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August 3, 2019

Lesson #18: Sunday July 7th 2019

Despite the fact that I few last week, I still have flown relatively little over the last month, and today it caught up with me.

We spent the entire lesson in the pattern at PDK practicing my approach and landing skills. It's fair to say that my skills are weak.

The best part of the lesson was actually after the landing when we talked about what I was doing wrong.

Steve says I'm "ground shy," by which he means that I tend to want land about 20 feet above the actual runway. That's 20 feet too high.

Going and back and reviewing Rod Machado's How To Fly an Airplane Handbook , I realize I've been neglecting some of the basic steps.

The first thing I've been forgetting about is the relationship between pitch and power. You control your airspeed with the pitch of the airplane, which is controlled by the yoke. Push the yoke forward, the airplane pitches down, and you go faster. Pull back, the airplane pitches up, and you go slower. After that, you control your vertical speed with the thottle. Going down too fast--increase the power, which will slow the descent.

Steve says I use the throttle too much when I'm coming in on final approach. I'll be coming down at an appropriate rate, but I'll think I'm coming down too fast, and I'll increase the throttle to slow my descent. However--and this is the part that I missed--whenever I change the throttle, I need to also move the yoke to maintain my speed. Power and pitch are intimately related. Increase the power, and that has a tendency to push the nose up a little, an if you do that, your speed decreases. The thing Steve harps on the most with me is keeping my approach speed at 80 knots before I get on final approach. (It's ok to be at 70 kts once you get on final approach.) That's faster than most people go on the approach, but Steve's reasoning is that you don't want to get too close to stalling, and further, the slower you go, the less responsive the airplane is to the controls. (Less air moving over the flight surfaces means the airplane is slower to respond.) So when I get worried I'm slow and increase the throttle, and don't adjust my pitch, all of sudden I'm dropped below 80kts.

By the same token, if I'm high and cut the power, my nose will drop unless I compensate and now I'll be going too fast. Landing is all about energy management: you want to bleed off all the energy it takes to keep flying when you're just inches above the runway.

That "inches above the runway" part gets at another thing I've been missing. Landing is a series of different steps. On the downwind leg--going in the opposite direction of the runway--you're 1,000 field above the runway going 90-100 kts. Once you get opposite your landing point going the other direction--or, as it's known, when you're "abeam the numbers" (the numbers at the very end of the runway), you cut your power and start descending. As you make your turn to base, you should have lost ~200' and be at 80 kts. When you turn final, you should have lost another 200'--so now you're at 600' and doing 70 kts. Now hopefully you're on a stable approach towards the near end of the runway. Just as you get over the end of the runway, you can let the speed come down. You then want to get to the where you arrest your descent just foot or so off the runway. This is called the round out. Once you're at this point, you can start raising the nose, and at the point you're in the flare. The idea is to keep raising the nose until the airplane slows down to stall speed, and the airplane touches the runway below stall speed. See? Nothing to it.

I'll keep at it.