Whatever Happened to Practice?

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I got a nice note from AVEMCO CEO Jim Lauerman on this week's blog about traildraggers and training. He confirms what we have all noticed—or should have noticed—in the accident records: Lack of stick-and-rudder skills cost pilots and their insurors millions every year and a great majority of this—if not all of it—is avoidable. The question is, how?

Every month when we prepare a new Used Aircraft Guide for Aviation Consumer, we sweep through between 100 and 200 accidents for a specific model. These almost always yield the depressing finding that between one-third to as much as one-half of all accidents are what we call R-LOCs or runway loss of control. These are overshoots, undershoots, skids, slides, crosswind incidents, hard touchdowns and all sorts of runway mayhem related to the inability to just basically control the airplane. It's hand-eye stuff.

Here's an astonishing fact: Our June 2010 UAG on the Cessna 182 revealed that 58 percent of all the accidents listed for this model are R-LOCs. Few other models come even close to this. A significant number of these were nose-first touchdowns or hard landings that damaged the nosegear and crimped the firewall, which is common damage for a Skylane. Why is this?

Anyone who has flown a Skylane will tell you that even when trimmed correctly, it's nose heavy on landing and it requires a purposeful tug to keep the nose from either touching down first or slamming down after the mains make contact. I haven't pursued this issue with Cessna yet, but I have to think this airplane could use some design tweaking to help with this. But the larger issue remains pilot proficiency or lack of it. If most pilots can land a Skylane without bending it—and most can—why can't everyone?

Carry that logic out and you can apply it to any model, even new ones like the Cirrus and Diamond line, which have their share of runway prangs. Most of these are expensive embarrassments, but they can also be spectacularly fatal, as was the crash of a Cirrus SR22 at Caldwell, New Jersey last summer. The NTSB hasn't ruled on a cause of this accident, but you can read the factual for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

There may be no single reason to explain why these R-LOCs continue to happen. More likely, I think, is a confluence of factors. First, the instructional community in general underates the difficulty of developing and maintaining landing skills across a range of conditions, including gusty winds, slick surfaces and night or poor visibility.

Economics drive this and it's getting worse because flying is more expensive than ever so once a student obtains minimal proficiency, there's little incentive to polish further. Nor is there much time, because now the student's time gets taken up with mastering the complexities of glass panels and airspace. All of these skills are perishable, none more so than the simple ability to set approach speed, flare and control the airplane through the rollout.

I see the tech effect all the time when I'm reviewing a new glass panel or some other tech product. Two years ago, when Cirrus introduced the Garmin Perspective, I flew it on a gusty Duluth morning. The demo pilot was enthralled with the display's new flight path indicator, explaining in great detail that if I'd just put the indicator on the end of the runway, I'd land right at that spot. Of course, the FPI doesn't account for trim or speed, so it will happily drive you to a 110-knot impact right where it promised it would. In gusty conditions, following it is like playing bad pinball. In a fit of annoyance, I finally said, "Why don't I just look out the %^$#*^ window and land the airplane, just like I always do?" He laughed and conceded the point. But I digress, because this isn't about bashing techology.

The overarching question is how to keep a proficient edge and the overarching answer relates to something a skydiving team mate once observed. Hey, you know this practice stuff really works. And that's the nut of it, really. Blog poster Jack Romanski nailed it: Go out and practice an hour or two a week. Or if it's all you can afford, two hours a month. Concentrate on landings in all kinds of conditions, including crosswinds and throw in some proficiency airwork like steep turns, slow flight, pylon turns and other ground reference maneuvers suitable for what you think you need. You don't need an instructor to do this. Just do it yourself.

As for further regulation, forget it. We already have the flight review requirement which is both laughably insufficent and abused by some CFIs and pilots who are perfectly happy with paper sign offs and no actual training or review. I doubt if this sort of abuse is a substanital factor in lack of stick-and-rudder skills; it may in fact be more of a symptom. I'm a big believer in taking personal responsibility and not looking to outside influences to force us to do what we should be doing for ourselves.

Even at that, organizations like AOPA Air Safety Foundation, which has resources for this, ought to look toward hands on clinics devoted laser-like to landing proficiency. So should manufacturers and maybe insurance companies, too. Not videos. Not webinars. Not slideshows. Actual hands on clinics. It would be something different. Personally, because it's about the most fun thing you can do in a Cub, I get about a dozen landings a week in. But I recognize that some owners and pilots can't or won't do that and a little outside encouragement represents an opportunity for them to get off the dime and actually do this critical practice. Some people just take more nudging than others.

But in the end, the solution is between the ears. No amount of instruction or encouragment will ever displace the value of simply doing it yourself and learning by trial and error.

