Ground Rush. (Part Three) Showing Some Flare. An Aviation Training Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Sunday, June 24, 2012

 

Ground Rush. (Part 3)

 

 Showing Some Flare.

 

By Owen Zupp

 

 

As we saw in the last blog of ‘Ground Rush’, a good landing is often intrinsically linked to a good approach. An unrushed stable approach, flown in a consistent manner delivers the aircraft across the threshold in a positive state, ready to return to the earth. Even so, things can go awry. However, the good news is that the problem often lies with some sneaky repeat offenders that can be readily put in their place.

 

 

Was it really that bad?

 

Ultimately, a poor landing is merely the symptom of a root cause. Identify the problem and it can be fixed; no drama. So let’s not allow the dread of a bad landing crawl into our finite mind space and further erode our performance. Firstly, review why the landing was ‘bad’ in your opinion. If it was in the ball park of aim-point, airspeed, approach profile and runway alignment, then it’s quite possible it wasn’t really a bad landing. Perhaps the arrival was not subtle, BUT IT WAS SAFE!

 

If there were symptoms such as a bounce, a prolonged float or directional control issues on touchdown then we assess them for what they are and address the contributing factor or factors. Either way, there is no place or need for self-loathing or depression. If you drop the football, pick it up, move on and try a bit harder next time; you haven’t lost the game. Flying will always present challenges and in part, that is the fun. Very few are endowed with a mastery of any art, it is better in this business to be honest and consistent because that equates to safety. So let’s look at some of the culprits that endeavour to sneak under our guard as the wheels move to meet the runway.

 

 

On the Numbers.

 

At the optimum speed, the aircraft is endeavouring to arrive with a safe margin over the stall speed while touching down slow enough to minimise the ground roll and reduce wear on the undercarriage and airframe. Two of the most common complaints relate to long landings and hard landings. Often both can be traced back to the same issue of airspeed. Long landings can result from carrying excessive airspeed into the flare, whereas a hard landing can result when speed is on the low side.

 

 

 

Long landings can absorb copious amounts of runway very quickly. As an aircraft floats down the runway, the chance of an overrun is increased, while extra stress on the undercarriage and brakes often result as they are wrongly used to compensate for the wasted runway in the flare.  Airspeed above that recommended, or calculated for a given weight, equates to additional energy. The additional airflow over the wing results in the aerofoil continuing to provide lift when the task at hand is reduce lift and land the aircraft. This aircraft's resistance to landing can be further exacerbated by the thicker air immediate to the surface known as ‘ground effect’.  Furthermore, a higher airspeed results in more control responsiveness and that subtle flare manoeuvre may now result in the aircraft flying away from the runway.

 

At the other end of the spectrum, should we lose too much speed and energy in the flare, the aircraft, not you, will decide when it is going to land and gravity will play a far greater role than inertia. With low airspeed the controls can feel less responsive and the control column can seemingly be at its aft limit with nothing to left to offer in terms of elevator control. There is no flaring left to be done and the aircraft will simply arrive firmly on the runway; unless we have fortunately timed these events with such precision that they occur just as the wheels touch. Generally though, the aircraft will fall from its flare height to the surface with a thud, if not a bounce.

 

So speed is premium to maintain control effectiveness into the flare and achieve the anticipated responses from our inputs and achieve the desired landing performance. Again, a stable approach to land is one of the best means to the correct airspeed on entering the flare. Configure the aircraft to land and get used to the attitude and feel nice and early. Turbulent conditions and hot days will present a challenge as the airspeed needle flickers, but aim to keep a constant attitude out the front. As the runway looms near, most pilots sneak a ‘last look’ at the airspeed; just a glance, nothing more. Accordingly, the airspeed can be noted as high or low resulting in a slightly earlier reduction in thrust, or perhaps the need to carry it later into the flare to prevent the energy washing off totally.

 

And don’t underestimate that sixth sense in the flare. If it feels like your backside is falling out from under you, trust your instinct and increase the power to arrest the sink. Energy and speed are critical elements in landing, yet long and hard landings are not solely the fault of inadequate speed control. That would be too easy!

