it - I can ! :-)