The Pilot's Blog of Aviation has taken off!

Owen Zupp - Thursday, July 17, 2014
The Pilot's Blog has taken off!

Hi All,

Thanks for your support over recent years.

It has become so strong that I have decided to launch a new pilot's blog dedicated to a range of aviation topics.

If you're learning to fly, yearning to fly, or just want to brush up on the basics. Whether you're a reluctant passenger, or would like to know more from the world of aviation, please hop across to 'The Pilot's Blog'.

It is the friendly aviation blog with something for everybody.



Auld Lang Syne. An Aviator's New Year. by Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Tuesday, December 31, 2013



Auld Lang Syne.

A New Year Dawns.



By Owen Zupp.



Unbelievably, the year is now down to its final hours. It has passed by leaving my children a little older and me none the wiser it would seem. The skies have again been kind to me these past twelve months, so as the champagne pops and the fireworks illuminate Sydney Harbour, my thoughts will again drift to an aviator now passed, who set me on my journey amongst the clouds.

He was a quiet man, short in stature but with arms made strong by a youth of combat and cane-cutting. He was predominantly self-educated, for drought and the Great Depression had stolen much of his childhood and any chance of a formal education. As a commando in the jungles of New Guinea, his kit-bag had been crammed with books on aerodynamics and aircraft while his dreams were of a life free of the earth’s muddy bonds. But it was merely a dream for a lad with a big heart and no apparent claim to the elevated world of aviation. At the war’s end, he traded the humidity of the jungle for the nuclear devastation of Hiroshima before finally wending his way home to Australia after years away at war.

Out of uniform he found it hard to settle down, drifting from one sugar-cane field to another with a few belongings strapped to the rear of his motorcycle. It was hard, hot labour to bring the mighty cane down by hand with snakes underfoot and insects clinging to the raw nectar running down his bare back. At the end of the sugar season, ultimately the road once again led him to the military, but this time as a mechanic in the Royal Australian Air Force. Finally surrounded by the machines he loved, he flourished in the hands-on application of his newly discovered knowledge. With money in his pocket and a home on the air base, he would spend his free hours studying aviation and paying for private flying lessons at the civilian school just across the tarmac. His dream was coming true, although his stunted education continued to form a barrier to any career in the sky; until fate dealt its hand.

With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, the air force was now depleted in its supply of post-war pilots. It called for volunteers from amongst its ranks and when a kindly commanding officer countersigned the young mechanics application, his world was changed forever. Within 18 months he had transitioned from repairing airframes to flying fighter combat missions over North Korea. As a Sergeant Pilot he would fly over two hundred sorties at the helm of a Gloster Meteor in the lethal ground attack role which saw many of his squadron mates killed in action. On one occasion, his own canopy was blown off by enemy fire and shrapnel was embedded in his face. Even so, he limped the damage jet home and flew two missions the next day. He returned home a decorated veteran and finally completed his formal education at night school.

He married an air force corporal who he had met prior to leaving for Korea when she had processed his departure paperwork. Together they moved from base to base before a civil career ultimately called. From international airlines to cloud-seeding, flight instruction to target-towing, there was very little that the short boy from the Australian bush didn’t fly at some stage in the next 40 years. Yet in the 23,000 hours aloft and countless aircraft types, training always held a special place for him. The chance to mentor the next generation of pilots was something he valued as he always recalled how close his dream had come to never eventuating. If he saw a desire to fly in a young set of eyes, he would go the extra mile to make it happen.

He saw that desire in me from a young age and set an example that I still aspire to achieve. As an instructor he was unsurpassed and held in the highest regard by his peers. He had the knack of explaining complex concepts in simple terms with a million ‘rules of
thumb’ to match. For him flight was always magnificent, but never elite. He cringed at the brash, slicked-back, sunglasses brigade but had endless patience for the struggling student who was trying their very best. He had fought in the jungle and stared down the tracer bullets that struck his jet, yet he never swore in front of women and always stood when they entered the room; he was old school.

To me he passed down so much more than the manipulative skills needed to fly an aeroplane. He instilled airmanship, a sense of command and an ultimate respect for the aircraft and the environment in which it operates. He loathed complacency and arrogance and highlighted that disciplined flying presented the greatest challenge and the most satisfaction. He set the bar very high and I was privileged to have such an outstanding mentor.