Comments (59)

Good post.

I think part of the R-LOC problem is pilots who land a 172 like a 737. Approach on the PAPI, slight power reduction, put the nose slightly up, and wait. 737, good technique. 172, bad - this past Saturday I watched at my local airport as about half a dozen dudes flew their plane flat onto the runway at 80 knots and struggled to get it stopped before the 3000' turnoff. Sure, the controls feel more responsive and the landings can be smoother than a full-stall, but add in gusty winds or wet pavement, and these guys would be off the side or end.

I think the hardest part of teaching students is to instruct them that, unlike how they treat driver's ed, the way you learned as a student - cross the fence on speed, full flare, and crosswind correction throughout - is the way you're almost always going to land.

Posted by: Donald Harper | October 7, 2010 12:53 PM    Report this comment

The "incidents" I read about are simply bad habits that are magnified by gust/crosswind conditions. The biggest offender in all this is using the yoke for all course corrections on landing. People simple don't use the rudder to maintain centerline and then get flustered with the entire landing sequence because of the drifting...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | October 7, 2010 2:24 PM    Report this comment

I thought the 182 problem was the sight picture not control force per se. The airplane sits in a fairly nose high attitude even on the ground relative to a lot of airplanes, even the otherwise very similar 172. Which tricks you into not flaring enough until you figure out the correct picture.

Posted by: B Noel | October 7, 2010 3:14 PM    Report this comment

The answer to practice could be as easy as everyone participating in the FAA Wings program. There was a bit of confusion and reluctance at first, but the new program already accomplishes what you are proposing in this blog. The tasks are right out of the PTS and staying "phased" can be easily accomplished in an hour flying and a few online courses twice a year (an interval which I believe should be applied to a flight review BTW).

Insurance companies are already recognizing the value of this program through reduced premiums. It's so easy, I don't know why more pilots aren't on board.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | October 8, 2010 7:54 AM    Report this comment

These are all good comments but from my (now long ago) experience as a Chief Flight Instructor and in reading over literally thousands of claims, I think Mark's perspective is spot on. When directional control begins to be lost a lot of people just "plant" the airplane on the runway, often with very expensive results.

We all get to pay for those mistakes and the cost is, in my opinion, astronomical when we consider how corectable the problem is with just a simple (but not easy) mastery of the basics.

Stall spin accidents would improve a lot also if we all were better at controlling the aircraft at low airspeeds. But that's a topic for another day......

Jim Lauerman President Avemco Insurance Company, Inc.

Posted by: Jim Lauerman | October 8, 2010 8:20 AM    Report this comment

I fear the biggest problem we have are pilots who only want to fly "recreationally" and fail to maintain and build their skills as a pilot. We instructors sometimes will give these types a pass on a flight review, just because they are "fair-weather pilots" I'm not suggesting there is anything wrong with wanting to fly for fun. Even Sunday flyers must accept that flying is terribly unforgiving to the complacent person, and skills are lost quickly. Weather can change rapidly even on the clearest of days, and even the best maintained aircraft can break. I believe that pilots have an obligation to their passengers and bystanders on the ground, to be proficient, competent, and professional, even if they are a VFR-only sport pilot flying a cub. This - like any other profession where lives hang in the balance - requires a commitment to practice and continuing education whether you are a 50 hour or 30,000 hour pilot. I know of no acceptable excuse not to.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | October 8, 2010 6:03 PM    Report this comment

My half century of flying leads me to believe that one of the most insidious base reasons for sloppy stick-and-rudder aircraft control is the mistaken impression many pilots seem to have that qualification and proficiency are the same thing. They will never tell you that, of course. But when the day comes that they are on their way to the airport after a period of not flying, or not flying in the way or under the conditions they plan to that day, it's as if having done it before is all the justification they need.

In my opinion, complacency lies at the heart of the problem, and the fix can't come from anywhere but within each and every pilot. Anyone who accepts landing long, or in a drift, off center line, hot, you name it, without the personal commitment to do better the next time is a RLOC incident/accident waiting to happen.

Posted by: Tosh McIntosh | October 8, 2010 6:28 PM    Report this comment

Perhaps like any pilot who flies solely for the pure joy of the experience, I have a lot of discretion about when to go flying. All too often for my own good I choose to spend my scarce dollars enjoying myself in the kind of nice weather conditions that make me feel like a good pilot. Oh, I read articles like “Five Crosswind Exercises” in Aviation Safety and dutifully go out and practice, but it’s not the same thing as actually flying a taildragger with a stiff crosswind. And so, every now and then, I go make myself uncomfortable. Each time I’ve been glad I did, even if humbled, but I still have to push myself to do it the next time. In that regard I realize it’s my responsibility, not the FAA’s, to make sure that my biennial flight review is not a joke. Since I have to spend the money for the review, why not spend it on an hour of unusual attitudes training in a Citabria or crosswind practice.

