Friday, April 08, 2005


Flying Lesson #14

The lesson plan for today called for crosswind landings (that is, landings with strong left-to-right or right-to-left winds). Unfortunately, the wind at PDK was not strong and going almost right down the runway. We considered going to RYY (Cobb Country-McCollum Field), which has a runway perpendicular to the wind direction, but we checked the weather and that airport was stuck under a 1,300-foot ceiling. So we decided to just spend the time doing touch-and-goes at PDK.

Today, landings finally clicked for me. The instructor gave me some tips, and while they were exactly the same things he's been telling me all along, today I got it. As in previous days, my first two landings were good, and then they got bad, but today they started getting better again.

In previous outings, I thought I was doing what the instructor was telling me to do, but now that I am really doing it, I can see where I was wrong before:

I still have one big landing problem: as we get close to the runway, I sense that the plane is rotating to the right, so I give it a lot of left rudder in the last few seconds before flaring. The instructor kept asking why I was doing it, and all I could answer was "I thought we were heading off the runway." We talked it over and decided it must be a visual illusion caused by parallax (that is, because I sit to the left of the aircraft's center). I'll try to ignore this illusion in the future. Focusing on the far end of the runway should help with this, but it wasn't helping today.

I had to do a couple of go-arounds, one ordered by the instructor and one I initiated myself. I'm still not sure exactly what the instructor saw that made him tell me to go around; he says I was going way off center but it didn't seem that way to me at the time. It worries me that I'm not seeing things that he sees, but I hope I'll learn to recognize them as I get more experience.

The best thing about my progress with landings is that the process seems to be getting slower and more relaxed. I now know that I have plenty of time to notice problems and make corrections before it's too late.

For today: 1.3 hours in N4363D, including 9 takeoffs and 9 landings. Cost: $266.30.

When you're close to the runway, do you perceive that you're yawing, rolling, or drifting sideways?

The wind can shift dramatically during the last 20-50 feet of your descent, so some of the effects might be due to the change in windspeed and direction (throwing off your crosswind slip or crab), as well as eddies close to the ground from the wind blowing around buildings, etc., rolling and yawing the plane.
I perceive both a yaw and a drift.

I perceive the same thing every time, so I don't think it is due to a wind gust or other variation in the wind. There are trees near that end of the runway, but no buildings. It will be interesting to see whether I perceive the same thing when landing in the opposite direction.

My instructor doesn't perceive anything at all, which is what leads me to conclude it is probably all in my head.
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