Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How to Make Those Tires Chirp

Ahh, yes, the holy grail for every pilot from GA pattern pilot to cross country adventurer to corporate pilot to the pilots who fly the largest iron in the sky. The good landing, the great landing, the greaser. We all measure ourselves by our landings. The good and the bad. We have descriptive names for what happens when the gear hits the runway. The greaser, short field, soft field, bounce, porpoise, wheel barrel and ground loop to name a few. 

To quote a rather experienced pilot that goes by the monicker of Ward Holbrook:
As of this morning, I am at exactly 11,781 landings (thank you Logbook Pro) - if you don't count the bounces. I have finally discovered the secret to making good landings, every time, in any airplane. In the beginning, I figured that it had to do with maintaining a stabilized approach and proper airspeed control; but, alas, that wasn't it. I then worked up a theory that involved planetary alignment and moon phases. I was getting closer. I finally put it all together when I figured out how to hold my mouth - you have hold it just right and the planets have to be in proper alignment and the moon has to be in the proper phase, in addition to flying a nice smooth stabilized approach and exercising proper airspeed control. If you get a greaser other than when you're doing all of that you're just lucky.
Well... I've never figured out how to hold my mouth just right.. but I figure I've only got 477 landings (if you don't count the bounces) in my log book so I have a long way to go. That's OK. I've got time.

But what I wanted to write about is a new realization I had in a IFR training flight last week. True to predictions, my landings suck when I do these IFR training flights. We usually get about 500' AGL before my CFI has me take off the foggles and land. The transition is difficult to say the least.

I've bounced two out of three of them. (I haven't bounced that hard since before my check ride.) Each time my CFI said I wasn't looking at the end of the runway. This is not a new tip, from my first unassisted landing, looking at the end of the runway has always been emphasized. I have to admit. I haven't been looking at the end of the runway much at all. And I've been getting away with it, until now anyway.

My last IFR training flight, I'm coming in for landing. I round out with the ground whizzing by and my hands are active trying to keep the plane at the right attitude and land. He says, "You aren't looking at the end of the runway". I immediately transitioned my gaze to the end of the runway and everything slowed down. Suddenly I wasn't fighting to keep the plane at the proper attitude. My corrections were smaller and more accurate, the landing was ... smoother ... not a greaser, but a heck of a lot better than the last two. I was amazed at the immediate difference between looking at the end of the plane and looking at the end of the runway. I resolved on my next flight I would make absolutely sure to transition to looking at the end of the runway.

My next flight was Sunday with a friend of mine, four take offs and landings planned so I'd get to test out this look at the end of the runway thing some more. So, on each landing I did the round out as the ground started to whiz by and then.. immediately.. transitioned my gaze to the end of the runway. I was floating just over the runway light as can be, making small adjustments, not landing, until the plane touched down on its own with a light chirp of the tires.  This is what landings were supposed to be like. I remembered the way this feels. This feels right! Ah ha! Over and over I transitioned my gaze and over and over the landing was a joy. If you've never flown a plane I don't know how to describe how good it feels to touch down like that, but trust me. It feels good!

My friend caught this video of our landing at King City... the approach wasn't perfect, I wasn't on centerline, but the tire chirp was so cool!

I'm four for four now. We'll see how well I do on my next IFR training flight. I won't be upset if the landing is still rough, but it shouldn't be because I forgot to look at the end of the runway anymore. :)

1 comment:

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