Posted by: Bob Davison | October 8, 2010 10:37 PM    Report this comment

Oh come on, these statistics are meaningless. I mean, outside of catastrophic mechanical failure, flying into bad weather or otherwise being stupid where else would you crash other than on a runway?

Posted by: Paul Irvine | October 11, 2010 2:44 AM    Report this comment

I agree with those who suggest it is the pilot's mental attitude that controls the safety of flight. On the C-182 landing pitch issue: I found the easy way to get the nose up for landing a 182 is to pop the throttle when you want to flare. The massive engine easily lifts the nose and when the throttle is closed it is easy to maintain the desired pitch.

I'm afraid the pilot attitude problem is one that just has no universal solution. Pilots who work at maintaining the ability to fly smoothly generally do a good job. Pilots who fly with the aim of maximizing adrenaline may not be able to handle the plane well under any conditions. I would guess the R-LOC accidents under focus here are mostly experienced by private pilots. The discipline brought by commercial aviation should make pilots work to keep their customers comfortable. The licensing requirements for commercial pilots also lead to reasonable skills and mental attitudes. Private pilots must bring the professional attitude with them to the airplane through personal choice. One last comment: This whole discussion emphasizes the unfortunate truth that anyone who decides to fly with a private pilot needs to evaluate the pilot's attitude to understand the flight safety risk. Alas, most passengers don't know this so they are really subject to the luck of the draw.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | October 11, 2010 6:41 AM    Report this comment

There are also A LOT of fuel related accidents! Experimental aircraft suffer more than their fair share of accelerated stall/spins in the pattern. Lots of accidents "near" a runway are caused by high density altitude on takeoff or wrong approach speeds to landing. Let's not forget the missed approach crashes when initial climb/turn is delayed...

When basic pilotage is lacking, there is no telling what string of events will end up in a bad day.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | October 11, 2010 6:58 AM    Report this comment

I frequently have the honor of introducing pilots to the joys of the taildragger in a Cub. I've learned to warn them before beginning the landing approach just how slow we will be going and that, no, we aren't going to stall and fall out of the sky. Once they learn how to slow an airplane down to land it's like someone turned on a light. Practicing at altitude just how slow you can go and how to recover when you get too slow makes for safer pilots, that's for sure. And with only 5 instruments and no gyros they get their heads out of the cockpit pretty quick. You can tell who the Cub pilots are at any airport--they're the men and women who visibly wince when a 172 comes screaming in for an 80 knot landing, which, unfortunately, is all too often....

Posted by: Jeff Russell | October 11, 2010 7:43 AM    Report this comment

Landing an aircraft is not like riding a bicycle. Flying an airplane,especially landing one, is a difficult thing to consistently do well. I guess that challenge is one of the reasons I love it so much. I don't feel flying can ever be totally mastered but I do feel that I can steadily improve my piloting skills with practice. I have made hundreds of landings in my Cessna 182 without incident but I still feel that my landings improve and my confidence level goes up when I periodically practice touch and go's.

Posted by: Tim Welter | October 11, 2010 8:02 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I find myself in complete agreement with you. My wife and I came to GA after many years of hang gliding. Since every landing in a hang glider is power off you must regularly practice if you do not want to bend metal or your body. With thousands of these landings under our belts before taking the controls of a GA aircraft we did not have trouble learning to land them. I take the time to practice in varied conditions to keep my skills polished and read accident reports to be alert for trends. Watching some of my fellow pilots bounce down the runway in ideal conditions makes me very uncomfortable. Practice, practice,practice! It will save you money and possibly your life in the long run.

Posted by: Ric Lee | October 11, 2010 9:12 AM    Report this comment

I passed my Private way back in the early 90's quickly followed by a multi and instrument rating. I then had to hang up my headset for 18 years to raise a family. If anyone has the need for re-training, it's me. However, my kiddos, my wife, friend and family are all just "dying" to go for a plane ride. Have I taken anyone up? nope. Have I gone up without an instructor yet? nope. She's happily signed off my bi-annual and told me "you're fine, go fly!" - but I've swalloed my pride and will be spending several more hours with her in the cockpit before I go up alone again (much less with passengers). the main reason? Landings, Landings, Landings,.... and more Landings... You cannot be safe without being proficient.

Posted by: Victor Shortt | October 11, 2010 9:15 AM    Report this comment

I "redo" the exam practice every 3 months, including power off and x-wind landings. The biggest thing that has improved my landings is practicing on purpose with gusty and cross-wind conditions. Every now and then I go up with an instructor when the wind is higher than my personal limits to practice.

