...slowing down...
The Fine Finicky Art of Fluid Flight.

Slowing Down Quickly.

An instructors perspective on flight training.

Handling an aircraft successfully is a lot like having sex. It requires fluidity and confidence or it is just plain awkward. Every action you take has a repercussion. Newtons Laws apply in the bedroom as much as they apply to flying:

Newton 3: For every action there is an opposite and equal re-action.

Fortunately in flying, the reaction is predictable... but then, like with every relationship, it is only predictable if you are familiar.

Lets look at the scenario of a fast, straight in approach.
The requirements to maintain this are:
X wings equidistant from the horizon
X ball in balance
X constant direction
X constant altitude, until you are close enough to begin the descent.

Simple right. But lets say you have cruise power set. Now you are approaching the airfield for landing. You are fast, too fast to lower flaps.

You need to be slowing down your aircraft speed, so what do you do? You reduce power. Newton 3, the nose of the aircraft drops, and your speed, in response, stays high. You have not achieved your intention, because you just sat there and let physics happen, instead of taking an active, decisive role in controlling your steed.

You want to slow down enough to pop down your flaps. You want to maintain your altitude, or maybe even begin your descent. So, my friend, you have to take charge and make it happen.

Remember that lift formula?

Remember the parts you have control over??!

So lets give this a quick think together...
O you are fast.
O you want to be slowing down, possibly quite quickly
O you would rather descend than climb, level is okay, because you haven't left everything too late...

What do you have control over? Thats right.... airspeed and angle of attack.... so;

Reduce or close your throttle. Newton 3: the nose will drop UNLESS you hold it! Good old drag comes to your assistance as you slow down, and you hold your altitude, or descend slowly by raising your nose as you slow down... do this quite smartly, just like when you are practicing stalling... with cursory reference to your instruments, and feel your way through her responses so that you don't climb, because that's just plain untidy.

You will not be going all the way to a full stall, this is foreplay. As soon as you are within the white arc, or into your flap operating range, put down your first stage of flap, and compensate for the effects.

This usually means check forward a bit on the control column. You will be slowing relatively quickly. If it isn't fast enough, reduce the power further, and continue to compensate for the effects appropriately.

In the white arc, drop down your flaps as required. I like full flaps because I like a slow approach. But the flap setting depends on what you are trying to achieve for your landing.

(PS if you are flying a turbo engine, plan better.... or you will be breaking that turbo! Bad Pilot! Naughty Pilot! Go back for some more type rating training! A turbo, needs a slow hand, a turbo needs an easy touch, it needs somebody who can take their time, not come and go in a heated rush. When it comes to turbos, use a slow hand, take your time, anticipate, the rewards are great.)

Your landing follows the same pattern, just at slower speeds closer to the ground.

Final Thought

Keep your movements fluid, yet firm. Understand the limits of your aircraft. Understand your limits.

Always, always hold yourself to a high standard and work on improving your skills. No one likes a sloppy ... pilot.

And last, but certainly not least, ENJOY THE RIDE!


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  • The Fine Finicky Art of Fluid Flight - An instructors perspective on flight training:
    Slowing Down Quickly
  • Quick Density Altitude Calculation
  • The Joystick
  • Newtons Laws Explained

    Coming soon:
    Dangerous Airports
    Landing Uphill
    Different Instructors, Different Expectations

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  • Red Dress - Part 2
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