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Why is landing the bloody plane so hard?!

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Why is landing the bloody plane so hard?!

Old 4th Mar 2015, 12:36
  #1 (permalink)  
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Join Date: Sep 2014
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Why is landing the bloody plane so hard?!

This is probably as much a whine and a rant as a question...

I don't think I'm particularly stupid or uncoordinated. I have a decent job and I learned how to ride a motorbike without huge trauma. I know my left from my right and I can parallel park as well as walk and chew gum at the same time. I am even good enough at multi-tasking to watch football on the TV while paying "full" attention to my wife's conversation.

But I cannot land a plane with anything approaching consistency.

Now I get that everyone struggles at first. I've also been unlucky with both weather and timing - a long holiday break over Xmas with no flying coupled with a series of met cancellations just as I'm starting to feel like I'm making progress aren't helping. And it's not like I have never put it down properly and I'm assuming that didn't happen by chance.

But it's the "guarantee" of a good landing I can't get. The first couple are always wonky as I drift off the centreline as I adapt to the wind. Then I round out too slowly or flare to early (or too late, I like to mix up my errors). The last two or three I normally get 80 - 100% but then we land and I'm away for a week and the cycle repeats.

I'm trying not to get hung up on going solo and adopt a mindset of "I get to fly a plane at the weekends for fun, that's the objective". And the instructor is great - he tells me I'm making the right progress at the right speed and still on track to get to test standard in 45 hours. And we've done a good bit of the syllabus - the variants of bad weather, flap-less and glide approaches, short field take off, EFATO, emergency landing and of course all the stall exercises. He tells me that once I've properly nailed the landing then we do advanced turns and nav and it's all practice to the test (sounds so easy when you say it like that) but it all feels so very, very far away.

So is this common? Any advice on improving? Should I do what I threaten to do to my instructor every week and just jack it in and learn to play golf instead? All thoughts and advice welcome!
AndrewMcD is offline  
Old 4th Mar 2015, 12:49
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Yeah, it's like that.


(Others will be along shortly to give you longer answers, but they'll amount to the same thing.)
Gertrude the Wombat is offline  
Old 4th Mar 2015, 12:52
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And the instructor is great - he tells me I'm making the right progress at the right speed and still on track to get to test standard in 45 hours.
Along with a longer answer...I would listen to your instructor. I've been flying for 25 years and my landings aren't consistent. Of course my parameters for what I think is a good landing will be different to yours. I doubt anyone's landings are consistent, even your instructors.. If it looks tidy and you haven't broken the wheels off, if it doesn't lurch away to one side when touching down in a crosswind and you can land within 50 metres or so of where you want to be, if you can do all of this 50% of the time as a student pilot then I think you are doing well.
thing is offline  
Old 4th Mar 2015, 12:55
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Why is landing the bloody plane so hard?!

It doesn't get easier with experience. Ask any commercial Dash 8 Q400 passenger.
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Old 4th Mar 2015, 13:02
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It depends on the aircraft type. I have flown many. I could grease on the VC10 but the A300-600 or the Sky Van, forget it
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Old 4th Mar 2015, 13:04
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Been through the same mill / currently getting much better but not there yet.

I too suffer 4-6 week gaps between getting airborne due to met, illness etc. and each time you've taken a few steps back.

What really helped me are two bits of advice:

First:
On final, put your bum on the centreline, and ensure your bum tracks it - not the a/c nose, not your eyes etc. Ensuring your bum is on the centreline should help to ensure the aircraft tracks it all the way to touchdown.

Second:
At the point you flare, switch your gaze to the end of the runway and push/pull accordingly. This was the biggy for me, and made a snap improvement in my landings and consistency.


I still find every other landing is a bit crap, but the even ones are good!
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Old 4th Mar 2015, 13:05
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I could grease on the VC10 but the A300-600 or the Sky Van, forget it
Odd that, I can grease on a Warrior but the Arrow which is just a Warrior with knobs on always comes down with a bit of a clunk.
thing is offline  
Old 4th Mar 2015, 13:11
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many thanks for the replies. Not so sure if I should feel encouraged that this is what it's like!

Huge thank you to Glum - the switching gaze thing I did last time and it helped a lot so thats a good reminder. But getting my backside on the centreline is a gem of a bit of advice so thanks!
AndrewMcD is offline  
Old 4th Mar 2015, 13:25
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At the beginning of my flying career, an old captain told me that a good landing is one you could walk away from, and a great landing is one where the airplane can be used again.

So as GtW said, yes it's like that
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Old 4th Mar 2015, 13:34
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Yep its strange that, I dont have any problems with the AA5 but I`m all over the place in a 172. What are you training on, a high or low wing?
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Old 4th Mar 2015, 13:45
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I can grease on a Warrior but the Arrow which is just a Warrior with knobs on always comes down with a bit of a clunk.
One thing to check is the vertical seat adjustment. This is often frozen or even welded up in some PA-28's due to the expense of replacing the gas struts. It's surprising how much difference your eyeline over the coaming makes in the last moments of hold-off (to me, anyway).
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Old 4th Mar 2015, 13:46
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Do you remember when you first learned to drive a car? Seemed so much to do in so little time.

Now, I am sure, you just get in and drive.
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Old 4th Mar 2015, 13:47
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Good call Victorian, never thought of that. I thought it might have something do with the u/c being fixed in the Warrior and retractable in the Arrow. Different struts or something.
thing is offline  
Old 4th Mar 2015, 14:23
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There are of course a large number of similar threads in this forum, and no doubt you've checked them out for specifics. But since we're sharing sage advice that transformed our outlooks, my two cents worth comes from an airline check captain who visited my (then) local aero club. As a beginner pilot it was quite heartening to hear that professionals also had their stick and rudder challeges. One particular bit of advice that stayed with me was the exhortation to fly agood approach and never let the aircraft land until it was positioned where you want it, and in the right attitude. It sounds so simple but I observed that he was right: the best pilots are in control and actively make it happen.

