May 25, 2004

Landing Practice - An Important Lesson

My Instructor called me a few hours before our lesson and suggested we move our lesson up by an hour or two to avoid an incoming storm. When I arrived at the airport the weather still looked safe to fly and the weather reports we reviewed indicated we would have about an hour window before the storm. We agreed it would be best to stay near the airport. This worked well with my curriculum because I was due for some landing practice.

So we took off down runway 24 at Blue Ash with a slight crosswind and entered the pattern. As I turned onto final approach for my first landing of the day, I found myself too high with little room to maneuver and I made the decision to go around. So I increased speed and flew over the runway at about 600 feet. My instructor advised me to pick a ground reference a little further out on my downwind leg to use as my cue to turn onto the base leg prior to final.

trafficpattern_small.jpgThere are four legs of the traffic pattern. The first is the departure leg, a continuation of the path down the runway and in the same direction as the final leg just at the other end of the runway. If you are not departing the airport by then you turn 90° staying in the traffic pattern and you are on the crosswind leg. This is the short side of the rectangular pattern. The next turn finds you flying parallel to the runway and this leg is called downwind leg. After passing the edge and waiting for the runway to fall 45° behind the wing, the plane is turned 90° again and is on the base leg. This is again a short leg of the pattern. The final turn brings the plane onto final leg. It is here that the plane gets lined up and the pilot needs to bring the aircraft down over a nice steady glideslope.

The next time around the pattern, my CFI helped me pick a reference point to use to help me determine when to turn onto the base leg. By being more patient I was able to turn onto base and then final with plenty of time to align for the landing.

Working within the pattern uses all the skills I have learned thus far. I needed to be vary vigilent in watching for traffic and communicating with traffic in and around the pattern. Meanwhile I had to depart the runway on a appropriate heading and climb at the proper rate. By the time I was parallel to the runway and at the midway point of the runway I needed to be at pattern altitude, approximately 1,000 feet. At this point I needed to begin reducing speed and work the flaps, rudder, aileron and airspeed in order to execute a smooth descent during the last part of the downwind leg, base and onto the final leg. After three or four tries I was becoming much more comfortable with each aspect of the pattern work. By executing the proper climb rate followed by descent and making sure my timing was right it put me in a situation that gave me a high probability of executing a great landing. With each landing I felt much more intune with the plane and was making better and better landings.

I also had the opportunity to execute one emergency landing procedure with the engine idling and another one without the use of the flaps. By the end of the lesson I had 10 more landings under my belt and a ton of confidence. I am anxious to get back up in the skies on Thursday.

Posted by at May 25, 2004 10:43 PM

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