Posted by: Rebecca Shipman | October 11, 2010 9:45 AM    Report this comment

Spot on, Paul. Making each landing a learning experience, self-critiquing each wobble, is crucial for me, since my tailwheel airplane, like yours, isn't forgiving of improper lining up, crosswind correction, or subsequent touchdown control. I regularly do touch and goes at the 12 foot wide by 600 foot long dirt ultralight strip near our airport precisely to maintain that ability to come over the fence from a variety of altitudes and airspeeds, but still keep it under control. Thanks to Avemco for highlighting this need for landing proficiency.

Posted by: Unknown | October 11, 2010 9:53 AM    Report this comment

I agree with all the practice comments and the value of Taildragger training. One thing no one has mentioned is that the C-182 can be out of weight and balance on the forward side with mostly full tanks and 2 front seat occupants. The FBO I flew out of in the 80s had a bucket filled with cement used as the tail tiedown and taken on such trips. result: the nose is not "hard to lift" for landing. Another basic perhaps overlooked.

Posted by: Cathy Babis | October 11, 2010 10:22 AM    Report this comment

Cathy, I disagree with your comments on lifting the nose on a 182. My wife does not have great upper body strength and has to use both hands to flare a 182. She has no problems with other designs.

Posted by: Ric Lee | October 11, 2010 11:03 AM    Report this comment

As a flight instructor and a professional pilot I agree practice is the cheapest form of insurance. A lot of my passengers have never flown in anything smaller than a 737 and they comment on the smooth landing. After several thousand landings in a small airplane, my reply is every landing is practice

Posted by: Jim Strickland | October 11, 2010 11:13 AM    Report this comment

The 182 is nose heavy, and without weight in the rear it will not land mains-first unless you keep some power on. If you're used to landing with the engine at idle, there won't be enough elevator authority to flare properly in a 182. This still bites me occasionally and I've been flying mine for years--mostly, I forget that I don't have anything in the back seats. You don't have to be strong, but you do need some power (pun intended).

Posted by: David Chuljian | October 11, 2010 11:31 AM    Report this comment

The 182 is a very bad, extremely nose heavy, accident prone airplane. If you have one of these disgusting examples of aviation misfortune, in otherwise flying condition, do yourself a favour and dispose of it quickly. As a public service I will volunteer to take care of the details of recycling your disaster-in-the-making personally. Drop me a line, leave the keys hooked over the dipstick, and the tanks full! thanx

Posted by: JW Musgrove | October 11, 2010 12:17 PM    Report this comment

Calling a 182 "nose heavy" is like calling a 152 "nose light', it's all relative, add half again more Engine and a Constant Speed Prop,the Airplane will naturally handle different. Although not approved by most CFI's or umteen thousand hr. ATP's, I practice my touch & go's full flap, and strive to keep the nose wheel from ever touching the ground, works for me, even with full fuel and 2 people up front. The 182 is a High Performance Airplane, and should be flown as such.

Posted by: David Webber | October 11, 2010 1:17 PM    Report this comment

Calling a 182 "nose heavy" is like calling a 152 "nose light', it's all relative, add half again more Engine and a Constant Speed Prop,the Airplane will naturally handle different. Although not approved by most CFI's or umteen thousand hr. ATP's, I practice my touch & go's full flap, and strive to keep the nose wheel from ever touching the ground, works for me, even with full fuel and 2 people up front. The 182 is a High Performance Airplane, and should be flown as such.

Posted by: David Webber | October 11, 2010 1:17 PM    Report this comment

Why would you land a 182 with the throttle closed? It is a perfectly safe airplane and a pussycat to land with a little power and generous amounts of up trim. It just lands a little differently than a Skyhawk - as do most twins, and even the good ole Cherokee 140. Not unsafe, but different. Practice, practice, practice!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | October 11, 2010 1:25 PM    Report this comment

Odd... I see some back and forth about C182s (I never flew one) but nobody yet disagrees with the value of practicing landings (nor would I). My flying career was a short 400 hours (mostly tail-wheel), but I had almost 1400 landings and "Wings Phase Nine". Obviously, I believed big-time in practice and in recurrent training.

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | October 11, 2010 7:36 PM    Report this comment

I learned in a Citabria (tail dragger) with an instructor who routinely flew us in 20+ wind. I had no choice but to learn how to 'dance on the rudders' (during takeoff and landing, feet are always moving; if not actually depressing the pedals then tapping on them as if to a musical rhythm, muscles coiled for action). When I transitioned to a Skyhawk it felt like moving from a sports car to a truck but, safely flying the Skyhawk in wind requires just as much rudder skill. In my experience, left forward-slipping in light wind makes excellent safe practice for precision hand-feet coordination use of rudder pedals; you can see and feel every response to your control inputs.

