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# 188 The Window

 

(or, “The Three-Point Landing”)

Written in February, 2017

 

Sometimes the words get in the way.  But Mike Slusher, a former Tailwheel Endorsement seeker and experienced rotary wing pilot, recently helped me get a lot of the words out of the way and distill them down to one.  That one is “Window”.  The window is simply an altitude. It extends from as high as you are willing to drop the airplane during a landing to about 1 mm off the ground.  Mike very correctly pointed out how simple it can be to land an airplane if you just think of keeping it in the landing window.  This is especially true of the three-point landing.  And he further pointed out how the smaller the window is, the smoother the landing will be.

Mike Slusher

I’m reminded of coming back from Cottage Grove Reservoir in the 182 we were using as a camera plane many years ago.  I was flushed with victory, having photographed arguably the greatest shot of my career, that of Bill Warren carving a turn with his Chipmunk.  He was close to the water and had placed small wands of steel tubing on his wingtips.  Those wands cut the water, leaving tracks you could follow.  His smoke was on and the trail stayed on the water[1].

I was a cameraman, not a pilot.  The camera pilot was perhaps the best I’d ever flown with.  George Bernstein had been the main pilot in “Dawn Flight”, a film that got my brother and me an Academy Award Nomination.  I decided to take advantage of this guy’s talent and asked him if I could land the airplane.  He gave me control and simply ran the radios as I, a post solo and REALLY rusty, flier attempted to land the 182.  I had forgotten the theory of the window (if I ever knew it) and, as I bounced down the runway, chasing the PIO, George couldn’t help himself.  He began to laugh.  That laughter was taken by his now-sweating student as rather insulting and I remember being really upset that I wasn’t getting any help from this experienced teacher of flying.  As I look back on the experience, I can see George’s point.  He wasn’t my flight instructor and it was pretty funny, watching my attempts to put that 182 on the ground.  Because you see, I didn’t know what I was doing.  Had I arranged for some flight instruction with him and had I distilled his advice down to that one word, the result would have been different…. maybe.

Remember that article I posted called “Why does everyone make it so difficult?“  Perhaps that article was guilty of using too many words, but it did make one really important point, whether you are flying a tailwheel or a nosewheel airplane.  To land smoothly, simply put it in the “window”.  Because, whether you are conducting a three-point landing in a tailwheel airplane or a fully stalled landing in a nosewheel airplane[2], keeping the airplane from touching the ground with no power is the proper technique and the closer the plane is to the ground when it “pays off”, the smoother the landing will be.

“Clyde” in the window (photo by Bert Garrison)

Oh, and because I haven’t riled the villagers yet, they can get their pitchforks and torches ready because, in my opinion, approach speed has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the landing (hear that sound?  That’s the sound of bags of Cheetos being dropped as the trolls leap to their keyboards).  Sorry, gang, but the only speed that means anything is the speed at which the airplane is flying when the wheels contact the ground.  I better get out of here before they start throwing those pitchforks and singeing my butt with those torches!

And now you know what Mike and I know about “The Window”.

[1] I think that shot can be seen on the website, “skybilly.com”.

[2] EVERY landing in a nose wheel airplane should be fully stalled, in my opinion.

1 comment to # 188 The Window

  • Ryan Lunde

    I think it’s really good to teach holding airspeeds on approach, but when a student has that skill mastered, I definitely like to introduce fast finals and teach the ability to vary speed on approach and adapt to different ways to get it to the touchdown zone every time when starting from different speeds.

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