Archive for May, 2011

Stability is tough to achieve in these times

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Apparently all the turmoil in the world is also affecting some pilots – all of whom should know better. We’ve had quite a number of  really experienced aviators flying turbine equipment off the end of runways that are adequate in length. Both the airlines and corporates have had their share of flubbed landings that resulted from flubbed approaches usually in visual conditions.

Tailwinds and water certainly don’t mix. Most performance charts don’t list anything more than a 10 knot tailwind and no one guarantees that the winds are accurate – lots of opportunity for mischief and mishap here.

This was all going through my mind on a couple of my own landings recently.  I had the privilege to fly a friend’s Conquest II the other day, which is one of the nicest turboprops going. The aerodynamics are slick, the thing is fast at just under 300 knots and it practically makes fuel at altitude with Garrett (now Honeywell) engines. Great aircraft, and in today’s fuel-conscious world Cessna should be building them again, but I digress.

We got a “little” behind the descent profile in good VFR conditions and wound up about 4000 ‘ above the destination airport and coming down like the proverbial safe full of anvils. It was my leg to fly and I looked over at my friend who said “continue.” In turboprops flight idle solves a lot of hot and high problems – gear, flaps, props to high pitch  and down she comes – fast.  Obviously this was great time to widen out the pattern and look for other aircraft that we were sure weren’t there at this isolated non-towered airport. I mentally ran though my repertoire of recent overrun mishaps although there was nearly 6,000 feet of runway and decided that if  we weren’t stabilized by base, I would plead “incompetence” and reenter the pattern. Strong winds down the runway, the dry pavement also helped in the decision.

Chop and drop worked – this time – and the Conquest came to an acceptable stop a little beyond the mid field turnoff. Don’t try this with a jet! They don’t have the rotating air brakes that allow prop drivers to fix a lot of things before running out of options.

The second reminder was in AOPA’s Diamond DA40 at the other end of the spectrum. This aircraft is of glider heritage and 10 extra knots will result in A LOT of float. I hadn’t flown it in awhile and needed to brush up a bit before taking some passengers. It’s amazing how well airplanes fly and land when configured properly, on speed and on altitude. Good landings are  a matter of  proper procedure, a touch of technique and just a little luck.

Leave the shuttle approaches to NASA and get stable before hitting 500 agl in light aircraft. Let’s leave instability to the rest of the world!