Posted by: dave anthony | October 11, 2010 8:43 PM    Report this comment

Paul, do you a think a contributing factor to the high numbers of R-LOCS is that sometimes pilots forget to fly the airplane after they land? After moving from heavier aircraft to very light aircraft, I find I have to fly the aircraft all the time, especially after the wheels have touch the ground. Same is true of a tail wheel aircraft.

Posted by: Dana Nickerson | October 11, 2010 10:02 PM    Report this comment

Flight review paper sign-off? They don't teach CFIs about liability during CFI training anymore. A flight review can yield up to 2-year of liability.

I love tailwheel aircraft. There are a lot of fun. However, I feel that a short field approach followed by a soft field landing in a nosewheel aircraft requires just as much pilot judgment and aircraft control as landing a tailwheel aircraft. In general, I think that better instructors are the key to better pilots.

Posted by: Flying Bug | October 12, 2010 12:15 PM    Report this comment

Josh Johnson say "Why would you land a 182 with the throttle closed?"

Because you want to make book landing distance? Not an instructor but my experience from talking to and flying with other pilots is that there are a lot of pilots that come in way too fast, and/or with power which makes smooth landings easier but rloc more likely (plane is way too fast on the runway) and eats up all kinds of runway. A 182 at stall is still covering 100 feet every second. Book ground roll is 600 feet. That means 1 second float has increased your ground roll by ~20%.

Posted by: B Noel | October 12, 2010 1:41 PM    Report this comment

I have flown a substantial number of hours (at least 20) in each of the Cessna types below. …Have scored them as I think fit (out of ten) for they’re handling quality in the landing without referencing approach speed or complexity. In other words the scores simply reflect how easy I personally think it is to achieve a smooth landing in that type.

Cessna 150 ---------------------------------10/10 - very easy to land Cessna 152 ---------------------------------10/10 - very easy to land Cessna 172 --------------------------------- 8/10 - fairly easy to land Cessna 182 --------------------------------- 6/10 - care required to land smoothly Cessna TR182----------------------------- 5/10 - care required to land smoothly Cessna 206 --------------------------------- 6/10 - care required to land smoothly Cessna 206 (turbine conversion)------- 5/10 - care required to land smoothly Cessna 208 Grand Caravan ------------ 8/10 - fairly easy to land Cessna 303 Crusader--------------------- 9/10 - nice to land Cessna 310---------------------------------- 8/10 - nice to land Cessna 340---------------------------------- 8/10 - nice to land Cessna 421 Golden Eagle---------------- 8/10 - nice to land

Personally I like the C182, you just need to take a bit more care than with other types to hold it off. The Piper Comanche’s and some of the Mooney’s have similar issues in the landing to the C182 and C206.

Posted by: peter hirst | October 12, 2010 3:13 PM    Report this comment

I wrote the post above in word and it seems the AVWEB programme has corrupted it.

Posted by: peter hirst | October 12, 2010 3:17 PM    Report this comment

Cessna 150 ---------------------------------10/10 - very easy to land

Cessna 152 ---------------------------------10/10 - very easy to land

Cessna 172 ----------------------------------8/10 - fairly easy to land

Cessna 182 ----------------------------------6/10 - care required to land smoothly

Cessna TR182---------------------------------5/10 - care required to land smoothly

Cessna 206 ----------------------------------6/10 - care required to land smoothly

Cessna 206 (turbine conversion)--------------5/10 - care required to land smoothly

Cessna 208 Grand Caravan --------------------8/10 - fairly easy to land

Cessna 303 Crusader--------------------------9/10 - nice to land

Cessna 310-----------------------------------8/10 - nice to land

Cessna 340-----------------------------------8/10 - nice to land

Cessna 421 Golden Eagle----------------------8/10 - nice to land

Posted by: peter hirst | October 12, 2010 4:42 PM    Report this comment

I think in the future we will see a bigger percentage of R-LOCs mainly because of the diminishing quality of instruction out there. It seems like the emphasis is on using the system and not good stick and rudder skills. Full flap power off approaches are not taught anymore. The power on half flap 3 degree approach is the norm. Also most pilots don't practice in the pattern much if at all. They might go out right before a bi annual and shoot some landings and never go out on a good gusty cross wind day.

Posted by: Don Chapton | October 13, 2010 7:37 AM    Report this comment

I learned to fly in a tailwheel and the thing that was most stressed was don't land and let go of the elevators. As an instructor now I teach all my students, no matter where the third tire is, to not land and let go! Fly the plane until it's stopped. If you can't see over the nose, look slightly off to the side, use your peripheral vision to stop drift and yaw and don't let go! Fly it until it's stopped.