 

           Check back soon for Part Four of Ground Rush!

 

Ground Rush. (Part Two) Landing an Aeroplane. An Aviation Training Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Wednesday, June 20, 2012

 

 

Ground Rush. (Part Two) 

 

An Aviation Training Blog

 

by Owen Zupp.

 

Be Consistent.

 

It always pays to have a consistent set of terms of reference. The environment and the aircraft can introduce enough variables, so it is important that we endeavour to keep our methods constant.

 

One of the first items we can attend to for landing occurs even before engine start; seat position. Logically, seat position determines our ‘eye position’ which is critical in the process of perspective and judgement. Some aircraft provide a series of markings or guides for the best eye position, though the majority leave seat position up to the individual. Internally, the seat must be far enough forward to comfortably access all controls and switches while permitting full and free movement of the control column at its aft-most travel. For those aircraft with fixed seats and adjustable pedals, the same effect can be achieved through the use of cushions. The position should also permit a clear view of all instruments and annunciators without being obscured by the instrument panel coaming. (This can sometimes be a challenge with ageing, drooping coamings and another reason they need to be maintained.)

 

For the view outside, the positioning of the seat should permit a clear view ahead above the instrument panel. Commonly, pilots can sit a little low, but ideally they should have a view along a tangent down the nose. This will ensure an adequate forward field of vision in low visibility operations. This seat position is best assessed on the ground just before engine start. To do it any earlier may result in having to repeat the process after you move the seat to access a jacket on the back seat, or close a door.

 

Scan the instrument panel, exercise the controls fully and look well ahead to visualise the landing perspective. The perspective will be different on approach, but selection of flap will lower the nose further and enhance the outlook. If flying the same aircraft day after day, this exercise may come naturally, but take a little more time and effort when moving between aircraft. On approach with the seat adjusted correctly, remember to sit up straight and the eye position will offer a relatively consistent perspective on each approach. It is worth noting that if the seat position doesn’t feel quite correct coming in to land; LEAVE IT ALONE! Do not adjust seats on approach as the potential catastrophe from a seat sliding back is not worth the attempt.

 

                    

 

It is often said that a good landing results from a good approach. This is fundamentally because a good approach involves being configured in a timely fashion, with correct speeds being flown and a stable rate of descent. It may be flown from a base leg or a straight in approach, so the perspective can change. What remains consistent is that the approach is unrushed and the pilot is able to focus on the approach and landing without being distracted by gross adjustments of airspeed and/or attitude late in the approach. Should these occur the safest option is generally to go-around and attempt another approach to land.

 

If new to a particular aircraft type, not overly current, or even just a little uncomfortable; establish the aircraft into its landing configuration of gear and flap setting early. It will result in slowing down early and powering up against the extended drag, but it allows the aircraft and the pilot to be established in the landing ‘mode’ without being rushed. With the landing checklist complete, there are no other tasks to distract for the primary one of flying the approach. There should be no further major changes in attitude or trim and the ‘picture’ out the front should remain fairly consistent down to the flare.

 

Once stable and configured on final approach, the aim point should be clearly selected. If not marked by a painted stripe, it may be abeam a group of trees or a darker patch of dirt. Whatever it may be, the pilot should pick the spot and keep it steady in the windscreen by whichever technique they have been instructed. However, the eyes should not be obsessed with the aim point. There must be scanning cycle that assesses the approach perspective, or ‘slope’, the track relative to the centerline and even a brief glance back inside to verify the airspeed. A mental repeating mantra of something like; ‘aim point-slope- centerline-speed’ may remind the pilot to continually assess the various aspects of the approach. Importantly, if something is not correct, fix it before moving onto the next point, always being aware that adjusting one element may impact upon others. As the approach gets closer to the ground, the adjustments should become progressively more subtle, notwithstanding that wind shear and the likes call for significant action regardless of the aircraft’s location.