So as another year draws to a close, spare a thought for that special person who inspired you or guided you in your fledgling hours aloft. Revisit their lessons and strengths and give thanks for their patience and knowledge. Recount some of their anecdotes and share them with friends and family this New Year’s Eve. It is a real gift to take to the sky, but without a steady guiding hand along the way, the journey can be fraught with potential dangers and self-doubt.

If it’s possible, make contact with your mentor and thank them for their effort. It will mean the world to them and offer a chance to share the hours that have been logged since you last spoke. I would dearly love to speak with the man from the bush who taught me all that I know today and hear more of his pearls of wisdom. However, for me that is no longer an option as cancer took him nearly twenty years ago when I was still a young bush pilot taking my own first steps. Even so, as I sit around this New Years Eve surrounded by family I will spare him a thought and a silent word of thanks. He was the best pilot I ever met. He was my Dad.

Flying Officer Phillip Zupp M.I.D. AM (US) 1925-1991

"Auld Lang Syne" is an excerpt from the best-selling  '50 Tales of Flight'



Flying Visits. An Aviation Video by Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Tuesday, December 10, 2013


"Flying Visits"

A selection of images from a range of stories that I have written in recent times.


Unapproved Aerobatics. A Chilling Reminder. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Monday, June 10, 2013

(A Cirrus SR-22. Image Source: Wiki)

The Fatal Roll.



This chilling animation is from YouTube and apparently produced by the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association form flight data collected from the wreckage of a CR22. There is a lot of aviation content on the internet these days but this one carries a particularly relevant message for all pilots. Please watch this and then read on....




The NTSB report relates that the two occupants aged 23 and 34 were killed attempting aerobatics in the Cirrus SR-22T. A witness reported seeing the aircraft pitch up from level flight to a 30-degree nose up attitude before rolling inverted, reversing the roll and then impacting the ground in a steep nose-down attitude.

Flying from the right-hand seat, the 34 year old commercially-rated pilot, had flown a series of steep turns, low passes and one roll at low-level that which he was able to successfully execute. The aircraft was not approved for aerobatics. At times this flight took the two occupants down to a height of only 40 feet above ground level.

This accident raises numerous points for discussion, but not judgement. I’m interested in your comments.

Please watch the animation one more time....






5 Simple Tips for Safer Flying. An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Friday, June 07, 2013

5 Simple Tips for Safer Flying.

To conduct any flight safely calls upon a finely balanced mesh of preparation, self-discipline, manipulative skill and good old-fashioned common sense. Even when appropriately armed with the required skills, experience and knowledge, at the most basic level we are all only human. And while our ability to anticipate and reason can often provide the final filter in an unravelling airborne situation, the counter-punch is that we can sometimes make mistakes.


It is critical to recognise that we ALL make mistakes and any complacency to the contrary is not only vain and misdirected, but downright lethal. The best outcome is that we maintain an awareness of our human weakness and put measures in place to guard against it. In aviation these safeguards may take the form of checklists and standard operating procedures (SOP), or be as simple as taking your time.


Over the coming weeks I shall visit some of the very simple oversights that can have absolutely devastating consequences. They will be not appear in any particular order and I'm sure that there will always be more that can be added to the list. Hopefully this series will provoke some thought and highlight that it is not always the big ticket items that cause a tragedy. I do not write these points from any standpoint of authority as, like you, I am human and I have made mistakes. I am merely the messenger and there but for the grace of God go I.



                 5 Simple Tips for Safer Flying.


1. Fuel Caps.


Fuel and its management will feature highly in this series, but the humble fuel cap seems a good place to start. Potentially simple in their engineering and operation, they have brought a number of aircraft to grief over the years. Their purpose is simple; their removal serves to provide a portal for refuelling and on completion they are replaced to keep the contents within the tanks. Simple.


Unfortunately, their absence in flight serves to provide a wonderful source of suction which can quickly start to remove fuel from the tanks and into the slipstream. And if only it was as simple as only remembering to  put the fuel caps back on after refuelling, but there are a number of ways to be caught out.


