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Landing insights

My dad (a 17,000-hour airline captain) is also my CFI. He identifies more with Tom Horne’s suggestion for a fully stabilized approach at the final approach point (“Landing Insights: Steady As She Goes,” August 2010 AOPA Pilot).

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We welcome your comments. Address letters to: Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. Send e-mail to [email protected]. Please include your full name, address, and AOPA number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters will be edited for length and style.

My dad (a 17,000-hour airline captain) is also my CFI. He identifies more with Tom Horne’s suggestion for a fully stabilized approach at the final approach point (“ Landing Insights: Steady As She Goes,” August 2010 AOPA Pilot ). I, having not been “institutionalized” by the airlines (yet!), identify more with Dave Hirschman’s concerns (“ Landing Insights: Stabilize This!” August 2010 AOPA Pilot ). 

Dad and I have discussed this very topic for some time now, as I assume many people have. Horne seems to essentially be promoting consistency and simplicity. Hirschman articulates the importance of never being “too low and too slow.” They both offer valid and important points.

Here is my standard procedure when landing from a downwind in a Piper Warrior: Arrive abeam the numbers at traffic pattern altitude and 80 knots, then pull the power back to about 1,600 rpm and pull in the first notch of flaps while adjusting pitch for 70 knots. Upon reaching 70 knots, turn base and add the second notch of flaps, pitching down to hold 70 knots. Turning final, pull in the last notch of flaps as needed and make a normal landing with the power still at 1,600 rpm, crossing the numbers around 65 knots. During a normal ILS, do the same steps by using altitudes for the triggers. Substitute a traffic pattern altitude (or “800 feet above TDZE”) call out for what would be abeam the numbers, and then do an abeam-the-numbers checklist. I usually make the turn to base between 500 and 600 feet agl so make that your next callout, and apply the turning base checklist. At around 200 feet agl, you break out (hopefully) of the clouds at 70 knots with one notch of flaps.

By following this procedure you can pay homage to both Horne’s desire for consistency and Hirschman’s concern for maneuverability—and the ability to glide in if needed. Having this kind of procedure in your repertoire is also useful when making nonstandard VFR approaches such as a straight-in landing or entering on a base.

Matt Erwin, AOPA 6475618
Floyds Knobs, Indiana

From one CFII to another, I respectfully, but totally and utterly disagree with Dave Hirschman’s article “Stabilize This!” I used to instruct in a collegiate flight training environment and was assigned a student who was adding the ASEL to his commercial AMEL. He insisted on keeping the airplane at pattern altitude until after starting his downwind-to-base turn where he would reduce power, add the last notch of flaps, and stomp on the top rudder all the way until final in order to lose speed and altitude. A forward slip is a fine way to lose excess altitude once you roll out on final, but there’s no sense behind making them common practice.

If you are “unstable” in the traffic pattern, you’ve violated the responsibility to only use normal maneuvers in the pattern. With proper prior planning—i.e., a stable pattern and approach—there would be no excess altitude. This isn’t, however, to mean that the pilot has allowed himself no margin of error in case of an unforeseen need to go around. I do think Hirschman’s intention was to inform pilots that “hanging it on the prop” from a five-mile final is ridiculous, but the picture he painted by using the term unstable and liberally advocating forward slips seems to suggest that it’s OK for pilots to be excessively high, fast, and uncoordinated/cross controlled in the pattern.

Also, Hirschman mentions that slow approaches are a danger to jets that might be behind you in the pattern—the right-of-way rules that I learned in ground school were that you are only responsible to the airplane in front of you. Who cares what’s going on behind you?

Jonathon Freye, AOPA 4889217
Muskegon, Michigan

Two interesting views indeed! Stable is good if you have the need to keep turbines spooled up and you have four or six or eight of them, so it is not that critical if you lose one. As a fighter pilot once commented on the radio when told to hold for a B–52 that had lost an engine, “My Gawd! The dreaded seven-engine approach!”

If you are in a draggy single, it is better to be able to make the numbers at the beginning of the runway from a variety of positions. I have spent many hours practicing just that...How can I put it on the numbers from here? Stretch the glide? Slip like hell? Or some combination? It all depends on where “here” is and what the winds are at the moment. I think it is more about what is survivable than it is about using a particular technique to the exclusion of other possible ways of getting the job done. 