Posted by: Esther Grupenhagen | October 13, 2010 8:18 AM    Report this comment

I am a skydiver and also fly the c182 for our jump operation. I get more takeoffs and landings in one weekend than most private pilots get in an entire year. It's easy to land the 182 with full flaps to a full stall with the nose high at idle on the center line and on the numbers. If you can't do it you just need to practice. I have lots and lots of practice. My own personal aircraft, a Mooney, is just as easy to land despite it's reputation for difficult landings. It's easy to land because I fly it a lot. Practice.

Posted by: Willie Sinsel | October 13, 2010 8:23 AM    Report this comment

"B Noel" - I'd challenge you to a short-field landing contest any day of the week - you do it throttle closed, and I'll carry a little power (on a 182, i like it in about 1/4") I'll land shorter every time because I don't need to carry an excess of airspeed to raise the nose and land smoothly. By nipping the least little bit at the backside of the power curve, my stall speed actually drops. I certainly agree - the vast majority of pilots carry way too much speed on final - this can be a result of too much power, but much more frequently is from someone "dive-bombing" the aircraft on final because they are too high or too fast. I tell my students that two things must happen every time to pull off a great landing, you must be on glidepath and on airspeed when crossing the runway threshold. You can put the airplane at the right place (glidepath is right) but if you're too fast it does you no good - an immediate go-around is warranted.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | October 13, 2010 8:29 AM    Report this comment

Josh it's not my mediocore skills you're competing against, it's the test pilot that got the book data. AFM short field procedure says 60 kias, power off at 50 ft (on clearing the obstacle). 60 kias is 63 kcas, stall is 54 kcas so that's already less than 1.2 Vs. All data from Q model AFM. So how much slower are you flying, with power?

I know you can use power, or excess speed, to make smooth landings but to me it's a crutch, better to practice until you don't need it.

Posted by: B Noel | October 13, 2010 8:59 AM    Report this comment

I have, as I've said, a few hours in a 182 and for the most part I can see no reason to carry any power in the 182 on landing.(maybe crazy winds) I think too, that you need to just practice until you don't need it. What happens when there is no power some day? Full flaps, engine idling, full stall, horn buzzing, on the numbers, on centerline. Nobody can do it every time but those who practice will get close. Practice.

Posted by: Willie Sinsel | October 13, 2010 9:26 AM    Report this comment

Yeah I got my commercial in a R182 so lots of power off 180 practice over and over and over. I don't remember the exact speeds I used but it was whatever the published normal approach speed was, not faster. And I never felt like there was any limit on elevator authority. The only thing unique about the airplane I remember is the nose has to be way up....if you could see over the nose it wasn't high enough. And it was hard to finesse in all the manuvers just because of the higher forces. But that's overcome with practice, knowing how hard to pull to get the response you want.

Posted by: B Noel | October 13, 2010 11:11 AM    Report this comment

The test pilot was likely flying an airplane at mid CG at gross. Pilots would do well to understand the effect that CG can have on landing performance. Additionally, a skydive 182 with nothing in the panel (especially an older one) is a different animal from a new one packed with avionics, an IO-540 in the nose, and three bladed prop. A forward-loaded 182 has a really small sweet spot where you still have enough elevator authority to lift the nose and touch down at a reasonable airspeed - a little power helps this significantly. And yes, in my experience a little power will yield a shorter short-field landing than the book method. I've also found that a rolling takeoff in most airplanes will beat the book recommendation of line up, full throttle prior to brake release short field takeoff as well.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | October 13, 2010 11:20 AM    Report this comment

Josh, like all the testing the manufacturers do for certification, it's done at the critical loading. That wording is in original CAR 3 from 1946 and 50+ amendments later, it's same today.

It would also be at the minimum elevator rigging allowed on the tcds.

I've met a whole lot of pilots that have special takeoff and landing procedures that they swear up and down beat the book performance. I've yet to see anything that is impressive. Most everyone would be a lot better off practicing standard/book landings then trying to be clever, in my opinion.

Posted by: B Noel | October 13, 2010 12:23 PM    Report this comment

"pilots that have special takeoff and landing procedures that they swear up and down beat the book performance'

I have personally documented the performance on my aircraft and know that the book is wrong on max-performance for both takeoff and landing techniques. The manufacturer "simplified" POH procedures for a number of reasons. No need for me to swear what works, I just hand people my testing data...

In line with what Josh said, with power you can fly BELOW the white arc.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | October 13, 2010 1:10 PM    Report this comment

Uh huh. BTW the reason you can fly below white arc with power is that stall speeds are idle (or manf can choose to use zero thrust) at worse case loading at minimum elevator travel.

