Monday, 29 June 2015


 (Acknowledgements:   Air Facts – Dick’s blog)

 Dick says: “I have flown with a lot of pilots and have worked hard to help them develop the ability to visualise the flight path of the airplane.

Glass cockpits show a flight path vector in the middle of the display – unfortunately we can’t all afford the head-up display or synthetic vision system that includes the flight path vector, but I’ll always remember the first time I flew with one of these. Being able to see where the airplane was going seemed like magic BUT, can one visualise it without such technology? Indeed yes.

I was vaguely aware of how this worked when an article came in at the Air Facts on the subject of precise approaches and landings. The author was Captain Gordon Graham, USMC, who was at the time an instructor at Pensacola. Gordon’s explanation of how to do it was based mainly on visual cues from the ultimate head-up display, THE GREAT OUTDOORS. He led the reader through the visual cues found on downwind, the constant turn around to line up on finals, and short finals.

The key to developing the ability to see the flight path vector without instrumentation is in simple terms to ensure that the point toward which you require the airplane to fly remains stationary in your windshield. For example, if on finals the touchdown zone is moving lower in the windshield, you are overshooting. If it is moving higher in the windshield, you are undershooting. If it is remaining in the same place in the windshield, things are fine so long as the airspeed is good and the approach path is steep enough to clear any obstacles. No pilot who has broken an airplane in an under-shoot or over-shoot accident could have paid heed to that.

I would recommend using 500 feet above the ground as the place to make a decision on the approach. At that height, if the view out front doesn't look right, it is time to go around and start again. Most go-arounds that result in crashes start much later than that.

I have found flight path visualisation to be of particular value for night approaches to runways without visual approach slope guidance. In such a case I would get established with the touchdown zone remaining stationary in the windshield and the airspeed on a correct value, and then consult the vertical speed. If this shows less than a 600 fpm rate of descent I would consider the approach too shallow and take steps to steepen it. Fortunately, most runways do have visual approach slope guidance, but if inoperative for any reason then the ability to visualise your flight path comes into its own.”


Friday, 26 June 2015


(Acknowledgements: Air Facts – Dick’s blog)

The elusive BIG PICTURE’

Dick says: “This is often referred to as SITUATIONAL AWARENESS. I often ask new pilots in flight what they are thinking about. Too many times the answer is “I don’t know!” The correct answer might have covered where they are, what the airplane is doing, what they are doing, and what comes next, and what comes after that – and so on until the airplane is safely down and parked.

Another question I like to ask when it seems like the airplane is ahead of them on an arrival is how many flying miles they have to go until touchdown. That one can really get blank stares, but it never works out right if there is a lot of altitude and speed and not much distance to fly. A pilot has to stay ahead of the airplane. That simply means that the pilot has to be thinking ahead all the way to touch-down.

I like to relate the big picture to the relationship between the airplane and the weather. There is no way to know exactly what the weather is going to be from minute to minute. What you see is what you get. But the pilot who doesn’t make the effort to project his thinking into and through those clouds that are up ahead doesn’t really have a chance should something bad be lurking.

It is said that accidents are often the result of a series of bad moves. That might be true but it is also usually true that there is a time when the series can be broken and the deal salvaged without damage. I will use an example of bad behaviour to illustrate this.

Occasionally, a pilot may be overcome by the desire to “show” the airplane to people on the ground. Whilst there may be fewer instances of low flying “buzz jobs” now than there used to be, they still lead to some accidents. Of course, properly done, buzz jobs can be safe enough, but when a pilot’s mind moves from thinking about flying to thinking about the quality of the buzz job, that means trouble. Most accidents during buzz jobs do not occur on the first pass - they come as the pilot attempts to improve on the first one. So, BEST NEVER TO BUZZ - it is dangerous, but if you must do it, do it right first time and go away!

Having command of the big picture includes knowing when to quit. When the weather is low, pilots often crash while attempting one or more approaches after the first one doesn’t work. That has proved to be lethal. There are only a few things in flying where you can use the old “cut-and-try again” method, but if the big picture is well in mind, that should never be necessary.”


Thursday, 11 June 2015


SOME THOUGHTS ON LANDINGS (Acknowledgements: Air Facts)

Larry Baum says: “I was TERRIBLE at landings. I either stalled the plane at three to five feet (or more) above the runway or drove right into it. My airspeed control was marginal. My sight picture was non-existent. I was always in a hurry to land. I had no patience. Crosswinds were a total mystery to me. The plane was flying me, not the other way around. Fly the airplane–don’t let it fly you.

I went through three different instructors to try to figure it out. Nothing was working. I was ready to solo, but I couldn’t get signed off, because I couldn’t land. One day my original instructor let me drop it in from about six feet. The landing gear did fine but I cracked the left rear window right by the air vent. The crack was less than one inch long and non-structural. “That’s it!” I thought, “My flying days are over!”

As we taxied off the runway, I started heading to the ramp when my instructor suggested we try one more takeoff and landing. All he said to me was: “Fly the airplane. Don’t let the airplane fly you.” To my complete amazement, the next landing I made was fine. So was the next one, and the next one. It all came together, and week later I soloed.

I can’t describe everything I do when landing, but I create a picture in my head of what my airplane looks like when it touches down, and in every situation the thought always comes flooding back – Fly the airplane! Don’t let the airplane fly you! Do whatever you have to do to put the airplane into that landing attitude over the centreline and aligned just before touchdown. Work the controls, all the controls, to get the plane into that landing attitude right where you want it. I never think about the approach I made, or my passengers, or what I’m going to do after I land – just what I see in front of me. If I don’t like it what I see I can always go around!

There are three ways to get good and stay good at landings. PRACTICE, PRACTICE AND MORE PRACTICE.
  • Go up with instructors on good days, bad days, blustery days, rainy days.
  • With an instructor, go looking for crosswinds. I’ve gone to airports with cross runways just to practice on the runway with the crosswind.
  • Learn to do spot landings. Pick the 1000 ft. marker. Practice until you can touch down there every time. Then pick another spot–the numbers or 2000 ft. marker. Pick a different runway.
  • Same for landing on wide runways and narrow ones. I spent a few hours practicing landings and take-offs on a 3400’ x 75’ and then on a 3000’x50’ runway with good approaches.
  • Fly with others who are good at landings. Ask them questions about their landing techniques…what works, what are they looking at, how they deal with crosswinds, etc. I’ve learned a lot about landing by flying with others.
  • Once the airplane is in the hangar, think about your landings. What went well and what could have been done better. Consider scoring your own landings.
  • Ask about what you don’t know or aren’t sure of. There are no stupid questions, just people who are too proud to ask them.
  • You are only as good as your next landing. Be humble”