 

Correctly flown, a stable approach flown with a consistent, cyclic scan will bring the aircraft over the fence in a healthy state to commence the flare. A ‘last look’ inside may be stolen to indicate whether the speed is a little fast or slow or trending, but otherwise the eyes are outside. The subsequent transition to the flare calls for the pilot to look ahead and release the rigid eye-line to the aim point.

 

Ground Rush.

 

 

The runway is now just below the wheels and the flare is about to commence. Much of the hard work has actually already been completed, so what can go wrong now? How can a stable approach be complicated at the last moment, or in some cases much earlier? Next blog, a number of variables will be discussed from over-controlling to cross-winds. When the wheels approach the earth some of the challenges are of the pilot’s making and others are most definitely not.

 

Five Tips for Choosing a Flying School. An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Friday, March 23, 2012

Five Tips in Choosing a Flying School.

As this aviation blog continues to grow in momentum and followers, the range of topics has been broad, from airline accidents and flight training to aviators of the past and reflections of the pure joy of flight. Accordingly, the range of feedback and aviation-related questions is equally diverse, so over the coming weeks I shall try to address some of these. As there’s no time like the present, here is the first one, “Top Tips for Choosing a Flying School.”

 

Now I won’t pretend for a moment that there’s a magical list to suit all scenarios, but what I can offer are some fundamental requirements that your new flying school should offer you. Prospective students can often feel like overwhelmed novices when they walk into a new flying school and are immediately surrounded by folks in uniforms and epaulettes speaking a strange dialect known as ‘pilot speak’. What is critical at this stage is that you remember that you are a customer and they are endeavouring to sell you a service, so listen carefully to the real words between the sales pitch and be careful with your cash. Take the time to chat with current students of the school as well.

 

Also, do your homework first. Research the aviation regulatory body in your part of the world to see what the minimum requirements are to achieve a licence and then bear in mind that these are absolutely MINIMUM LEGAL REQUIREMENTS. You will require more hours of training than this and this will equate to a higher cost. Additionally, endeavour to define what level of licence you’re looking for. Do you just simply want to go solo to say that you’ve done this or do you aspire to the flight deck of a Boeing 747?    Watch out, you might only want to go solo but find yourself hooked! As such, does the flying school provide comprehensive training all the way through to the commercial licence and ratings? The internet is a great tool in researching various schools and finding those in your area. Armed with a little prior knowledge about their school and your goals, you’re now ready to pay a visit to the local airport and seek out a flying school.

 

Without further ado, here are the tips....

 

1. EQUIPMENT.

What aircraft does the flying school have? Is there a substantial fleet built upon a few types, or is there a ‘Noah’s Ark’ fleet with seemingly two of every type known to man. What you need is a small range of different types, but enough of the type that you will be training in that it won’t be double-booked and leave you stranded or without an aircraft when maintenance falls due. There need to be enough of the aircraft to meet the demands of the school.

 

Additionally, what is the condition of the aircraft? If they are tired and worn out, then that doesn’t suggest much re-investment into the fleet by management. It may be a possible indication of cash-flow issues and a signal that corners might be getting cut elsewhere. Either way, a scrappy looking aeroplane does not reflect the mind-set of a proficient, meticulous pilot, nor does it provide the sort of craft in which you’d like to take a family member aloft.

 

Also, equipment is not limited to aeroplanes. What are the offices and briefing rooms like? Are they modern and equipped with good lighting and furnishings? This is where you’ll be undertaking your all-important briefings and sitting exams, so you want a sound learning environment.

 

2. PEOPLE.

Behind every good flying school are good people. What is the sense of the school when you first walk in? Are the instructors professionally dressed and polite or do they look like they’re auditioning for ‘Top Gun 2’ and you’re kind of in the way? Is there a mix of junior instructors and senior instructors, or just a few youngsters starting out? Personally, I have found some brand new instructors amongst the most dedicated and proficient in the early phases, but they still need mentoring from the old hands. Equally important is a spread of experience so that you are not kept waiting for a senior instructor to check you as you reach the various tests and milestones. Furthermore, to train for a commercial licence, ideally the instructor should have some commercial experience.

