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#49 Multiple Landings (or, “keep your nose down”)

There are a bunch of pilots who can be spotted on various airports.  These particular pilots have two things in common:  They all tend to walk around with their chins touching their chests.  They are all also current or former students of mine.  Why do they have that peculiar posture?  Because they are constantly being told, “keep your nose down”.

There’s another thing these fliers have in common:  They are all accustomed to a whole lot more landings and takeoffs while in a touch and go pattern than virtually any other pilots in any other training system.

I thought it might be useful to describe the type of training that results in these added “reps”.  I think it’s important.  After all, if we get better with practice, then it figures that the more practice we get, the better we will get and anything that creates a favorable atmosphere for increased practice may be something worth learning about.

The average pilot in a touch and go pattern will make one landing and takeoff for every six minutes of flight time.  There’s a reason that the circuit requires that much time. The student is taught to climb out straight ahead until reaching a particular altitude.  Then he is taught to claw for altitude so that he is at “pattern altitude” on downwind.  The pattern must be large enough to allow the flier to reach that pattern altitude and lots of the trainers we fly just don’t have the power to achieve that altitude without that big pattern.

My students, on the other hand, are taught to make their crosswind turn at the departure end of the runway.  Then, they are taught to eschew pattern altitude and instead get to the corner where they will turn base just as quickly as possible.  On their way to that corner, they may not get any higher than about 400 feet off the ground.  But because they previously practiced the minimum-altitude- loss-power-off-360, they know that they can do a 180 in about 300 feet. That means that they can suffer an engine failure during that low-level downwind and swoop for a landing.  They learn that the longer they wait to make that swoop, the slower they will get and the harder it will be.  They need to constantly be thinking about that possibility. Their instructor will make sure they get the  opportunity to practice that engine failure and subsequent swoop from time to time. They are also taught that the most important factor in this procedure is to have a “place to go” at all times when in this pattern.  Since we fly angles instead of pattern altitudes, that means that they are almost always within gliding distance to a runway or taxiway while flying this abbreviated pattern simply because they are closer.  Because they are closer to the runway, their turns from the downwind, through base and to final will require a steeper bank in order to avoid overshooting the final approach course.  They learn that the steepness of their bank does not increase their stall speed… “G” force does.  So they are taught to use elevator properly in order to control the airspeed at which their airplane will stall.  They are also taught the importance of coordination during high-G turns.  They are taught that the stall is only half the reason for a spin… that a skid is the other half of the equation and that many pilots tend to skid their turns to final.  If these fliers hear “keep your nose down” a lot, they hear “DON”T SKID” even more.  And they have all had inadvertent spin training.

These fliers are also cautioned that the vast majority of pilots will have been trained by the Acme School and will fly a much higher and bigger pattern.  They are taught to live with that fact of life and not let their different pattern mess with the minds of other pilots lest safety be compromised.

By simply flying this smaller pattern, these pilots are doubling or tripling the number of landings and takeoffs they get per hour of flight timeBut we’re not done messing with them. (see “#39 Ripping off the Students”).

Lifting off after the first landing. This is as high as we’re going to get before touching down again.

Once these fliers have reached a certain level of competence, they will be introduced to the multiple landing.  Here’s how it works:  Once they touch down, they open the throttle for the “go”.  But instead of climbing out to continue the pattern, they stop their climb at five feet and allow the airplane to accelerate a bit.  Then they reduce the power to idle once more and execute another landing.  After that touchdown they continue the pattern.  That little procedure just doubled their number of landings AND greatly increased their ability to control the airplane during the landing operation while close to the ground.  So now, the guy who already had at least twice the number of landings and takeoffs compared to his conventionally trained colleagues has increased his number so that he now has FOUR TIMES the number of “reps.  But we’re still not done.  The student is introduced to multiple landings by being taught to simply grab one additional landing and takeoff.  But a truly proficient pilot can often execute up to FIVE landings and takeoffs in one circuit!  Our student can actually achieve TEN TIMES the landings and takeoffs of his buddy at Acme AND has practiced a far greater level of proficiency while doing it.

Holy cow!  I need to increase my rates!

And now a parting word.  I tend to teach at a couple of airports where I am often the only airplane in the pattern or one of just a couple. The technique I have just described will absolutely piss off the majority of conventional flight instructors and their students if you’re in the pattern with them.  For one thing, some of them will be convinced that a pilot using that technique will have “cut them off” in the pattern.  Don’t try to change them.  It’s futile.  If this technique works for you at a sparsely used airport, don’t insist upon using it at a busy one.  You’ll just make a lot of enemies.

And of all the maneuvers I teach, this one is virtually guaranteed to result in…

Happy Swooping!

Brian

 

 

 

5 comments to #49 Multiple Landings (or, “keep your nose down”)

  • Martin Tanguay

    Brian, again a very interesting article. I read all of them and wonder now if I do everything wrong in my flying. We are surely not taught to fly that way you’re right. At some point I will have to go to Oregon to gather your techniques.
    Something puzzles me tough: ….a lot, they hear “DON”T SKID” even more.
    In you article Forward Slip, you wrote while the wing is low on base to final to put rudder and slip the plane.
    Why not here also??
    P.S. The greatest thing about all your articles aside from being very instructive is that we can feel that you have fun putting them together, it reflects in your writing.

  • Martin Tanguay

    Brian, again a very interesting article. I read all of them and wonder now if I do everything wrong in my flying. We are surely not taught to fly that way, you’re right. At some point I will have to go to Oregon to gather your techniques.
    Something puzzles me though: A lot of students don’t hear “DON”T SKID” any more.
    In your article “The Forward Slip”, you wrote while the wing is low during the turn from base to final to put rudder and slip the plane.
    Why not here also??
    P.S. The greatest thing about all your articles aside from being very instructive is that we can feel that you have fun putting them together, it reflects in your writing.

    • brian

      Martin,
      Regarding your question as we compare the current article with the one on slips: The technique I describe in “forward slips” is, I think, a good one and at no time does the airplane skid. As far as the approach in “Multiple Landings” is concerned, sure, we often include a forward slip in the initial approach in order to land short so that we have plenty of runway in front of us for the multiples. Another thing we often do is to combine the approach with the Landing in a Turn. If you throw in a forward slip on the dogleg final, then execute a landing in a turn, followed by two or more multiples, you’ve gotten yourself a lot of intense practice in just one cycle.

      I really appreciate your comment. It’s always good to hear from a reader. I enjoy writing them just as much as you enjoy reading them!

      Thanks again.
      Brian

  • Hi Brian, this is exactly how I was taught 18 years ago. To paraphrase my instructor, “you’ve got an airplane that needs less than 1000 feet and you’ve got 6,000′ of runway, why would you only land once per pattern”.

    I think your idea with unconventional pattern altitude and legs is also great in teaching someone to actually fly the airplane versus just chasing numbers… but agree this will not go over well at most airports if there is another airplane in the area. Honestly it drives me a little crazy flying with students and needing to climb to 1,000 feet and fly big legs in a slow airplane when I think we’d actually flow better flying a pattern like you’re describing.

    • brian

      Russ, thanks for writing. Funny how common sense has deteriorated in the 18 years since you learned! Actually, you bring up a good point; mainly how many instructors must chafe at having to teach the “modern” way. Thanks again for checking in!
      Brian

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