Ingredients for great landings!

There is no way to guarantee a good landing every time. The medium in which we fly is entirely too fluid and unpredictable to guarantee anything. However, totally ignoring the points that follow here will guarantee a less-than-satisfactory landing, and possibly a bad one.

There is no way to guarantee a good landing every time. The medium in which we fly is entirely too fluid and unpredictable to guarantee anything. However, totally ignoring the points that follow here will guarantee a less-than-satisfactory landing, and possibly a bad one.

What does “good landing” mean? Which ingredients of the landing qualify it as being a “good” one and elevate it above a simple, survivable return to Earth? And we should strive for “good,” not just “acceptable.”

Here are some of the universally agreed-upon factors that separate a good landing from a not-so-good one:

  • Touch down on or near a predetermined spot in the first quarter of the runway.
  • The speed at touchdown is the minimum that is practical.
  • Touchdown is on the mains (assuming a tricycle-gear airplane), with the nose held off until it’s purposely lowered.
  • There is a minimum of float, which means the speed at flare must have been correct.
  • First, last, and always, it is a graceful, smooth maneuver.

A good touchdown starts on downwind. Has anyone not heard the old-school cliché? It’s one of the first phrases out of a CFI’s mouth. What does it mean, and how does it affect the landing? While there are dozens of factors involved in a proper setup on downwind, the most important is consistency. When the power reduction is made opposite the end of the runway, whether for a power-off landing or an extended power-on approach, the process always occurs in the same place, at the same speed, and in the same manner.

What this does is establish a datum—a stable point of reference from which everything else can be judged. If the height, position, and speed vary from landing to landing, then we have nothing on which to build our landing experience. If nothing after the initial power reduction is the same as on our last approach, we don’t know what to adjust to make our landings better.

AIRSPEED CONTROL IS EVERYTHING. Every airplane ever produced has gone through an extensive flight test program that established a best approach speed for the airplane and presented it in the pilot’s operating handbook. If we’re faster than that number, we won’t glide as far and we’ll float more in flare. If we’re slower, we won’t glide as far and we’ll have much less float in ground effect—possibly none. So, we stand the chance of hitting the runway really hard.

The speed that an aircraft is carrying as it crosses the threshold speaks volumes about what is going to happen next. If fast, the aircraft is going to skate along on top of ground effect, giving any wind just that much more time to mess with it. Excess speed makes controlling the flare more difficult and greatly increases the likelihood that the aircraft will balloon back up, then drop in hard.

In general, the airspeed isn’t consistent or adequately controlled when the pilot is not controlling the nose attitude in relation to the horizon. In a reduced-power situation, as on landing, the nose attitude is the primary speed control. Unfortunately, too many of us think that the airspeed indicator controls the nose, when just the opposite is true. While the two are linked together, the changes in airspeed are first indicated by an attitude change. So, we control speed by first setting a nose attitude, letting the indicated airspeed stabilize, and then make small attitude changes to adjust the airspeed as needed.

The most common problem in controlling the nose attitude is that a pilot “looks” over the nose but doesn’t actually “see” what’s out there. So, we pick a feature on the nose—maybe the top edge of the spinner or a row of screws on the cowl—and make small adjustments in the space between that and the horizon. Once the relationship between the nose and the horizon is firmly entrenched in our visual memory, speed control becomes second nature.

KEEP THE SCAN GOING. All the time that we’re flying, we should have a continual scan going that ties together all the factors we’re trying to control. Most instructors have a short mantra that they use. Maybe it’s chanting rpm, altitude, attitude, pattern (ground track) or using the acronym PAST—power, altitude, speed (another way of saying attitude), track (our path along the ground).

The mantra is a way of instilling a scan that is constantly in action. Our eyes and our attention are continually scanning through the windshield, then across the panel and back again. It’s a circular motion in which we’re relating the nose attitude and what we’re seeing around it—and our path across the ground—to what is seen on the instrument panel.

The scan is in motion every instant that we’re in the airplane, but when we’re flying the pattern and making a landing, the ingredients of the scan become that much more important.

DON’T USE THE THROTTLE AS A CRUTCH. Yes, the FAA likes to see a stabilized, power-on approach; however, when we do an approach like that, we have to ask ourselves, “What would this same approach look like if the engine were to quit?”

