Flight Simulator Co-Pilot

by Charles Gulick

Greasing It On

Eagle Field Training Base (Local)

North: 17418. East: 7458. Altitude: 1300.
Pitch: Cessna 0. Pitch: Piper 359. Bank: 0. Heading: 269.
Airspeed: Cessna 80. Airspeed: Piper 84.
Throttle: Cessna 12287. Throttle: Piper 6144.
Rudder: 32767. Ailerons: 32767. Flaps: 0.
Elevators: Cessna 39679. Elevators: Piper 40959.
Time: 15:00. Season: 2. Clouds: 0.
Surface Wind: 3 kn., 330 deg.

NOTE: Before you exit to fly this approach and landing, read the narration below several times to familiarize yourself with the operations described.

You know how to slowfly the airplane. You were doing it when you departed the last flight. If you went directly into Editor at that point and your slowflight procedure was correct, you would have changed just altitude and heading to set up the parameters for this chapter. In fact, had you flown out some distance, lost some altitude and done a 180, you would have arrived at just about the position you are in now. However, I wanted to line you up for the runway this time, so you could concentrate on procedure rather than directional control.

You're on a straight-in approach to Runway 27 at Eagle Field, the runway from which we took off earlier. From here you can see the snowcapped mountain and the arrow painted halfway up the other peak. The arrow tells you are on the right heading, because (as I hope you remember) it is visible on the right front of your windshield when you're on the runway.

We're at pattern altitude, 1300 feet, a little more than a mile from touchdown. Pattern altitude—the altitude at which we're supposed to fly in the vicinity of any airport—is 800 to 1000 feet AGL (Above Ground Level). Since the elevation at Eagle Field is 410 feet, operations there call for a pattern altitude of 1210 to 1410 feet. In practice, we use 1300 feet.

Here is the technique for transitioning from pattern airspeed to a controlled descent, landing approach, flare, and touchdown. (“3-D” refers to the point at which the hangar takes dimensional shape.) Start as soon as you exit the Editor. For purposes of this flight, follow the prescribed procedure exactly. Don't change the direction of the flight, even though you may touch down or roll out on the grass. Don't take any actions other than those described under “Technique” below. What I want you to do here is to see what our standard landing approach should look like.

Cessna Technique:

  1. Put on carb heat.
  2. Extend flaps one notch.
  3. On 500 FPM descent, reduce throttle two notches.
  4. On 3-D, trim elevator down two quick notches.
  5. Full flaps.
  6. At 500 feet altitude, trim elevator up two quick notches.
  7. At 430 feet altitude, trim elevator up two quick notches.
  8. Continue gradual back pressure to touchdown.

Piper Technique:

  1. Put on carb heat.
  2. Extend flaps one notch.
  3. On 500 FPM descent, reduce throttle one notch.
  4. On 3-D, trim elevator two quick notches down.
  5. Full flaps.
  6. At 550 feet altitude, trim elevator up one notch.
  7. At 450 feet altitude, trim elevator up one notch.
  8. Continue gradual back pressure to touchdown.

If you've had trouble landing your airplane well, or you're just learning how to fly, the technique outlined above should help you considerably. I suggest you use Recall a number of times—maybe a hundred times—and practice this approach until it feels comfortable and natural. Then come back to it and fly it some more whenever you feel yourself getting rusty.

This approach gives you several things to think about. You got into landing configuration from slowflight configuration. You were at pattern airspeed and pattern altitude just before you put on your carb heat and your first notch of flaps. The same holds true in approaching any airport from any direction. In this case, you were making a straight-in approach. However, had you been “flying the pattern,” (flying a rectangular series of takeoffs and “touch-and-go” landings—a typical practice routine), you would be straight and level on the downwind leg, and your landing technique would follow the same procedure. You would put on carb heat and a notch of flaps (Technique steps 1 and 2) when opposite your landing point. You would reduce your power (Technique step 3) after “turning base” (making your next-to-last turn before your final approach). After (or sometimes while) turning final, you would get into final-approach configuration (Technique steps 4 and 5). Then you would judge when to decrease your rate of descent a bit with up elevator (Technique step 6) based on your altitude and your relationship to the runway. And to flare and land (Technique steps 7 and 8), you would again be using your eyes, your judgment, and your skills to make as good a landing as possible.

All of the foregoing applies equally to entering an airport pattern, which officially should be done at a 45-degree angle to the downwind leg. You would be at pattern airspeed and altitude as you entered, and the rest of the procedure would be the same.

In our future flights you'll have many opportunities to practice this technique in many different situations. Every landing, however, is unique. You'll rarely make a perfect one, but before long you'll regularly make good ones. And if you foul up once in a while, welcome to the group. At least, if you follow the technique, you'll know what you did wrong—which, in the case of landings, usually means what you did too late or too early.

One last word: By “follow the technique” I mean apply its basic principles every time you land—follow the exact throttle, trim, and flap procedure, and settings given, the only judgmental aspect of it all being when to perform each operation. That's the fun part.

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