Saturday, August 27, 2011

Landing Seems To Separate The Men From The Boys

I was speaking to a loyal fan of this blog, wondering aloud as to what I should write about next. He said: …just don’t write about another landing crash. Smiling, I told him I would see what I could do.

Since I write about flying mishaps, and their avoidance, I decided to review the latest FAA accidents to see what else to consider. Interestingly, about 70% of the accidents involved the landing phase of flight. (This was obtained from two consecutive days reporting. Forced landings due to engine problems were not counted here). These particular landing accidents all seemed to be in VFR (good weather) conditions. Landing in low IFR type conditions is an entirely different consideration.

What were the type accidents? The causes listed on the FAA site were varied. For example: ground looping ( a problem in tailwheel types), running off the end or the side of the runway, landing gear up, nosing over, striking the prop. Almost all of these occurred in good VFR type weather conditions.

So, what are some of the postulated causes of these mishaps? Basically, they could be summed up by stating that the pilot never developed good flying skills. This coupled with infrequent flights and little or no recurrent training is a recipe for being a poor pilot. I used to believe that I had to fly at least once a week to keep my skill level up to an acceptable standard. This included both VFR and IFR type flights. This was a practice I maintained for many years with good success.

To try to tell someone in writing how to land a plane is almost impossible. It involves all ones sensory and a good many mental skills. But once learned, like riding a bike it isn’t easily forgotten. But, I have to add that all flight procedures, whether pre-flight, taxi, take-off or landing require some type of check list. It needn’t be written in all cases, but should be adhered to. For example, as I have written in another article, the use of a reminder word such as GUMP, which stands for gas, undercarriage, mixture, props, can help one not to forget key operations, such as lowering the gear. For those planes with a variable pitch prop, just add another P, or GUMPP. So when entering the traffic pattern, say the word to yourself and check the 4 or 5 things that go with it. Try it. It works!

So, my advice to recent pilots: learn well and practice often.