There’s a tendency to set up landing approaches so that power is required, which obviously makes that approach easier. However, if there is even just a little power on during final, it changes the glide ratio considerably. Sometimes just a few hundred extra rpm more than doubles the distance the airplane will glide compared to a power-off approach. If all landings are made that way, we never develop the visual references or skills needed to make a completely power-off landing. So, if we suffer an engine failure, we’re on a test flight and have no idea where the aircraft will wind up.

At least a percentage of all landings should be power off, right from the downwind. Enough should be made that we know exactly what to expect if the engine should quit.

PICK A SPOT AND USE IT AS A REFERENCE. The runway is not a reference. It is a destination. “Reference” denotes a given point on the runway and, if we expect to have any accuracy in our landings, we need a reference point on the runway. It’s the location toward which we point the glidepath. However, without realizing it, when on final and getting close, some pilots stop looking at their reference point and begin looking at the runway itself. Until we’re in ground effect and flaring, we should continue to use whatever specific reference point we selected. Once we’re in the flare, we’re looking down the runway, trying to gauge height and position.

Great landingsThere are several schools of thought as to what we should be looking at during the flare. Some say to fixate on the far end of the runway. Some say to look several hundred yards ahead. I favor looking a hundred yards or so ahead (that’s about two runway lights) and try to glance at both sides of the runway, switching focus from one side to the other. It gives better depth perception and alignment information.

As for the runway reference point used—on final, use the numbers. Or the threshold. Or a distinctive feature, such as a dip or discoloration, if the runway does not have normal markings. Whatever it is, we focus on that point during the approach and, if necessary, adjust power so that point appears to be neither moving up the windshield (or appears to be moving away from us), telling us that we’re low, nor down the windshield (appears to be coming toward us) and we’re going over it. We want to keep it stationary.

We will not land on that point. The glidepath will be pointed at it, but we will land beyond it when the flare and float carry us down the runway.

THE SLIP FOR FINE TUNING. The forward slip is the best tool in a pilot’s toolbox for landing on a predetermined spot on the runway. And, no, slips are not dangerous (assuming the POH doesn’t prohibit them with flaps extended). Most landings benefit from a slight adjustment to glidepath, and the slip provides that. It’s an efficient altitude eraser and is perfect for correcting glidepaths that are slightly high.

PRECISION OVER THE THRESHOLD. The speed and height over the threshold determine where the aircraft will touch down. Almost regardless of the airplane type, if we come over the threshold at a reasonable height (15 to 20 feet) and on speed (not fast), we will always touch down 500 to 800 feet down the runway. So, we’ll be down and rolling when we hit the 1,000-foot markers. If we do that every time, we can count on needing only slight braking to turn off with no more than 1,500 to 1,800 feet of runway behind us. Most single-engine aircraft only need 500 to 750 feet of ground roll, so the trick is to avoid being too fast and floating down the runway.

ADVERSE YAW CHANGES WITH ANGLE OF ATTACK. A good landing is one where the airplane is traveling straight, with no lateral drift, when it touches down. This is difficult to do if we’re maneuvering in ground effect with aileron only. Adverse yaw increases as the airplane slows down—so remember to use your feet and stay coordinated when maneuvering in flare.

HOLD IT OFF. Control the touchdown by continuing to hold the aircraft off until it’s just about out of speed. And then, don’t just let it flop down. That’s ugly. Put a little grace in it and, as the mains touch, fixate on the nose attitude; use just a little more back-pressure to hold the nose there. Then slowly let it down as the speed bleeds off.

CONTROL YOUR NOSE ATTITUDE DURING FLARE. With most modern airplanes, it’s easy to just level in the flare and let the airplane make the landing itself. However, part of flying is being proud of your skill—and nowhere is that skill more evident and needed than in the flare. Those last few seconds before the airplane touches down are the most critical, and that’s when our ability to control the nose really comes into play. The image of the nose painted against the runway edges, the sky, and horizon contains every element having to do with the touchdown.

We want to clearly see the nose as it relates to the edges of the runway, because that’s how we’re going to keep the aircraft straight. Also, as the airplane settles and the runway edge tries to visually climb up the side of the nose, that’s how we’ll know we need to gently increase back-pressure to hold it off.

The image of the nose against the horizon is what gives us our deck angle/attitude information. As the airplane touches down, it’s that image that lets us hold the nose-high touchdown attitude for a few seconds before we purposely (and gracefully) let the nosewheel touch.

An approach and landing is where we show ourselves how well we can actually fly. Each landing should be the latest entry in our self-scored contest to do better than we did last time.