 

Take the time to speak with the Chief Flying Instructor. If the CFI doesn’t have time to speak with you on that first day then make a booking to chat when it’s convenient. If this proves difficult, or impossible, than that isn’t a good indicator at a very early stage. I have been a CFI and it can be a very demanding job, but a CFI is also part of the management team and should actively assist a new prospective customer.

 

What is the support staff situation? Is there a full time receptionist attending to the front desk and enquiries, or are bookings and new clients rated as a secondary duty for the flying instructors? Interestingly, in my experience I have found a common feature of good flying schools is a dedicated staff member attending to the front office duties.

 

3. FILES AND FLYING.

 

Ask to see a copy of a training file. Does it look professionally presented, or has the same master file been photocopied for the last twenty years with no thought of re-visiting the syllabus and making it better. Perhaps they are of new a digital, online format. Also have a look at the training notes provided by the school for apparent quality. While you won’t necessarily appreciate the content at this point, if their briefing notes are poorly presented, not readily at hand, or worse, don’t exist at all then this is critical as these notes are the link between the text-book and how the flying school executes the lesson in the air. If they just recommend you purchase a manual and self-study, then that isn’t what you’re looking for.

 

The way in which a school administers its ground-based responsibilities often reflects how they operate in the skies. If attention to the paperwork is poor, then you’ll probably find that it is one of those schools that just want you in the aeroplane, ticking over the meter and then out the door as soon as you’ve paid. Flight training is a broader based undertaking than that; the flight time is critical, but its quality is dependent upon many supporting factors outside the cockpit.

 

 

                     

                    

 

4. LONGEVITY.

 

Is the school well established with a reputation that precedes it? If so, they are probably doing something right as longevity in itself is difficult in the flight training business. I say “probably” because some sharks have been known to live for over seventy years. Hence, the recommendation of past and present students can be invaluable third party information. Bear in mind that a newly established school may also have much to offer; new aeroplanes, unbridled enthusiasm and a desperate need to grow its customer base. They may have poached experienced instructors to provide the expertise and be situated in a new building where the paint has just dried.

 

Longevity should be considered with all prospective schools. Does the operation look like it’s running on a shoe-string and won’t be here in a year? (Sometimes the big, glossy schools suffer from this too). As such, a word of warning, never put large amounts of cash up front for your training. I have seen more than one school close its doors and leave its students thousands of dollars out of pocket. Pay promptly following each lesson, or you may choose to deposit a small amount into an account for ease of payment, but don’t be talked into depositing a whole lot up front.

 

5. COST.

The biggest variable and most critical factor for many is simply the cost. Flight training is not an inexpensive exercise and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is kidding themselves. As with so many things, you’ll get what you pay for. Better aeroplanes will come at a premium above their clapped-out counterparts. Some schools may charge for briefings, but that is more cost efficient than not receiving them and having to repeat flight lessons.

 

There are all manner of costs associated with flying from equipment to text-books. Ask the school at the outset, what you need to purchase and what they provide. What is the price of these ancillary items? Do they provide ground theory training and at what price? What are the hire rates for the aeroplane and is there an additional fee for flight tests, or a lower rate for solo flying. Ask them REALISTICALLY how many hours it generally takes a student to achieve the licence you’re pursuing. What is the breakdown of hours in terms of dual, solo and tests and what is an estimate of the overall cost? Ascertain this figure before you even start and then add on a little to factor in rising process and hiccups along the way. As I said, it won’t be cheap, but you ultimately get what you pay for.

 

 

 

                          

 

 

Learning to fly is a major step, so don’t rush in. Take the time to gather information and ask the right questions of the right people. If the answers are muddled or slow in coming, then that’s probably a ‘red flag’ for how they conduct their business. Quality flying schools don’t hide their costs or information and they’ll take the time to discuss both with you.

 

So there are some tips to set out on your great adventure of flight. It may seem daunting, but it will be well worth it. As I said earlier, these questions are a guide, not a complete answer to all circumstances but they should set you on the right path. Next in this series I’ll relate some of the common traps and pitfalls of flight training, so check back here for the next set of tips.

 

Safe flying!

Owen

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