Fuel caps can be cross-threaded as they are screwed in, sometimes they don't 'seat' properly and fail to create the perfect seal, others have fuel vents integrated into the cap that can become blocked. On the surface, the caps can appear to be correctly fitted when they are not, so it is always worth double-checking. There have also been instances where the contents haven't been visually checked by the pilot in the belief that the refueller had replaced the caps. High wing aircraft are more susceptible to such oversights and night-time can deprive the pilot of the opportunity to readily observe absent caps or the subsequent streaming fuel.



In a nutshell, never trust anyone else with matters of fuel; you are the pilot in command. If in doubt, shut down, get out and check the caps, or even return to land if the flight is underway. Not only will this resolve the issue, but even the doubt associated with a fuel issue can prove distracting and ultimately lead to an oversight in some other aspect of the flight. And when flying at night, take extra care pre-flight and incorporate a shine of the torch out onto the wings at regular intervals as part of your cockpit cycle. (If you're in cloud, check the leading edges for icing at the same time.)


Fuel caps are not a complex piece of equipment, but their absence or incorrect fitting can lead to major problems.


2. Control Locks.


Control or gust locks can vary in their nature. From a simple pin and flag device through the control column as many Cessnas employ, to actual blocks on the control surfaces to stop them blowing in the wind on the ground. A thorough pre-flight inspection should always be made for external gust locks. Whatever the system, it is critical to ensure that all flight controls are 'free' with the full range of movement in the correct sense prior to every departure. It's a simple check, but equally simply overlooked.


To further complicate the issue, I have seen 'home made' control locks that fail to have any type of warning flag. One was a nail through the hole in the control column that was supposed to be a control lock!


Here is an example of an aircraft that attempted to take of with the gust locks in and the crew had omitted to check the full and free movement of the controls prior to take off.




3. Pitot Tube Covers and Static Ports.


Once again, a thorough pre-flight inspection should ensure that the pitot covers are removed and that the static ports are clear. A failure to do so can result in absent or highly erroneous instrument indications that could lead to catastrophic outcomes for the instrument pilot and a difficult day at the office for those flying visually. A word of warning, always have another look at your aeroplane if you leave it unattended for any time after your pre-flight inspection. Well intentioned, but misguided, fellow pilots have been known to replace pitot covers believing that the aircraft was parked.


Always be suspicious of the pitot-static system of aircraft parked outside in the rain, or coming out of maintenance. Static ports can be covered over for painting and water can seep into them on those wet, windy nights. Check them externally and then confirm that the instruments in the cockpit are reading what you'd expect them to. Sometimes a 'zero' indication on your dials can be a good thing.



4. Shifting Loads.


Aircraft can be a great way of transporting goods as well as people, however freight can't be relied upon to remain seated with its belt fastened. Firstly, freight needs to be loaded in balance within the correct Centre of Gravity limits.  Secondly, it needs to be secured against any movement in flight for a number of reasons.



Turbulence can very quickly turn loose items into projectiles while the acceleration of a take-off roll can potentially move a load out of the Centre of Gravity limits that you've so correctly calculated. This can potentially render the aircraft uncontrollable, just as loose items can render the pilot unconscious. Similarly, in a rejected take-off or forced landing, an unsecured load will hurtle forward with a good deal of energy.


Even though inanimate objects can be carried on passenger seats, always ensure that they are appropriately secured. A failure to do so can transform harmless cargo into a potential accident. In recent times, a shifting load has been suspected in the horrific loss of a Boeing 747 Freighter in Afghanistan that was beamed across the world's media.


5. Secure Your Seat.


I have known first hand of a seat sliding back on take-off leading to the death of the pilot. It may seem a very simple thing, but aircraft seats can be somewhat complex in their adjusting mechanisms; fore and aft on rails, up and down for height, upright or reclined. Inevitably, each setting is adjusted by each pilot and some wear on the mechanisms eventually occurs.



