All posts tagged 'landing'

Understanding Nosewheel Steering

In most small aircraft, steering on the ground is controlled by brakes and rudder pedals. This is through a mechanical linkage pulley system that's pretty old school, also referred to as a free-castering system.

However, as planes get heavier and faster the need for a different system came into place. The Learjet 60 is a perfect example of an aircraft with this. Thus nosewheel steering became the solution. Nosewheel steering facilitates better directional control on the ground for takeoff and landing and sharper maneuvering at slower speeds such as taxiing to park. 

A Design of a Nosewheel Steering

Nosewheel Steering depicted by FlightMechanic.com

There are various designs for nosewheel steering but this is the basic depiction of how it is designed. Most are hydraulically powered and have mechanical, electrical, or hydraulic connections that transmit the pilot input to a steering control unit. The range that these inputs can control the movement of the nosewheel are important, as you don't have full range to move the nosewheel 90 degrees in either direction at just any speed. Most systems only operate up to about 90 knots, and the faster the aircraft is increasing speed towards those knots the less movement the wheel will move. 

Hardly any aircraft manuals depict or discuss this range in detail but this is the best photo I could find that helps illustrate this. Just remember that the faster the aircraft reaches, the more the system goes from nosewheel steering back to your usual rudder pedal system. 

Another important component to know about in this is shimmy dampers. There are torque links attached to the stationary upper cylinder of a nose wheel strut that work to control rapid oscillations, otherwise known as nosewheel shimmy. You'll feel these oscillations sometimes when you're taxiing too fast and/or have too much pressure centered on the front wheel. Simply slow down or try pulling the yoke back then gently back forward and 9/10 times this will stop unless it is a mechanical issue that needs to be addressed. 

There's a lot of components that are a part of the nosewheel steering system. These however seem to be the most common issues pilots have when transitioning to using one and trying to keep their operations smooth and comfortable for passengers. To understand the system better on YOUR aircraft however make sure to always read your flight manual in depth and talk to your mechanics when you can. Usually they're happy to share knowledge and teach you how to not break things as much ;)

Questions or comments? Add them below. 

Do You Know Your Runway Markings?

Runway Markings

Flight training magazine and AOPA discussed runway markings recently because after your private, and maybe a few times in instrument training, it's not really discussed in depth again. Sometimes if you didn't get the best luck of the draw with your instructor it may not be discussed well at all.

Whatever the case is, let's talk about runway markings!

Displaced Threshold

I think this one is most often missed in training. The basic information taught about a displaced is "you can taxi and takeoff there but don't land." BUT WHY?!?! 

The short unprofessional answer for this is because you'll hit something. The better answer is it's there to protect you. If you aim for it as a landing spot, your glide path will become too low and again...you'll hit something. This could be power lines, trees, hills, etc. depending on the airport environment so it is designed specifically to avoid the dangers. Don't aim to touchdown until the threshold to be safe.

Threshold

As previously mentioned, the threshold now marks the beginning of available landing distance on the runway. Thresholds also have a coding system to tell you how wide the runway is. I think the coding system for the threshold is pretty neat. Here's a picture as it's described in the AIM of how the width is depicted:

Threshold Stripes

When it comes to instrument flying, the threshold can also tell you what type of approach the runway has: visual, precision, or nonprecision. On a visual runway with no approaches, it will just start at the beginning of the paved area, but for approaches, you'll see long, bold white stripes between the start of the runway and the edge of the numbers called your threshold markings. 

Designation Markings

Believe it or not, this is the official term used for runway numbers. They indicate the approximate magnetic orientation of that runway. Over time as the earth's magnetic fields change, however, the number has to be changed. A runway might be 17 for 10 years and then have to be changed to say 18 (this blew my mind as a private student!).

Side note: make a good habit as early as you can of saying "runway verified" or "I see 17 (insert correct runway number)" whenever you enter a runway and see the designation markings. It'll save you on that one leg in the middle of the night where you're exhausted and accidentally enter the wrong runway. You never know!

Touchdown Zone 

500 feet down the first stripe of runways with a precision approach is what is known as the touchdown zone. This is the line where football players must reach to score a goal against their opponent.

Just checking to see if you're still reading! These stripes are most useful in helping you know how much runway you've already eaten up in case you're pushing landing distance factors. 

Aiming Point

You might recognize these as they're most commonly called: the 1000 foot markers or captains bars! Similar to the purpose of the touchdown zone, these also help to show how much runway you've used. And if you're a commercial student, these are much better to use to aim for on power off 180's than the numbers!

Side-stripe Markings

These are the solid continuous white stripes that signify the edge of the runway to help provide a visual contrast from the terrain off the side of the pavement. Something similar to this is the yellow runway shoulder marking, cueing a non-taxi area. 

Centerline

Lastly demonstrated on the picture is centerline, perhaps one of the most important! One of its functions is keeping you on the center of the runway, protecting the wings from hazards off the side of the runway like windsocks, terrain, and worst of all aviation YouTubers.

The stripes also help mark the distance you've used. According to the AIM, each stripe is 120 feet long with 80 feet in between each of them. The stripes can be between one and three feet wide depending on the size of the runway. 

