Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Perfect Landing

According to some pilots, a good landing is any one that you can walk away from. But, what is a perfect landing? Is it one that your passengers don't feel the transition from the air to the ground? Is it one that greases in smoothly with just slight chirps from each wheel? Or, maybe it's one that enables you to stop the aircraft in less distance than the distance shown in the POH. Most pilots recognize that the POH figures are based on optimal conditions and are produced by well-trained, highly experienced test pilots in very new aircraft. Meeting the POH figures for take-offs and landings can be quite a challenge. Meeting them in adverse conditions is almost unheard of.

Of course I wouldn't be writing this unless I had a particularly noteworthy experience. So, today, my destination was the North Palm Beach County airport (F45). I departed CRG just ahead of a nasty front after getting one last pre-flight briefing. The weather along the route was not terrible...a few bumps and quite a bit of cloud cover for the first hour or so. Conditions cleared south of Melbourne. I flew hot at maximum power for the altitude to overcome the 26 to 35 knot winds that were blowing from about a 60 degree angle off the right side. This knocked my TAS of 131 down to a groundspeed around 119 knots. Still, the trip only took 2.3 hours including runup.

There wasn't too much activity at the airport on arrival. Just an Arrow departing to the South who I heard on the Palm Beach Approach frequency, a helo coming in from the East, and a twin waiting to depart runway 13. He must have been waiting for instrument clearance since he held on the ground until long after I landed.

With so little traffic and wind from 180 at 12, I chose to land straight in on runway 13. I kept it hot on the approach until 4 miles out at which point I leveled off at 1000 feet MSL, reduced power to 1700 RPM and waited for the airspeed to drop below 105 knots. I dropped the first notch of flaps as I lined up on the VASI and began a steady descent. Flaps were deployed progressively and my speed dropped off steadily until I crossed the fence at 65 knots. I reduce power further and held the approach slope ultimately pulling power to idle when I knew I had the runway made. The wheels touched down smoothly right on the numbers and I immediately retracted the flaps, pulled hard on the elevators and began steady braking.

The plane was stopped in time to make the turnoff indicated in the attached photo - At the temperature and standard pressure, the POH calls for stopping in 585 feet. I managed to stop short of that! I was pretty proud of myself. This was one of the best landings I've made - nice and smooth, right on the numbers and as good or better than the POH!

As a pilot, I continually challenge myself to do things better. Landings are one area that I continue to work on. Who knows maybe I've got bush pilot in my future.

Total hours for the flight 2.3 with .4 actual instrument, all cross-country.