By Budd Davisson

Budd Davisson is an aviation writer/photographer and magazine editor. A CFI since 1967, he teaches about 30 hours a month in his Pitts S-2A. Visit his website.

Photography by Chris Rose

Source:  AOPA – Flight Training



Avoid it! – The Weather Radar

Airborne Weather Radar - Source:  Wikimedia

Airborne Weather Radar – Source: Wikimedia

The Weather Radar is one of the most valuable tools that we have on board an aircraft to avoid / navigate areas of thunderstorms.  Without it, in many parts of the world, like the one I fly now, it would be impossible to comply with scheduled flights in areas of active or forecasted convective weather.

The Weather Radar has saved many lives, but has also caused many accidents due to misinterpretation or because some have mistakenly thought that with the only fact of having it on board, they can fly with all kind of weather.  A weather Radar is only useful is the crew is capable of fully understand the system and interpret the screen display.

Correct use of a Weather Radar requires correct use and understanding how severe weather works.  Weather reports obtained at Flight Dispatch or Flight Service Station – FFS, as well as in flight reports provide valuable data to the crew of hazardous weather.  The best use of Weather Radar is to use it in conjunction with weather reports and weather forecasts.

 Understanding Weather Radar principles:

Radar echoes returns are proportional to the droplet size and precipitation intensity, although reflectivity of precipitation not only depends on the intensity of precipitation, also in the type of precipitation. 

Weather Radar Principles - Source:  Airbus

Weather Radar Principles – Source: Airbus

Precipitation that contains water will return a stronger echo than dry precipitation.  Dry hail for example will reflect far less than wet hail.  The upper level of a thunderstorm that contains ice crystals provides weaker returns than the middle part, that is full of water or wet hail.

The Weather Radar does detect:

·         Precipitation.

The Weather Radar does not detect:

·         Clouds, fog or wind.

·         Clear air turbulence – CAT , no precipitation.

·         Windshear.

·         Sandstorms

·         Lightning.

Reflectivity according to droplet size. - Source:  Airbus

Reflectivity according to droplet size. – Source: Airbus

The Weather Radar depends on signal returns, heavy precipitation may indicate stronger weather, the major part of the signal is reflected by the frontal part of the precipitation, the aft part will return weak signals that are displayed by green or black areas, the crew may wrongly interpret that these areas are safe, this phenomenon is called Attenuation.

Modern Weather Radars are capable to apply a correction to the signal when is suspected to be attenuated behind a cloud, however a black hole behind an area shown in red in the Weather Radar Display should always be considered as an area very active.

Attenuation behind two very active cells - Source:  Airbus

Attenuation behind two very active cells – Source: Airbus







Remember, The Weather Radar should not be used as a tool to penetrate or navigate around areas that are displayed as severe.  The Weather Radar should be used for weather avoidance.


“If you don’t have Weather Radar on your airplane, the best way to flight through a thunderstorm is on the ground and inside of a hangar”

By Ivan Paredes

Recommended reading:

– Airbus – Flight Operations Briefing Notes


A different approach to learning to fly

The spark that causes otherwise ordinary people to pursue a pilot certificate is as unique as the individuals who feel it. Once that impulse is felt, the path we pursue to get the training and experience needed to pass the FAA’s tests is varied, too.

19Jill Manka

That is certainly the case for Jill Manka, a central Florida woman who put her flight instruction on hold, bought a project airplane, and has spent the past two years restoring it. She’s intent on flying, but she’s decided to fly in an airplane she knows inside and out — and it’s hard to blame her.

Manka’s previous experience with flight was mostly business oriented, and not particularly inspirational. Her work as a representative for a convention and visitor’s bureau had her traveling often, but without much enjoyment.

“I was very jaded by the commercial experience,” she said.

Based on her earlier flights, Manka didn’t expect much when a new boyfriend invited her for a flight in his Stearman.

“I thought it was going to be cool,” she acknowledges. “But I had no idea how much it would really inspire me.”

Maybe it was the open cockpit or maybe it was the budding romance. Whatever the case, by the time the wheels touched down on the grass strip back home, Manka’s idea of what aviation was all about had shifted considerably.

That one flight changed everything. In fact, her first comment when she got back on the ground was, “Can we do that again? I liked it.”

As she flew more, her attraction to flight continued to grow. She discovered that every flight was decidedly different. Even when she flew the same aircraft over the same route with the same flight instructor, she encountered challenges to each flight that were unique.

