Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Learning to Land an Airplane

A few months ago I started flight school when I discovered that my GI Bill would cover most of the training costs beyond my private pilot certification. There's a popular saying that flying is a pilot's second most favorite activity. The first is landing.

I've been having problems consistently landing smoothly. It seems that each time I fly a textbook landing pattern approach I end up flaring too early and floating until I stall. This results in a landing that's harder than it should be. But, if the tower controller directs me to follow something other than a standard landing pattern such as a short approach ("direct to the numbers") or extends me downwind, I end up making a much better landing. Very odd.

Last week, I came across Philip Greenspun's website. One of his hobbies is general aviation. About six months ago he wrote a piece on How to Land an Airplane. This article, in addition to an earlier one, Learning to Fly, helped me make better landings.

The key, for me, is to not try to land right on the numbers, especially since the runway I'm landing on is several times longer than needed for the Cessna-152 that I use for training. Instead, I've been holding the aircraft just above the runway and gently floating down onto it while flaring when just a couple feet off the ground. It seems to be helping. Stay tuned.

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