Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Getting the hang of it ...

'Way back when, my first Flight Instructor (Tom - long since gone to his reward but not forgotten) helped me understand the proper pitch attitude for landing the Cessna 150 by having me sit in the pilot seat, then he'd push down the tail of the airplane while it sat quietly on the ramp and yell up to me, "See that? That's what you want to see over the nose when you touch down on the runway!" 

It took more than one time for this to sink in, but I "got it" one day in real time and from that point on my landings became acceptable more often than not. It was a milestone and I still remember the feeling.

Fast forward 43 years through a lot of different airplanes from J-3 Cubs to jets and here I am, sitting quietly on a grass runway and looking forward over the nose of the Woody's Pusher at the view I want to see when I touch down on the runway. Tom's patient words came back to me. ... Only thing is, there's not much nose to look over since I'm pretty close to hanging 10 on the front end of this thing.

There's nothing to see by looking from right to left, either.

My friend, George, once told me his ambition was to fly an airplane from in front of the engines (plural, as in more than one engine, specifically jet engines, an understandable ambition when a pilot is advancing in the trade). Woody has me flying not only in front of the engine (single, piston-popper) but most everything else as well. 

The real "gotcha" is that most students who are flying tricycle gear airplanes with all those visual cues don't hold a nose-high pitch attitude high enough; my situation is somewhat reversed: I wasn't holding a nose-almost-level pitch attitude almost-level enough, resulting in first contact of the runway by the tailwheel. I've improved my technique quite a bit over the months and improved my chances for landing at least three-point by installing larger tires. Today, thankfully, my landings are again acceptable more often than not and I might be able to keep doing the aviating thing without having to stop to fix a broken tailwheel.

Old dogs can learn new tricks. (Keeps life interesting - and fun). Nowadays, having etched the pitch attitude for landing in my psyche, I just fly Woody to the runway to a half (maybe 3/8) of an inch, allowing the grass to gently brush against and spin up the tires, and just let it drop in from there.