Her instructional flights began at the storied Bartow Municipal Airport. Formerly known as Bartow Air Base, the original airport was built in the 1930s. The onset of World War II led to a significant expansion that allowed the field to become a Fighter Replacement Training Station. P-51 Mustangs filled the ramps and the air then, as did P-39 Aircobras. By the time Manka began her training, the venerable Cessna 172 was the trainer of choice, and her training went well enough that she soloed there.

All student pilots hit a plateau at some point. They may put in the effort, but for some reason they can’t seem to make progress. This is often limited to a single maneuver or task, and it is almost always a temporary glitch in the student’s thought processes that leads to the plateau. In Manka’s case, she knew what her plateau was and she knew how to solve it.

“I just never felt 100% comfortable in a nosewheel,” she admits. She attributes her discomfort to the fact that so much of her fun flying had been in taildraggers. “I learned a lot from the 172, and I’m so glad I had the experience in that aircraft, but for me, I really wanted to get back into a tailwheel, and I wanted to finish my license in a tailwheel airplane.”

With her course set, and her heart intent on not only completing her pilot license, but also completing it in style, the search was on.

Manka and her boyfriend began searching through classified ads, reaching out to friends, and considering the multitude of tube and fabric airplane projects hidden away in hangars and barns all across the country. She settled on the idea of restoring an Aeronca Champ after talking to numerous pilots who raved about their early flying years in what has often been described as an outstanding trainer and personal aircraft. Know for being docile, fun, and cost-effective, the Champ moved to the top of Manka’s list and stayed there.

After considerable searching, the perfect project was located, purchased, and moved to a hangar in central Florida. Manka’s boyfriend, the man who got her interested in aviation in the first place, is an Airframe and Powerplant mechanic. That happy coincidence meant that Manka didn’t just have to write checks to fund the restoration and stand back. She got to roll up her sleeves, dig in, and truly learn about the inner workings of her airplane.

“I’ve always been a, ‘get your hands dirty’ kind of girl,” Manka says proudly.

Getting dirty is exactly what she has been doing for the past two years. With oversight and guidance from her in-house A&P, she has stripped the fuselage, torn apart the wings, examined the engine, and begun the process of putting it all back together again. Overall, it’s slow but satisfying work. Even with much left to do, the completion of the project is virtually assured. Manka’s excited, motivated, and knows with certainty that she’s earned a far greater understanding of what makes her airplane work than most student pilots.

The work continues. With a covered fuselage, seats installed, a spare but functional instrument panel and the airplane sitting on its wheels again, this project is starting to really look like something. One wing sits on sawhorses, rebuilt and ready for covering. Its mate hangs on the wall in pieces. It’s unrecognizable to anyone who doesn’t have an intimate knowledge of what goes into building a wing. Manka knows, and her dream of flying her own airplane, a fully restored Aeronca Champ, is closer with every day she spends in the hangar.

But until that day comes, she’ll continue to fly from the front seat of the Stearman now and then, she’ll put in her time rebuilding that second wing, and she’ll maintain a well-earned sense of accomplishment that will last a lifetime.

By Jamie Beckett

Source:  General Aviation News

FAA – Airworthiness Directive orders Tail Inspections of all U.S. registered Boeing 737’s

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered an inspection of more than 1,000 U.S.-registered 737’s jets to examine a potentially faulty part on the tail fin, which could cause pilots to lose control of the aircraft if it failed.

“We are issuing this [airworthiness directive] to prevent premature failure of the attach pins, which could cause reduced structural integrity of the horizontal stabiliser to fuselage attachment, resulting in loss of control of the airplane,” the FAA said.

The FAA said the inspection was “prompted by reports of an incorrect procedure used to apply the wear and corrosion protective surface coating to attach pins of the horizontal stabilizer rear spar.”


Boeing 737's Tail, affected by a FAA - AD

Boeing 737’s Tail, affected by a FAA – AD

For its part, Boeing said this FAA Airworthiness Directive (AD) had been planned for some time and follows a standard federal process which has been underway over the last year. “This AD is not linked to any in-service event but rather a finding of a surface finish degradation on recently installed attachment pins.

“The AD requires inspection and possible replacement of the pins by 56,000 flight cycles. This long compliance time for accomplishing the work specified in the AD and Service Bulletin documents does not require immediate action for any currently flying 737s. The 737NG currently flying with the most cycles is at 40,000 flight cycles,” Boeing said in a statement.

By Ivan Paredes

Lion Air Boeing 737 overruns the runway in Bali – Indonesia.