Should the seat slide back on the point of rotation when the rearward force is possibly at its greatest, the pilot may well suffer a double conundrum. Sliding back, the pilot inadvertently pulls the control column fully aft and pitches the nose dangerously up towards the sky. Secondly, with a critically high nose attitude and reducing airspeed, gravity prevents the pilot from getting forward to regain control of the aeroplane. A low level stall is virtually inevitable.


Always ensure the security of your seat and don't be afraid to 'rock on the rails' a bit. I actually push back on the seat before every take-off prior to advancing the throttle or thrust levers as a last check. Once again, a seat inadvertently sliding back is something so very simple.


So there are five simple oversights that can potentially produce devastating outcomes. We're all only human, so lets all take that extra moment and a second look to make sure that one of these simple issues doesn't turn and bite us. Check back here for the next offering in the “Five Tips” series.


Safe flying!



The Fatal Stall. A Very Sobering Aviaton Video.

Owen Zupp - Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Fatal Stall.



There are a lot of aviation videos circulating on the internet these days. Some of them funny, some of them dramatic and some of them just have to be seen to be believed. One that always sits at the fore of my mind does so because it is absolutely chilling and the story behind it is equally sobering. I believe that it is well worth revisiting. Please watch this and then read on....




These were the final moments of an L19 Bird Dog and its occupants, captured by the ill-fated passenger. The aircraft, a single-engined Cessna was being used by the Forestry Department and lay undisturbed for a number of years following the crash, at which time the occupants and this footage were found. The family withheld the release of the footage for two decades before they generously allowed it to be shown so that others may learn. And yes, there is much to learn.


Firstly, the aircraft was operating on a summer's day in Colorado where the hills are high and the air is thin. Consequently, the ability of the aircraft to climb at this 'density altitude' is degraded in comparison to if it was flying along the coast on a cool day. The efficiency of both the wing to produce lift and the engine to produce power is reduced when it is hot, high and humid. A potentially lethal combination in the wrong circumstances.


Secondly, as the video evolves, the subtle killer of rising terrain begins to loom ominously. Towering mountains are easily spotted, but the approaching ridges of gently rising slopes is far less dramatic. At first, there seems to be little issue, but slowly and surely terrain is climbing towards the Cessna L19 at a greater rate than its performance can cope with. Ultimately the pilot realises that he can no longer out climb the ground below and the situation deteriorates rapidly.


The wing of the aircraft is now at such an angle to the passing airflow that the air is finding it difficult to continue to flow smoothly over the upper surface. This smooth flowing of the air is critical in the production of lift and the ability of an aircraft to fly. If you can imagine placing a paddle 'edge on' into a flowing river; the water flows past with minimal disturbance. If that paddle is then rotated with its flat face to the water-flow, the water no longer passes easily and disturbed 'eddies' bubble in its wake. In very simple terms, the air over a wing can behave similarly if it is inclined at too great an angle to the passing air. This is known as the stall.


A Cessna L-19  'Bird Dog'. (Image: Wiki)

Contrary to the average media reporting of aircraft accidents, 'stalling' has nothing to do with the engine spluttering. It is all about the wing's ability to produce 'lift' and keep it airborne. If the airflow cannot pass by easily and breaks into 'eddies' behind the wing, it can reach a point where it 'stalls'. Lift is lost and the wing ceases to fly. The condition can be worsened by other contributing factors that we can discuss another time, but in this video, the pilot endeavours to turn the aircraft away from the hills and this actually accelerates the onset of the stall. The warning horn can be heard 'beeping' in the background advising the pilot of the impending stall and loss of lift. Sickeningly the aircraft begins to 'porpoise' as its nose goes up and down on the threshold of the stall until the combination of factors leads to one fatal flick and spin into the tree-line and the hopeless call of the pilot to his passenger of, "Damn! Hang on Ronnie!"


Stall training and recovery is part of the training syllabus for pilots. However, it is often a manoeuvre that is often either only briefly taught and/or only flown in copybook scenarios. Training of fully developed spins beyond the stall has also gone by the wayside for many training institutions outside of the military. Furthermore, many modern civil training aircraft have extremely docile stalling characteristics. This in itself may not appear to be a bad thing, but it doesn't necessarily prepare pilots for aircraft types that they may fly at a later time.


