Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Landing After Instrument Flying

I suppose its a common issue that people doing instrument training will discover their landings suddenly suck. It sure is common for me. This is a loose description of my last landing after 1.8 hours of simulated instrument flying. I did well for the first 1.5 hours of the instrument flight, but then I started to get tired and things started falling apart. I did successfully, if sloppily, shoot the GPS approach for my home airport and it was time to land. 

Take off the foggles and land, he says.

Foggles come off, I see the runway right where it should be. The VASI shows we are right on glide slope. My brain freezes for a second.

Land. Land. How do I land? Airspeed, track. Airspeed, track.

Track was good. Airspeed... I was flying the approach at 90kts, slow it down to 85kts and 10 degrees flaps. Now I was getting high ... why? airspeed, shoot, I'm still at 75 kts. Too fast, slow down. Pitch up.. oh yeah, pull power, that would help. Something still not right.

Oh! Trim! 

Deep breath, slow it down a bit more, 6 quick turns of the trim wheel. Airspeed is where it should be. Still a bit high. Another 10 degrees of flaps and a bit of slip and I'm back on glide slope. Soon I'm crossing the fence at the edge of the airport property. I'm using the rivets on the cowling to line up with the centerline, but for some reason they keep moving. I am struggling to understand why.

Crosswinds! I say out loud.

I put in the ailerons to counteract the drift and align with the runway. Round out. From the corner of my eye I see his hands reach for the controls, but he doesn't touch them. I still have a chance to finish this.

Put your eyes at the end of the runway, he says.

Eyes go to the end of the runway, ailerons into the wind, aligned with centerline. Touch down on the upwind wheel. Slow down and exit at Charlie. I was surprised to be able to get off the runway so quickly. It wasn't pretty, but it was done. I was tired, brain fried, but I got it together in time. This experience showed me how much mental effort instrument flying requires but no matter how tired you are, landings are mandatory. I'm thinking next time I need to be thinking about landing a long time before reaching decision altitude. I'll try that.

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