Indonesian Police/EPA

Indonesian Police/EPA

A Boeing 737 from Lion Air carrying more than 100 passengers overrun the runway today and ended into the sea in the Indonesian resort of Bali.

All passengers were safely rescued and 22 people were taken to different hospitals with several injuries.

the airplane came down in the water just short of the runway while on final approach. Initial media reports indicated that the plane overran the runway on landing.
Flight JT-904 departed Bandung Airport (BDO) at 12:48 on a domestic flight to Denpasar. It came down in the sea at the beginning of runway 09.

Weather reported about the time of the accident (07:35 UTC / 15:35 LT) was:

WADD 130800Z 10009KT 9999 FEW017CB SCT017 30/26 Q1007 NOSIG
WADD 130730Z 15006KT 110V270 9999 FEW017CB SCT017 30/25 Q1007 NOSIG
[07:30 UTC / 15:30 LT: Wind 150°, varying between 110 and 270° at 6 knots; unlimited visibility; few Cumulonimbus clouds at 1700 feet AGL; scattered clouds at 1700 feet AGL; Temperature: 30°C; Dewpoint: 25°C; Pressure: 1007 mb]
WADD 130700Z 09006KT 9999 BKN017 30/26 Q1007 NOSIG



MALI: Air Mali tests the waters by operating its CRJ200 and MD87 on behalf of sister carrier, Air Burkina.

Air MaliAs the political situation in Mali begins to settle down, so Celestair Group’s Malian subsidiary, Air Mali (I5), has taken its first steps towards resuming operations by dusting off its stored Bombardier CRJ200 (MSN 7392 | TZ-RCA) kept until recently in France.

Air Mali's sole CRJ200
Air Mali’s sole CRJ200 (Air Mali)
According to ch-aviation, the jet will not resume full operations for the Malian carrier just yet, but will instead join its sister, a McDonnell Douglas MD-87 (MSN 49832 | TZ-RMA), in operating for Celestair Group’s Burkinabe subsidiary, Air Burkina (2J).
It is to be recalled that Air Mali suspended operations in late December just as Islamist fighters were closing in on the Malian capital Bamako.
Since January 2012, the West African nation has been in turmoil following an uprising that saw the partition of the country into two regions: the more conservative Islamic partition of Azawad in the north and Mali itself in the south. However, a recent foreign intervention force lead by France has, to some extent, succeeded in returning “Azawad” to Bamako’s control.

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Source:  The African Aviation Tribune

Tecnam offers low-cost time-building program – Leasing program also available

Tecnam North America is offering two new programs only for the U.S. market designed to make flying more affordable using the Tecnam P92 Echo Classic Light.

From $59 per hour plus fuel, participants will be given exclusive use of a Tecnam P92 Echo Classic Light equipped with radio, transponder, glass panel PFD, iPad Mini, GPS, and ADS-B weather and traffic for a specified period of time (six weeks per 100 hours purchased). Fly coast to coast, visit the Florida Keys, share the time with a friend, build time toward the commercial rating, or just have fun! The program will be rolled out nationwide over the next year but will start with aircraft pick-up and drop off in Richmond, Va., and Winter Haven, Fla.

Tecnam is also offering a fixed price, five-year lease on a new Echo Classic Light. Pricing starts at $15,000 down and $499 per month, plus $15 per hour for reserves. At the end of five years the user can return the aircraft and the lease terminates, continue the lease under the same terms, or start a new lease with a brand new aircraft. The user is responsible for all operating costs of the aircraft but there are no limits on the number of permissible hours. Other configurations will also be available.

A unique feature is included for seniors more than 65 years old at the time of sign up. If the senior becomes permanently incapacitated for any reason, the lease may be terminated on 30 days notice with no further liability on the part of the user other than to return the aircraft in good condition to the owner.

Contact Tecnam with specific questions, or sign up in person at the Sun ’n Fun International Fly-In & Expo (Booth MD29-B).

Photo courtesy of Tecnam North America

Photo courtesy of Tecnam North America






Source:  AOPA News

Calling All Students

There are only a few weeks left to submit your ideas. We are challenging students to use FAA, industry, travel and airport-related data to develop a mobile app for phones and tablets. The agency will make data available to student developers participating in the competition.

The competition is open to individual and student teams at U.S. colleges and universities (both undergraduate and graduate) working under the mentorship of a student advisor.


Design submissions are due April 19, 2013. First place will win $2,500.

  •   GDL 39