Tuesday, 3 March 2015

It’s all about the landings.

I made a joke about doing some circuits for my currency flight, in order to persuade myself that I haven’t forgotten how to land.

But the truth is that as far as your passengers are concerned, landings are all that matters. As a pilot you are judged on that split second when your tyres make that initial contact with the tarmac and nothing else.

Yes takeoffs might be impressive to a passenger, awe inspiring for sure. As a pilot, the takeoff is pretty much a routine affair. Planes want to fly. Line her up, apply power, keep her straight and eventually she’ll take off.

It’s pretty hard to mess up a standard takeoff.

During the actual flight, passengers will be impressed alright. But more by the scenery than anything else. While perhaps aware of the fact that you are somehow guiding the plane, chances are they’ll not be giving a second thought to your actual workload. They’ll be too busy admiring the view to admire how you are maintaining the perfect crab into the wind in order to get the plane pointing in the direction you want.

If your passengers are perceptive, they might pay at least a superficial acknowledgement to the sheer number of tasks you need to divert your time between.  Then they’ll go back to their camera.

It’s only on final to the runway that they’ll suddenly remember that they are in a plane and that they have to get back on the ground again.

This is when the knuckles turn white. Sometimes for pilots as well as their payload.

The final and sometimes sole memory they will take away from this flight is how well you manage that split second between being in the air and being on the ground.

Unlike pilots who have many criteria by which they judge a satisfactory landing. Passengers only have one.

Pilots evaluate the approach; was it stable? Did you hit your planned speed? Did you make good use of the flaps? Were you too steep? Too shallow? Did you need to drag it in?

We judge the landing as a whole. Were you on the centreline? Did you flare at the right time? Did you touch down on mains first? Or did you three point it into the tarmac? Did you bounce?

Passengers just want that greaser. That’s a good landing to them. They have no concept of crosswinds. They don’t know that sometimes it’s better to make a positive landing. That, in certain conditions, it is good technique to land on one wheel then the other.

Fortunately I have an ace up my sleeve.

Most of my passengers have a skewed reference point from which to form their opinion. If they have any experience of the commercial operations at CYTZ then they are expecting a heavy landing.

The runway here at CYTZ is on the short side for the Dash 8 Q400s that operate out of here. Short enough that they run with reduced passenger carrying capacity in order to reduce the weight. 

Consequently their operating procedures call for an early and firm landing. With fairly aggressive braking as well.

Once any passenger has experienced this, even my dodgiest landings are like kissing a cloud!

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