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#130 Frank Lloyd Wright and the Place for Opinion in Aviation

Y’know how sometimes you’re supposed to hear your parent’s voice come out of your own mouth?  That happens to me from time to time.  But lately, it’s my grandfather I hear a lot.  You see, my grandfather was image591GAlbertan irascible old fellow.  A successful architect who had graduated from the Beaux Arts in France and was a staunch adherent of the Rococo school, he was both politically and occupationally conservative…  “Conservative”, hell!  He was an opinionated old curmudgeon!  He was famous for observing, “Frank Lloyd Wright, who is frankly WRONG…”


G. Albert Lansburgh as a young man

So, when I find myself thinking that someone is wrong, I try to figure out if this is a matter of opinion.  If it’s opinion, then no one is wrong, just of a different opinion.  But if it’s NOT a matter of opinion, such as whether the earth is flat or not, then I think it’s okay to snort like my grandfather would and state that something is wrong.

Do you see where I’m going with this?  You will.

Lately, I’ve had a lot of fliers demonstrate difficulty with the three-point landing.  After a lot of investigating, I finally figured out what the problem was:  Somewhere in their training, some yayhoo had told them that they should put the airplane in a landing attitude and keep it there until touchdown.  I guess altitude is controlled by power.  Here comes my grandfather.  They are just plain WRONG!

The key to a successful three-point landing in a tailwheel airplane or full stall landing in a tricycle gear airplane is simply an unsuccessful attempt to prevent a landing with no power.  If the only control over lift you have is to increase the angle of attack with the elevator, then you simply continue to maintain an altitude of one inch off the ground by increasing the angle of attack until you have no more elevator left.  If you allow the airplane to sink and touch the ground BEFORE you’ve run out of elevator, then you have a premature touchdown, maybe a bounce and a lousy landing.  If you “over-flare” and increase the angle of attack too much during that landing flare, you will zoom up and end up stalling at an unacceptable altitude.  It’s as simple as that.  The Acme Flying School teaches to use power all the way through the landing approach and flare.  My OPINION is that continued use of that technique will deprive you of any skill-building at power-off approaches (read “Engine Failure”).  The use of power as a last-ditch method for stopping “over-sink” is okay, but it will end up in a longer landing and it should be avoided if possible.

I think that the savvy reader can tell when I present an idea as opinion or fact.  At least that’s my opinion!

Happy Swooping!


2 comments to #130 Frank Lloyd Wright and the Place for Opinion in Aviation

  • As you know, I have few contrary opinions so long as you agree with me. It’s easy to practice dead stick landings, treat em all like the noise maker quit. Everyone knows, when the noise maker refuses to make any more noise, gravity controls both airspeed and altitude. The pilot is supposed to push and pull the peddles, levers and knobs as necessary to fly and land the airplane. Maybe using the term “Dead Stick” is too scary to contemplate practicing very often. I like to imagine I’m flying a glider. As you know, opinions are of little use in a glider. Gravity wins all arguments eventually. That’s my opinion.

    As my flight instructer used to remind me, “Fly low and slow with lots of bottom rudder and keep your nose up in the turns.” Wrong! I don’t think he liked me.


  • Pete

    Your Grandaddy sure was right Brian. There are just some people who’s internal mental models are not in keeping with the manifest physical reality in which they find themselves (and the rest of us). Was that politically correct enough?!

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