As I had mentioned in my last post Landings are one of the most difficult maneuvers I’ve performed thus far, hence the title of this post. I need to practice even more of this maneuver. Today, October 22nd, 2011 was a lovely sunny day, but a cool day with a temperature of about 45 degrees Fahrenheit as I arrived for today’s lesson. Tim surprised me today with a field take off! That is, we did not take off from the normal hard tarmac strip. Since I had never taken off from the sod strip before, Tim showed me how it was done. Interestingly it is quite different from the usual takeoffs I’ve been used to. I never thought that the surface from which the plane took off made a difference.
So, Tim started off by pulling the yoke all the way back and said, “Once you start moving, you can’t stop, you have to continue until the plane is off the ground, and we pull the yoke all the way back to minimize weight on the nose.” The nose contains the engine and is therefore quite heavy and with the soft surface you have to do what you can to make it light so it’s easier to take off. This is why the yoke is pulled all the way back. So he pulled the first stage of the flaps and pushed the throttle to full and we were off. The plane rapidly moved over the field and as it took off; we rose up in the air but were still level i.e. not rising. Tim put the flaps back and this reduced the drag, and then reduced back pressure on the yoke slightly and we were gradually moving up into the air. We were on our way to Anoka airport to practice landings and takeoffs. Tim handed the control of the plane over to me and when we were about about 5 miles out of Crystal, he called Anoka airport to ask permission to “stop and go”. That is, we land on the Anoka airstrip, then we take off, then we repeat. We were given permission to do so and were told that we could use runway 32 L but we had to do a right-turn approach. This means we make all right turns as we approach the runway to make a landing. So if you refer to the diagram in the last post, we do the opposite of that, as that’s showing the left turn approach. You take off in to the Upwind, make a left turn into the Crosswind, then another left into the Downwind, left again into Base and then a final left into Final for the landing. Hence the left-turn approach.
We were now approaching Anoka airport and I maneuvered the plane into position once Tim showed me exactly where the landing strip was. I was trying to remember the diagram, and the various heights and speeds at each leg of the Traffic Pattern rectangle. I moved in to the Downwind, and I could see everything very clearly as it was a beautiful bright sunny day, and an additional advantage was that there was absolutely no breeze at all. This is really helpful when you’re trying to learn landing, otherwise you have to deal with crosswinds and other directional winds and you must make adjustments to manage the plane. This can become a bit much for the student pilot as he’s trying to learn just to how to land a plane. I was really glad there was no wind as I didn’t want to be concentrating on landing the plane and then at the same time having to adjust the rudder, the ailerons etc. to compensate for wind. Once I’ve mastered landing then I will be able to take into account the wind and make the necessary adjustments. So anyway I’m moving away from the main topic at hand. I was in the Downwind and as I approached and then when I was in line with the abeam (i.e. the thick black lines you see in the diagram), I reduced the RPMs to 1700, pulled the first stage of flaps and maintained airspeed at 90 knots. I maintained this speed for a while until we were at about a 45 degree angle from the beginning of the runway and I made a turn into Base. Then reduced airspeed to 80 knots, pulled the second stage of the flaps and continued on this path as I approached the Final to make a final turn. Then as I turned in to Final I pulled the final stage of the flaps as I reduced speed to 70 knots. Please remember that all the time we’re gradually descending as we approach from the Downwind, albeit a gradual descent. I could see the VASI i.e. Visual Approach Slope Indicator. These are a system of lights on the side of an airport runway that help guide the pilot on to the runway as he approaches to land. These lights appear to change colour depending upon the height of the plane as it comes in to land and they’re at some distance from one another, but from a distance they’re perceived as being on top of each other. If the lights are all red then it means the approach is too low and you’d better climb up to the glide path and the way to remember this is, “Red over Red, you’re dead”. If the lights are all white then it means you’re approach is too high and you need to come down into the gliding path otherwise you may run out of runway. The way to remember this is, “White on White, you’re out of sight”. The ideal situation obviously is to be in the correct glide path and when you’re in the correct glide path, the lights that are further away (i.e. those that are perceived to be on top) are red, and those “below” are white. The way to remember this is, “Red over White, you’re all right”. There were quite a few times when I was not in the correct glide path, and this first attempt was one of them. I could see all red which meant I was too low and Tim said, “Increase the power a little so you go up”. So I pushed the throttle a little and this increased the RPMs and I rose slightly. Now I could see Red over White and I continued my approach and as I was just over the beginning of the runway, “Okay now reduce the power completely”, said Tim. I totally pulled the throttle all the way back and we were flying level for a while, then Tim said now gradually just pull the yoke back a little and just allow the plane to touch the ground. And there you have it, we’d landed.
So we took off again to do another landing and then several more after that. Although I performed a little better than the last time, I was still dissatisfied and asked Tim if we could do more landings and takeoffs tomorrow. “Oh yes, we’ll be doing a lot more and you’ll get better”, said Tim.