Posted by: B Noel | October 13, 2010 1:48 PM    Report this comment

The skydiver above is correct, ...I too have never had a problem touching down normally (main-wheels first) in the C182 with the power off and full flap. I have flown old 182's and brand new out of the factory with glass screens. No difference that counts for anything. ...As with any aircraft type just make a note of "exactly where the horizon cuts across the windscreen before you get airborne" and when you come into land make absolutely certain to hold the machine off as long as it takes to raise the nose higher than that reference whilst at the same time maintaining your machine in close proximity to the runway.

Landing aeroplanes is easy if you practice. …I think it’s far more difficult to strike a golf ball straight down a fairway, or to serve a fast tennis ball over a net and keep it in play.

Whilst it is true that both the C182 and C206 require a little bit more work and caution towards the end of the hold-off than many other more modern aircraft types, it really is no big deal if you are a competent handling pilot. …There are other nose-wheel machines that arguably require even more effort in the hold-off. Like for instance the Single Comanche 400 that is equipped with an eight cylinder IO720 and that really stands high on its nose-wheel. Also the Twin Comanche’s sit a little nose high. So too does the Mooney with the TSIO520.

Posted by: peter hirst | October 13, 2010 5:25 PM    Report this comment

Mark is correct based upon my experience. You absolutely can fly below the white arc and not stall the aircraft - in fact I can fly my 172 around without it indicating airspeed at all! B Noel actually confirms my point in his last post - if the stall speeds are at idle, and I can fly slower than that with power, I can perform a shorter short-field landing with power applied than I can at idle. And I can often beat the book numbers in so doing.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | October 13, 2010 5:32 PM    Report this comment

My bad - I meant short field landing instead of soft field landing

Posted by: Josh Johnson | October 13, 2010 6:00 PM    Report this comment

You will hurt yourself if you go trying to do stuff like that in other more advanced aircraft types.

Posted by: peter hirst | October 13, 2010 6:37 PM    Report this comment

Peter- I've got lots and lots of time doing exactly that in more advanced aircraft types and haven't come close to bending metal. In fact I've flown many of the airplanes on your list and would disagree with your ease of landing conclusions - for example I'd say the C310R and 182 land remarkably similar to each other - especially in regard to pitch force. Interestingly enough, the 310R poh recommends carrying power into the flare - I found it works remarkably well.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | October 13, 2010 9:31 PM    Report this comment

Oh, and no you don't just pick a point an inch or two above the horizon line and shoot for that. Those are the guys that come in flat consistently, and are the reason the nose gear is worn out on most of your Cessna trainers. A proper landing is one where you touch on the mains then fly the nose gently to the ground.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | October 13, 2010 9:33 PM    Report this comment

Josh I have over ten thousand hours on more than 80 different aircraft types from rare 1930's vintage biplanes and crop-dusters to jets and I have always been able to land any aircraft type reliably first time - one reason why I have had the opportunity to fly so many types. My recollection of the Cessna 310 is that it easy and pleasant to land, …nicer and more fun to land than the C182.

Posted by: peter hirst | October 13, 2010 11:13 PM    Report this comment

The obvious(?) problem with using power to reduce your stall speed, enough power to make any actual real difference in stall speed means a much shallower approach. Short field you want as steep as possible

Take a peak at PTS standards. Private pts upper limits for short field are vref + 10, target touchdown point +200 ft. Commerical PTS upper limits for short field are Vref + 5, target touchdown point +100 ft.

It's hard to figure the effect of vref increase but using the poh tables assuming it's the same as a 10 TAS increase I can approximate Vref + 10 adds 200 ft to ground roll alone, Vref + 5 adds 100 ft to ground roll alone. That's minimum, and ground roll only, in reality it's probably considerably more.

So we have a book ground roll of 600 ft and a pilot that just meets private PTS standards would take minimum 170% of that distance, a pilot that just meets commerical PTS standards would take minimum 130% of that distance.

That 30-70% is in your hands to get back, with practice. And that's before we even get into max brake effort. Ain't no way you're shaving 70% off book landing distance with some alternate technique. The book distance is airplane performance, not airplane + pilot performance and manufacturers are just not giving up double digit percentage gains off airplane performance. The absolute biggest gain to be had in landing performance is your ability to touchdown as close as possible to target point, on speed.

Posted by: B Noel | October 14, 2010 10:27 AM    Report this comment

The problem a lot of pilots have with getting the nose high enough on flare is that they are trying to look over the nose and only flare enough to still see the runway ahead which is almost never enough angle of attack. I have a couple thousand hours in airplanes that you can't see over the nose (Pitts, N3N, T-6 etc) and mostly look out the sides of the airplane to gauge the flare and relationship to the runway. I never have a problem with a power off full flap approach in a Cessna and consistently get nice nose high touchdowns on the mains. This is where some tailwheel training can benefit any pilot.

