So this is finally Lesson 9, and we practiced Takeoffs and Landings on October 15, 2011. I arrived approximately 20 minutes early before my 8.00 am class. I checked in and completed the usual rental form for the plane with an emergency name and contact number. Mike at the desk then presented me with a fuel sampler and the folder for the plane that contained the forms for me to complete with the hours flown so that I’m billed correctly. I didn’t see Tim around so I proceeded out toward the plane to do my Walkaround and having completed that, I saw Tim as I entered the airport building. We greeted one another and Tim asked, “How’s it looking?”, “Oh Great”, I replied. “Excellent, well today we’ll do Takeoffs and Landings as we haven’t really concentrated on these. So let’s go in and we’ll discuss what landings are all about”, said Tim.
Up until now, I had just been doing takeoffs but never really landed the plane although I’ve brought the plane close to landing. In the final moments however Tim would take the controls and land the plane. Takeoffs are not that bad, very much easier than landings. The only difficult part is that you have to apply equal pressure to both the rudder pedals at an increasing speed before finally taking off at about 55 mph. Then once in the air, the plane has a tendency to move to the left (known as the “Left Turning Tendency”), so then you have to apply more right rudder so that the plane flies straight. But I digress.
We went in to the class room and Tim drew the diagram you see above and proceeded to explain each stage as he drew it. Firstly he drew the landing strip and said the runway at Crystal Airport was about 3000 ft. “The lengths can vary and the Anoka Airport runway, where we’ll be practicing the takeoffs and landings, is 5000 ft in length”, said Tim. There’s a certain flight path one must take to land a plane so that there’s no conflict with other planes also trying to land. If everyone follows a certain pattern it makes it much easier to takeoff and land and is much less dangerous than planes coming in from all directions. “You enter the Traffic Pattern in the Downwind at about an angle of 45 degrees with 2200 RPM and Airspeed of 90 Knots. The airplane height is 1900 feet, and this height will vary from airport to airport due to differences in ground elevation. The elevation above sea level of Crystal Airport is 869 feet and we round this off to 900 ft. Then you add another 1000 feet to make it 1900 ft as you approach and enter the Downwind Traffic Pattern”, said Tim. The 1000 feet is the standard figure that’s added on to the elevation and the elevation figures can be found in the Airport handbook that you must read before you travel to an airport or when you’re planning your flight. “Then still in the Downwind and still at a height of 1900 ft, reduce RPMs to 1700 as you become perpendicular to the beginning of the runway as shown by the line pointing to the thick black horizontal lines on the diagram (near the red line). At this point also, maintain Airspeed at 90 Knots and introduce the first stage of the flaps”, explained Tim. Then as you proceed along this path, there will be a point when you’ll be at an angle of 45 degrees with the end of the runway as shown in the diagram. This is the point when you make the turn in to Base, and reduce speed to 80 Knots and then introduce the second stage of the Flaps. Now you’re approaching the Final of the Traffic Pattern and you make the turn as you’re almost perpendicular to the runway so that you’re approaching it head on. Now as you’re in the Final, its time to reduce the speed further to 70 Knots and add the third stage of the flaps. “Find a point on the runway where you’re going to land and keep your eyes on it”, said Tim. All the time you’re gradually reducing speed and when you’re at about 50 feet or so above ground, the speed should be between 60-65 Knots by the time you’ve reached the beginning of the runway as marked by the red line in the diagram. Gradually reduce power by pulling the throttle back and as the plane slowly approaches to touch the runway, slowly pull the yoke back, so the nose slightly points upwards and just allow the plane’s wheels to touch the runway.
I must say that landing is by far the most difficult maneuver I’ve done thus far. We did five landings today and it’ll take me many more attempts to master it. Tim confirmed that this was normal, apparently many students find landings difficult including him when he was a student.