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 was fixating way too much on the flare and touchdown. I was thinking that a "good landing" was one that was soft, a "bad landing" was one that was hard, so that last few hundred feet was the only part to which I paid close attention. Now I am looking at process starting from the top of the final approach, all they way down to the numbers, with the flare being the the end of the landing rather than the beginning. A good approach with a fair touchdown is preferable to a bad approach with a miraculous touchdown.
- To maintain the glide path on final, I was using the simplistic rules "if rising, reduce power; if sinking, increase power." I thought that would give me the stabilized approach that I know I'm supposed to have, but of course I was not stabilized at all. Today I was really visualizing the path I wanted the plane to take, keeping the runway numbers centered in front of me and making the proper adjustments to both pitch and power to keep me on the path at the right airspeed.
- I'm getting a lot better and knowing when to level out and flare. The instructor helped by pushing down on the yoke the first couple of times when I pulled back too soon.
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.
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 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.