Hopefully this was a good refresher for runway markings for you! Remember to work for centerline and don't forget to flare!

Questions or comments? Let us know below!

Dealing with Frustration in the Cockpit

We've all been there:

In the cockpit, workload gets kind of high or we don't complete a task to our own personal standards, frustration starts setting in...next thing you know you realize you (or the person you're flying with) has become frustrated. Let's talk about the different signs this is occurring and how to combat it to not only have a safe but enjoyable flight. 

Pictured above is a Citation II

I want to make this an important topic because frustration is a real thing when flying, and it's not considered a hazardous attitude by the FAA yet most definitely exists. 

Whether I'm acting as an SIC for the corporate work I do or instructing in a C172, I see the same signs setting in every time. First, the grip on the controls starts getting tighter. The throttle(s) are held tighter and the controls are gripped more strongly.

Next, the scan of the cockpit and outside the windshield (if VFR) slows. The gaze starts to become fixated on certain things, and sometimes things that don't really matter. And of course, the mindset becomes fixated too. You're not thinking as logically and clearly like you usually do, it's almost as if you're in a haze and your ability to fly is decreasing.

Being in this state of mind may not necessarily kill you, but it will put you behind the plane every time. You might now forget to get ATIS and load the arrival in for your descent, enter the traffic pattern incorrectly, or forget to bring your gear up after takeoff...there's a lot of things that can happen that will slip out of your grip. 

The best way to combat this? Recognize it as soon as it's happening and correct it.

Just like all 5 hazardous attitudes have an antitdote, I've came up for one on this too. First off, admit that you're frustrated to yourself.  Look down and notice your tightened grip then look inside the rest of the cockpit and make sure everything looks as it should. Are your engine instruments indicating normal? What's your altitude? Why are you at that altitude? Did you mean to be at that altitude?

Ask yourself these kinds of questions! I call it intentional flying: everything you're currently doing you are doing it with a purpose and not letting the aircraft fly itself. This previous frustration is now going to lead to you getting flustered when you realize you're doing something wrong and now must correct it. BUT DON'T LET YOURSELF GET FLUSTERED EITHER. Fix the problem. Make yourself take a step back and take in everything, breathe, relax that death grip on the controls, and diagnose what is going on and how best to handle it. 

The second you panic, get mad, give up, or act without thinking is the second that now you might be in REAL trouble. So don't let yourself get that far! So again...remember to RELAX and then just fly how you were taught to. 

Thanks for reading. Any questions or comments? Leave them below!

Nailing Your Glide Slope on Final

Flying - Nailing the Glide Slope on Final

If you're anything like me when I was working on my private pilot certificate and struggling to hold a proper glide slope, then here's some tips for learning how to adjust and making your descent more consistent.

First things first, if there is a PAPI or VASI on the runway (like the one pictured above) then use it! Make yourself create what's called PAPI discipline. Don't accept seeing 4 white and stay being too high, and FOR SURE don't accept 4 red. "4 red you're dead" is an old saying, and it's a saying for a reason.

This isn't to say that every time you see 4 red you're in critical danger, but don't create a habit of accepting that and still continuing a descent or you may find out the hard way that you're far too low. Here's 2 pictures to help illustrate both a PAPI and VASI lighting system:

PAPI

VASI

When it comes to actually flying the plane, the trick is always airspeed. Transition from your final approach speed to touchdown speed and you'll grease the landing every time too. 

You'll always hear that there is 3 things a pilot controls: heading, airspeed and altitude. Heading is more simple in this case, use the ailerons and rudder hold runway centerline as you descend down. Have a crosswind? Use more! 

We then control airspeed with pitch, and altitude with power.

So let's say you're getting a reading of 4 white on the lights and you're 10 knots faster than what you should be. What do you do? Take out some power! Bring the throttle back a bit and let the altitude slowly start to decrease and bring the nose up slightly as well. When you're back on the glide path bring some power back in and keep watching that airspeed because it is so so important, especially as you move up to larger and faster planes.

Remember too to keep it smooth, normally it only takes small corrections to come back to where you need to be. In that previous example, if you immediately take out full power and abruptly jerk the nose up you'll descend quick and lose airspeed too fast and will go past what you were needing to correct. From going to being too high and fast, now you might be too low and too slow. Being too low and too slow kills good pilots, because you can stall the plane with little to no altitude to recover. 

It's always good to know how to conduct a proper forward slip too, especially when you're way too high and close to the runway. Take it from me, you won't turn on final and be exactly where you want to be every time so it's best to know how to correct. 

Make sure you have no flaps, take out power, keep your eye on a spot on the runway to touchdown down on, then get that rudder and ailerons in and start going down! Once you're coming up to where you want to be smoothly add the power back in as you take out rudder and ailerons. Then work with airspeed and power to grease that landing!

A good landing is all about knowing how to work the plane. You're always watching heading, airspeed and altitude and applying the proper corrections. If there is a PAPI/VASI there, use discipline and work to stay on the right glide path. 

Wondering where you can go practice some good landings at? Head over to our website and use the Airport Search Link to find an airport near you with an adequate runway. Be sure to comment any tips and tricks you have too or some good landing stories and stay tuned for the next post! 

 

 

 

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