Today’s (January 28, 2012) flight lesson was from 9.00 am to 11.00 am and it was rescheduled by my instructor. I usually like to fly from 8.00 am to 10 am and that’s the time frame I had booked. It was cold and breezy but a bright sunny day and not at all what was predicted by the weather men on the news. Last night they said it was going to start snowing from 7.00 am and that it would end by 8.30 am or so, but there was no snow at all. So I was a little worried that I might not be able to fly again today and that would have been two times in a row.
Anyway, we flew out to Anoka this morning and Tim said we would do some Flaring. Flaring is the point just before touchdown i.e. landing. When you’re flying a fixed wing aircraft and are coming in to land, you pull back the yoke to flare the plane. This increases the angle of attack and as you continue pulling the yoke back causes the plane to land gently on to the runway at minimum speed. However, today instead of actually landing the plane Tim said, try not to land the plane but try to keep it just above the ground without landing it. So you’re basically flying low, about a foot from the ground. “Just when I was getting to grips with landing, you’re now having me not land the plane?” I said laughingly to Tim. He laughed and said, “Yes! But the goal here is to help you to get the “feel” of the plane and understand how to manage it when it’s flying so slowly. You should by the end of this lesson understand that you’re in complete control of the plane”. We went to Anoka today because it has a runway that is about 5,000 ft in length and so it’s the appropriate runway to practice flaring.
The first few attempts at flaring for me were quite difficult. We flew the usual air traffic pattern and then came in to land as usual, but the difficult part now was to hold the plane close to the runway and not allow the wheels to touch the runway. I had to maximize this as much as possible. It was interesting because, when I was learning to land, I found it difficult to touch the ground, and making a gentle landing was difficult. Now that I had to keep the plane just flying close to the ground, I kept on touching the ground with the wheels gently and making a perfect landing. LOL Then a few more attempts later, I was making the flares almost perfectly but kept on touching the runway with the wheels. One thing Tim pointed out was that I was trying to over control the plane by holding on to the yoke with both hands and holding it tightly. “Just use your left hand, that’s all you need really. Keep the right hand free to use the throttle in case you need to increase or reduce power” said Tim. “Yes, it’s the habit of driving a car for so long and keeping both hands on the steering wheel”, I said to Tim, and he agreed.
We practiced this for the entire one and a half hours and by the end, although I still hadn’t mastered the flaring, Tim thought I was pretty good and overall had done a good job. What I learned was that this is what I should be doing to make those gentle landings now. Just keep the plane off the ground for as long as possible and then cut the power off when I’m close to the ground to make that gentle landing. Again, it’s interesting that I in an effort to learn one thing (Flaring), I ended up learning and understanding another (Landing), something that I had been struggling with. Although I didn’t ask Tim, I wondered why Tim didn’t teach me about flaring first, perhaps that would have helped me to learn landing much faster. Then I thought maybe this is the way one is supposed to be taught, maybe this is the order of things in the syllabus or maybe the FAA suggests Flaring is to be taught after landing. Well whatever the case, I really enjoyed my flight lesson today and finally know how to land a plane successfully! 😀