Thursday, May 15, 2008

Archer Landing Practice

I took the Archer out today to practice on my landings. I consider myself a rather good lander of airplanes, and it really bugged me that I have not been landing like I know I can.

Pilots like to practice. Practice is fun. We are not sure why we are practicing, but we know we need the practice. Landing is one of those things that Pilots like to practice. We have special names and clearances for it.

There is the most common, the Touch-and-Go. This is where you land the airplane, keep your speed up, pull your flaps back in, give full throttle and your are off the ground in mere moments. These are good if all you want to do is practice the landing pattern, radio procedures, and the flair. What's the flair? I explained that before. Go here
Next we have Round-the-Patches. These involve landing getting off of the runway taxiing back to the start point and taking off again. You do these if, first, you don't have enough runway to safely do a touch and go, or if you want to practice slowing the airplane down enough to exit the runway. Sounds easier than it is. We do these mainly to prepare us for Pancake Breakfast fly-ins. During your typical Pancake Breakfast fly-in you have a whole bunch of traffic landing at an uncontrolled (no tower) airport. You are very likely not the only one in the pattern, and probably not the only one on final as you come in for landing. Pilots like pamcakes you see... So to avoid an accident and to allow everybody to land quickly, you need to exit the runway as soon as it is safe. So we practice landing, then slowing down correctly to get off the runway in time.
Lastly you have the Full-Stop. This is where you land the airplane, get off the runway, taxi to the ramp, then bring the airplane to a full stop. You then let off the breaks, taxi to the runway and take off. Honestly, we only do these when we know we will be flying at night with passengers and we have not made three landings to a full stop with in the last three months, the federal requirement for landing at night with passengers. Otherwise it just wastes fuel.

I was doing the "Round-the-Patch" style practice. I can land the Archer just fine. I have trouble slowing it down and getting it off the runway. Somewhere I have developed a nasty habit of bringing my nose down too early and not bleeding off enough speed. This makes me unstable on the ground. I also have been cutting my landing patterns very short and not giving myself enough room to loose altitude. That forces me, on final, to come in very steep and too fast exacerbating the former issue.

Landing Pattern

So today I worked on nice big patterns and keeping my nose high. The larger pattern made all the difference in the world. I had plenty of time to loose altitude and was able to keep my speed exactly where I wanted it. Lots of room means no rush and landings are so much better when you are not rushed.
My first landing I did not do a very good job of keeping my nose up and I used up most of the runway in trying to slow down. Then it hit me. I realized that my nose issue is mainly due to the elevator trim being set for a nose down position.
The Elevator Trim is a little flap of metal built in to the elevator to aid in positioning elevator. Think of it kind of like cruise control for nose pitch.

Elevator Trim

Anyway, if your trim is set for a down position your nose will tend to go down. In the flair and in landing you want your trim neutral or up. The trim is controlled by a wheel in the cockpit. On my next landing I anticipated the need of the differing trim position and trimmed up towards the end of my final leg. Success! I landed wonderfully. My next 3 landings were all pretty good. I am not reaching the turn off where I need to, but I don't use up all of the runway, either. Good enough until next time.

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