Posted by: Don Chapton | October 14, 2010 11:19 AM    Report this comment

I instructed a bit in the past, mainly on C150/C152-C172’s, …I sent 22 men and women on their first solo flights. The exercise I most enjoyed teaching was forced landings after engine failure. We always taught maintain best glide-speed throughout and ideally touchdown with full flap.

…Forty degrees of flap and power off in the Cessna 150 gave an impressively steep and quite high rate of descent that always amused me and I liked landing that way -The elevator control in that aircraft was very well sorted out and easily facilitated smooth controlled landings no matter how steep your approach path. Nevertheless student pilots often seemed a bit overwhelmed by the view of mother Earth going into the flare with 40degrees. When C152’s arrived we invited our students to use just the 30degree setting across the board and that still gave quite a steep descent. …It is worthy of note that Cessna reduced full flap deflection to 30degrees on the C152 that replaced the C150.

I also occasionally dropped parachutists from Cessna 182’s and when it was my habit to recover in steep descents – almost always going into the landing power off and with full flap because I liked doing that - it was good practice and it got the aircraft back on the ground again quickly - which was what the skydivers expected.

Ultimately power off/full flap landings are the most important skill for any pilot flying single engine aircraft to practice in case they ever have to deal with engine failure.

Posted by: peter hirst | October 14, 2010 5:50 PM    Report this comment

One of the great things about meeting people is that there are so many different perspectives to how to do things and a number of "right" ways to do them. The only time you've got to do it my way is if you're in my airplane or you want me to sign you off for something. I would say that any pilot that claims he can land any aircraft well the first time he flies it might just fib about other things as well - been there, seen that!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | October 16, 2010 8:05 PM    Report this comment

I am 73 now and learned in a 'taildragger'. Soloed all of my students in a taildragger. If you do that, you'll never have a problem in a tricycle gear aircraft. None of my students ever did. I agree that if you have a tricycle gear aircraft, it doesn't hurt to ocassionally fly a 'taildragger' ocassionally. Kinda like riding a bike tho....

Posted by: Bernie McAda | October 16, 2010 10:14 PM    Report this comment

Josh you don't read what I write carefully and twice now you have put words in my mouth to satisfy your own agenda. ...Pilot skill varies enormously and there certainly are a percentage of pilots who can land any aircraft "reliably" first time.

Furthermore your assertion of what is good landing technique is simply one method and although it happens to work for the Cessna 182, it is not the preferred method for very many aircraft types. …There are many ways to skin a cat and there are many ways to land aircraft.

My agenda was simply to try and show that I believe criticism of the Cessna 182’s handling quality in the landing is entirely justified and for that I clearly need to show sufficient experience of handling Cessna aircraft in general to be taken at my word.

In particular my comparison of the C182 with larger more complex (300 and 400 series) multi engine Cessna’s was intended simply to highlight that more experienced Cessna pilots are actually flying machines that are more straightforward to land, which seems to me rather perverse.

…I personally can land the C182 all day long just fine, as no doubt can many other pilots. However, I understand perfectly well why inexperienced pilots especially have trouble landing it.

Posted by: peter hirst | October 17, 2010 5:53 PM    Report this comment

Peter - if you want to believe that - knock yourself out. Sounds like a bit of "invulnerability" to me. Anyone who asserts they can land "any" aircraft the first time correctly without help is exactly the type pilot who has a thing or two to learn - and it doesn't really matter how many hours you've got. As Dick Collins says, it's the next hour that matters. And if you'll check, my recommendation in carrying a little power in the flare is actually in the checklist (the official Cessna one) on many of their twins.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | October 18, 2010 12:23 PM    Report this comment

Josh you are judging me by your own ability. …I have soloed well over thirty aircraft types without any dual instruction. Clearly one has to have some self-belief to climb into a single seat aircraft and fly it the first time. Nor am I laying claim to any unusual ability. Evidence from the past easily confirms that many thousands of pilots were capable of climbing into all kinds of challenging aircraft types and landing them reliably first time. …Not my problem if you are not capable of the same.

As for your information on how to land Cessna piston twins, you appear to be putting words in my mouth again. At no point in any of the text above have I made any reference whatsoever to how I may or may not be in the habit of landing those particular aircraft. I simply said I find them easy and straightforward to land.

The focus of the thread was the Cessna 182. …A lot of inexperienced pilots bust nose-wheels on them – clearly there are contributing factors that relate to the design of the machine.

Posted by: peter hirst | October 18, 2010 4:52 PM    Report this comment

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