As a consequence, stalling an aeroplane may be touched upon in the early days of a student pilot, possibly in a relatively 'docile' style of aircraft and then not revisited for many years; if ever. As this video graphically demonstrates, the onset of a stall need not be a copybook or dramatic event, but a killer slowly creeping and lurking as it boxes the unknowing pilot into a corner.


This blog is only a thumbnail sketch of a very substantial and fundamental aspect of aerodynamics. Yet this video serves to demonstrate the potentially insidious nature of the stall. The families of the victims should be thanked for allowing this footage to be shared, for it truly is a graphic training aid for the instructors amongst us. That being said, flight is not inherently dangerous, but it can be brutally unforgiving. It is not the place of mere mortals like me to judge any aspect of this tragedy, but I hope that I have learned something of value. Otherwise, there but for the grace of God go I.


Please watch this one more time........






50 Tales of Flight. By Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Friday, February 22, 2013


“50 Tales of Flight”

An eBook by Owen Zupp.

Well, here it is!

The first ‘sneak peek’ at the cover of my new eBook “50 Tales of Flight”. It features a great shot by photographer, Anthony Jackson.

It will be going ‘live’ on Amazon and iTunes next week, just in time for Airshow 2013 at Avalon. I’ll be attending with the team from ‘Australian Aviation’ magazine and I hope to see you there.

Keep watching for the latest updates and please, start spreading the word about "50 Tales of Flight".

Cheers and thanks again for the support.



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

Owen Zupp - Friday, June 29, 2012



Ground Rush. (Part Four)



Hit the Spot.


As we fly down our final approach we are always assessing our aim point. That imaginary spot on the runway where we project our flight path will lead us to connect with the runway. A stable approach sees that aim point sitting steadily upon the same point in our windscreen as we drive towards it at the nominated approach speed. Unfortunately, that spot can sometimes wander up and down the windscreen.


‘Nailing’ that aim point is more commonly referred to as aim point retention. A frequent scenario sees the aim point move further down the runway in the latter stages of the approach. Sometimes this is because in the heat of battle the pilot loses a degree of discipline in focussing on the specific point, lost in the looming runway. Occasionally, it results from trepidation on the part of the pilot manifesting in unwarranted back pressure on the control column, raising the nose. In either case, the touchdown point will occur much further down the runway, just as if excessive speed had been carried into the flare.


Equally, ‘target fascination’ with the aim point can result in the pilot arriving at the correct point, but driving it into that point rather than flaring. In the worst case the nosewheel can actually touchdown first, causing damage or a potential ‘wheel-barrowing’ situation; neither are advisable. This issue can be particularly significant at night as the landing lights illuminating the runway almost transfix the pilot’s line of sight to the tarmac at the very time that the eyes should start to look ahead. The goal is to retain the aim point until we arrive at that wonderfully vague point in space where flight down to the runway transforms into the landing manoeuvre known as the flare. Hold onto the aim point for too long and the aircraft will most certainly make an arrival rather than a landing.


Just as with speed, aim point retention or lack thereof, can be a contributing factor in the ‘where’ and ‘how’ of an aircraft’s landing. Often aim points can wander or become hypnotic when pilots are tired and the end of a long day, or a session of circuits. Be aware of where you are looking and work at flying there, but also be ready to release the point when the flare dictates.


Showing Some Flare.


The flare is undoubtedly one place where aviation science and art frequently speak a different language. Even for the most experienced pilot, the timing of when to transition into the landing manoeuvre can be misjudged. It is a skill that comes with practise and a right of passage that all students must endure along their journey. However, just as precision in parking a car improves with time and familiarity, the visual cues will begin to establish themselves in the pilot’s mind’s eye with greater exposure.






At that point when the approach becomes the landing, the pilot’s eyes should release the aim point and rise towards the runways end. At this point the ground will rise in the peripheral vision and assist in judging the rate of closure while the focal point ahead will offer cues for maintaining directional control. The pilot is now endeavouring to bleed the energy from the aircraft by reducing power and increasing the angle of attack with back pressure. Lift is still being generated, but without adequate energy, level flight is replaced by a controlled descent to the runway. Occasionally, the reduction in power is not complete and the aircraft may elect to continue flying in ground effect, so make sure that when it is time to land, the thrust is reduced fully.