Steve Dorr, AOPA 861890
Orlando, Florida

I tell my students that big aircraft fly like big aircraft and small aircraft fly like small aircraft. It is my observation that the stabilized approach is mechanical flying when it comes to small aircraft and does not teach stick-and-rudder skills to the aspiring pilot. Pilots need to have good stick-and-rudder skills if they ever hope to fly the big and fast stuff in a competent manner.

Vernon Childers, AOPA 5723570
Ammon, Idaho

Dave Hirschman gets it. Tom Horne doesn’t. Horne uses extreme examples, the straw man argument, that power can be used to rescue plunging airspeed, but no mention of the smart approaches Hirschman discussed. Horne advocates flying the exact same approach over and over. Too bad that’s all his students will ever be able to fly. What happens when they can’t do that? Horne says stabilized approaches are what the military fly day in and day out. Not so. Maybe some parts of the military, like B-52s, tankers, and cargo airplanes, but in the fighter/training jets the 360-degree overhead pattern was the norm, and many pilots would even challenge themselves to fly the “carrier break” overhead the numbers at 400-plus knots, pull hard to decelerate to about 200 knots, gear and flaps on speed in the approach turn, and then be stabilized “in the groove at 300 feet for a spot landing on the carrier deck. Practice makes perfect for precisely controlled approaches even at high speeds (plus it’s fun).  

Thanks for Hirschman’s common-sense article encouraging real piloting versus following inappropriate procedures. 

George Graves, AOPA 958455
Tavernier, Florida

I am intrigued by Tom Horne’s and Dave Hirschman’s respective articles, happily appearing side by side, in fact all tangled up together. Both are excellent articles on virtually the same subject, but it is hard to imagine two more opposite points of view. Who is right? What is AOPA’s official viewpoint?

Capt. Jeremy Clark, AOPA 6077355
Berardelli, Italy

Fly the airplane well and safely—Ed.

Get crossed

I am a student pilot currently working my way through my private rating and in the stage of crosswind landings. After many hours of practice I was beginning to think that I was not going to be able to overcome such a task—I had hit the training plateau. However, after reading Ian J. Twombly’s article in the Landing Insights section (“ Get Crossed,” August 2010 AOPA Pilot ), my confidence was greatly boosted. The article and its accompanying bullet-point reference tips are excellent and during my training I will be referring back to this as a quick reference.

Peter Castoldi, AOPA 6523894
Marlborough, Massachusetts

Next step toward Next Gen

Mike Collins’ article “ Next Step Toward NextGen,” (August 2010 AOPA Pilot ) states “ADS-B technology has proven itself in Alaska for more than 10 years through the FAA-funded Capstone program.” This is very, very, misleading. Capstone did not, I repeat never, has proven itself in Alaska. Capstone has only proven itself in the Bethel Kuskokwim area. A lot of money was spent on a very small, lightly populated area! An area about the size of Rhode Island. Today ADS-B costs about $15,000 per airplane and only airliners have it. Furthermore the truth of the matter is my iPhone can give me more info, faster and over a greater area, than ADS-B.

I have been a pilot here [in Alaska] for more than 35 years. West and North Alaska are my stomping grounds. I have a Cessna 206 that I spent more than $70,000—just on the panel—and I purposely left ADS-B off because ADS-B is a joke in Alaska. That’s why 97 percent of the airplanes in Alaska do not have ADS-B.

Jim Gibertoni, AOPA 1482748
Fairbanks, Alaska

Ending a flight right

Thomas B. Haines’ story “ Waypoints: Ending a Flight Right” (August 2010 AOPA Pilot) brought back vivid memories of the most unfortunate fate of the Gulfstream III that started out in Los Angeles, headed for Aspen-Pitkin County Airport nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

I harbor a fair amount of anger toward the domineering passenger who actually was the person paying for that flight, and who initially made the flight begin quite late, and who badgered and berated the pilots during the entire ordeal. It is my thinking that these people believe that they can say and do almost anything because they are paying the bill. I am equally convinced that they wield incredible force against the good judgment of the pilots they employ.

I deeply wish there were some way to show these people what they were doing by making demands of their “purchased pilots.” If there were only some way to play the future as in a movie, directly toward the demanding and outrageous moneyed people, to clearly show them that they were sealing their own death warrants! Now it is all over. Both the guilty and the innocent are dead. A horrible price to pay.

Richard G. Alps, AOPA 758331
Lakewood, Colorado

We welcome your comments. Address letters to: Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. Send e-mail to [email protected]. Please include your full name, address, and AOPA number on all correspondence, including e-mail. Letters to the Editor may be edited for length and style before publication.

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