As I sought to be a good pilot, I soon learned that 'in control' certainly did not mean 'over control'. With a bit of experience you learn the difference and gain confidence. But under no circumstances be a passenger in your aircraft - your job is to make it all happen.

When you do become a good pilot, as I'm sure you will, your standards creep upwards somewhat. So, as thing implied earlier, you will always be conscious of actions that could have been done better. But a dose of humility never hurt anyone!
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Old 4th Mar 2015, 15:35
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There are plenty of people on this site that have far more experience than me, and could give much better advice than I could, but there is one thing that I have found that works for me, and that is to relax.

As a student I was always anxious to get the thing on the ground. (I suspect this was because I was worried about having enough runway to complete a touch and go.) This often led to me rounding out/flaring etc. too high and fast. I often ended up landing hard on all three wheels. I remember my instructor once said to me after I landed the plane all by myself for the first time, "...that was your landing. I didn't touch anything. Well done...Mind you, you didn't so much as land as fly the plane into the ground!"

These days I make a conscious effort to relax and not get so anxious.
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Old 4th Mar 2015, 15:37
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I took up skiing 6 years ago and it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I approached turns much too slowly and sure enough one leg went one way the other another way and I ended up on my back, front head you name it I was there.
By the end of the day I was black and blue with no confidence in what I was doing.
flying! Riding a bike is the same one day it will click and you will get to the point that you will land without thinking about it! It will be instinctive.
At the moment you are not really in control of your landings, you are probably coming down the approach fingers crossed that you will arrive OK.
The fact that with Skiing I progressed to skiing a few blacks was amazing from those early days so you will do it.
one excellent lesson if you have access to a long runway is not to land but fly 2 feet off the runway! Get used to flying near the runway! Do more upper air work using the rudder. check the effects. use the other controls in the same way get used to them and then use them in combination. Go up on strongish crosswind days and just track the centreline! Don't land.
Get familiar with the controls to the point that you can think about what you are doing at the weekend and still land the plane.
A lot is confidence as in Skiing and fear of the unknown or unfamiliar

Pace
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Old 4th Mar 2015, 15:44
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You are making it hard upon yourself.

YOU mentioned a motorbike. When you first started driving or riding, did you ever over or undershoot the stop sign?

You had to get use to the idea of energy management so that you stopped at the stop sign.

Same thing with planes and touchdown.

FIRST OFF: Buy "Stick and Rudder" and read it a dozen times especially the part about landing.

AS YOU ARE GOING TO BUY THE BOOK, go to a store with an escalator (or whatever you call the moving stairs). Go down the escalator, watching the point where the escalator stairs go into the floor. This is akin to a glideslope for a plane.

When you were a boy, you didn't judge getting on or OFF the escalator just right. But now it is second nature.

Think about these things and it will come to you.
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Old 4th Mar 2015, 15:49
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OK Andrew,
I'm with you there because that used to be me.

Anyway, the reason landing can be hard is...
1. Because the ground is (hopefully) hard and
2. It becomes even harder if you land several feet above it.
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Old 4th Mar 2015, 15:54
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Lot of good info already, but, it is not by chance that generally a good landing, comes from a good stabilized approach. So, fly some standard circuits, same height, same speed drill, and get used to the view. Over the numbers, make sure that your eyes and gaze start to move to the end of the runway. Periphery vision kicks in and keep your gaze there. Try not to look back down into the cockpit, keep looking outside. As you get closer, type dependent, and you pull to idle, gently flare, and just keep it there until you land.

It will come with practice, but on any given day, we can all arrive with a howler.
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Old 4th Mar 2015, 16:05
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One poster mentioned this already, but I thought I'd emphasize it, the landing is the "final" bit of an approach.
If the approach is a bit "wonky", the landing is going to be a lot "wonky".
The only way to get a good landing consistently is to get a good approach.

I learned to pick a spot on the ground about 1/2 mile from the end of the runway, some object that you can easily recognise, it could be a tree or a building, or a bare patch, whatever. Then realise that for a "3 degree" glide slope, you'll be about 400' above the runway elevation at that point.

So fly your pattern such that you cross your chosen point (1/2 mile from the end of the runway) at 400' above the runway elevation. And when you cross it you want to be in final approach configuration (flaps, RPM, whatever that entails in your aeroplane)

Once you start doing that, then the approaches are "all the same" from then on, you don't have to vary your approach (much) from landing to landing, they're all the same profile.

To "guess" 1/2 mile, most runways are going to be about 1/2 mile long, you you can just project that distance from the end of the runway.

OK, there's a lot of generalities in this post, but with practice, you begin to find the spot that works for you. It might be 1/2 mile and 400' or it might be some other distance and altitude, but when you make that consistent, then you only need to adjust for wind, rather than adjust for your speed when you start the final approach, or your configuration, or your heading.

As for the flare, the conventional wisdom is to look over the top of the nose to the end of the runway. I've actually found, having done a bit of time in a tail-wheel aeroplane, that it's far far easier to look out the edge of the front windscreen (in that little triangle of plexi-glass between the door and the panel). But, most nose-wheel only pilots tend to disagree with this. (Edit: NOTE: you look out the side at the final moment of flare, not during the approach or round out)

Whether you look out the side (actually about 45 degrees) or over the top, the key thing is to have a well established approach, and that's much easier if you start it from a known point at a known configuration.
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