Playing it Straight.

The need to be aligned with the runway at touchdown has been previously emphasised. It avoids directional control issues during the ground roll and undue trauma to the undercarriage. The most obvious challenge to this objective is the crosswind and instructors and students continue to battle this fiend using a variety of techniques from the ‘side-slip’ to the ‘crabbed’ approach where the aircraft is aligned in the flare.


Yet at times, the wind does not need to be abeam for runway alignment to wander. On final, pilots develop a ‘wing walk’ where they oscillate aileron, or occasionally rudder, inputs with a resultant rolling or yawing motion. Presenting as gentle S-Turns as the pilot chases the centreline, it is often merely a case of P-I-O; (Pilot Induced Oscillation). PIO can occur with the use of elevator as well and results in a lot of effort for no benefit. If centreline management is proving a struggle on final, then relax all control inputs and see if the aircraft is actually trimmed and flying well. The problem may simply be over-controlling, which if carried into the flare can cause all sorts of confusion.


A Thought on Short.


A short field landing is achieved by flying a standard approach at a slightly lower speed and achieving the desired touchdown point with precision. It is NOT achieved by a very low speed/high thrust undershoot approach, dropped onto the near end of the runway and followed by excessive braking. This latter technique has more holes in it than Swiss cheese as it doesn’t account for obstacles on approach, avail adequate thrust and airspeed to conduct a missed approach and runs a high risk of flat-spotting a tyre. And yet you will see it time and again.


Short field landings are more than ever about a stable approach, flown at a minimum safe margin speed over the stall. The standard approach perspective means that no major adjustments in technique are called for and those trees on final are not a threat. Aim point retention is doubly important as these approaches are generally necessitated by length critical airstrips. At a lower speed, there will be less energy to dissipate, so the landing flare is initiated a fraction later. This assists in achieving the aim point and avoiding an unwanted float down the runway. Fly the book figures as they appear in the Flight Manual and always verify the field length is adequate from the ‘P-Charts’. And check that adequate length exists to depart again before committing to a landing is always well advised.


Airmanship and Away!


In all landings, AVIATE-NAVIGATE-COMMUNICATE. In a tight traffic environment, don’t succumb to subtle pressure from ATC to expedite clearance of the runway. As an aviator, airmanship dictates that you won’t dawdle unnecessarily on the runway after landing. Jumping on the brakes and blowing a tyre or snapping a nose-gear won’t help anybody. You are the pilot in command, fly the aircraft to the best of your ability and if inadequate separation has been provided with the following aircraft then they can go-around. Similarly, these requests can be made as the aircraft is rolling out and should not be acknowledged unless the aircraft is well and truly decelerated and under control.


In all cases, on approach, in the flare, or after a bounce, if the pilot is not happy with the situation then conduct a missed approach. As the saying goes, “If in doubt. BUG OUT!” Generally, the earlier a poor situation is abandoned, the simpler the extraction. Time affords a more organised abandonment of the approach in an unrushed manner. For this reason, the go-around should be practised at various stages of the approach and landing throughout a pilot’s career. It is a manoeuvre that can be called for at any time and requires the correct sequence of actions and the management of trim that can prove awkward. A prudent, competent missed approach is a strong weapon in a pilot’s arsenal.


For all of the variables that the aircraft and environment can provide, it will always be impossible to detail them all in the written word. Similarly, nothing can substitute the positive input from a proficient instructor for both the student pilot and the qualified aviator who is lacking currency. What the 'Ground Rush' has sought to emphasise is the common traps that plague the landing phase and to reassure one and all that the landing is not the ‘make or break’ of a pilot.


The landing is merely the arrival at the end of a flight that has called for all manner of skills enroute. Highly rated and unfairly judged, the landing will continue to be the secret nemesis of many pilots. However, in its most basic components it is about being on speed, on aim point, on slope and aligned with the runway. When the ground rush is sensed and the earth moves up to meet the wheels, it is all about safety........finesse will come with time.




Missed the story so far?

CLICK HERE to begin 'Ground Rush' at PART ONE.


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.



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