August 29, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
You can practice short-field landings on a long, wide runway, but will you have mastered the technique when trying to land in truly tight confines?
At six airports in Alaska this summer, there has been a better way to train—and pilots who have participated are being asked to share their thoughts about the program.
At those airports, pilots have had the opportunity to experience realistic training on practice strips 600 to 800 feet long and 25 feet wide marked off by volunteers on much longer runways. The strips provide an effective—and safe—way to practice short-field landing techniques on a measured surface that lets the pilot evaluate the results.
AOPA is asking pilots who have used the practice strips at Fairbanks International Airport, Goose Bay, Nenana, Palmer, Soldotna, and Wasilla to provide feedback by taking an online survey about the experimental program. The effort has been focused on improving pilot proficiency and reducing the number of off-field accidents that occur each year related to landings on gravel bars, tundra benches, and other unimproved or primitive locations. How can the effort be improved?
“While this program can’t replicate all the variables pilots will encounter at back-country locations, providing a place to practice may go a long way toward showing them their limits before they head out to hunting camp,” said Tom George, AOPA Alaska regional manager.
George encouraged pilots who have not yet gone in for the training to give it a try before snowfall covers the markings for the year.
Organizations who have worked to make the program possible include the FAA, The Ninety-Nines, Alaska Airmen’s Association, Alaska Airports Association, Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, Alaskan Aviation Safety Foundation, AOPA, and the individual airports.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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