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#169 Creeping Pitch

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I don’t know why some people will get so caught up in some perceived causes and yet ignore others of far more importance.

All my liberal friends are extremely concerned about global warming.  All my conservative friends are busy debunking it, while worried about transsexuals using public bathrooms.  All my conspiracy loving friends are totally concerned about the damage that “chemtrails” are doing and are convinced that the world will come to an end as a result.

Neighbors of the Sisters airport (and even some Whuffos who live on it) are terrified that some daredevil pilot will crash into their house, ‘cause you know those pilots are barely in control of their planes…. Hmmm, well they might be right about PART of that!

And while all my friends concern themselves with these issues, they almost all ignore one of the most pressing… over population.  Of course there is another issue of almost equal importance.

 As a teacher of flying, I have seen something that terrifies the crap out of me and which threatens the whole of aviation, especially that of all Acme trained flyers.  Hah!  I’ll bet I have your attention NOW!  The fear I have is well-founded and is of something that I’ve witnessed a vast majority of pilots falling victim to: “Creeping Pitch”!!!

“What is Creeping Pitch”, you ask?  I’ll tell you.

If we have decided that a certain approach speed will give us a certain amount of “float”, which will give us a certain amount of time in which to either hold off our airplane while executing a three-point landing or

begin of end
Maintaining our approach speed gives us lots of time to work on either holding it off or establishing a sink rate.

enable us to establish a nice slow sink rate while doing a wheel landing, then isn’t it important that we maintain that approach speed up until the point when we start using pitch to either hold it in that window or establish that sink rate?  Well, some pilots aren’t doing that!  I dearly love a certain approach speed and have found it to work wonderfully in both the Cessna 140 and the 172.  It’s higher than the Geezer Patrol approves of, but it provides a perfect float time.  It’s slow enough to accommodate a normal length of runway, yet fast enough to give us plenty of time.  It’s 80 miles per hour (Shhhhh, don’t tell the other instructors… they’ll steal this little-known secret and I’ll starve to death!).  But because of the scourge of “creeping pitch”, we’re rarely at that magical 80 by the time we get to “the bottom of the hill”!  Instead, we’re at sixty or less!  Arggghhh.  And you know what’s REALLY diabolical about creeping pitch?  They don’t even know they’re doing it!  Yup, the average pilot will nail that approach speed abeam the numbers when they close their throttle (like they

Chimpunk on final
This Chipmunk is resisting “Creeping Pitch” to spend plenty of time figuring out his time to flare.

should… you DO close your throttle abeam the numbers, DON’T you?).  They’ll have 80 nailed, but something happens during the rest of the approach… somewhere after the turn to base and before the actual flare, the “creeping pitch” phenomenon comes into play and they ever so slightly start raising the nose.  The result of this creeping pitch is that by the time they’ve reached ground affect they are just as slow as those yayhoos at Acme and my little secret had no effect at all!

As a dedicated teacher of flying, I feel the need to figger out what causes Creeping Pitch.  I have some theories:

Fear of the ground, causing involuntary flaring; Remnants of Acme training; Head up butt syndrome; the tired old theory that the airplane must be in a particular attitude for a particular type of landing.  Those are all the causes that I can think of right now.  If I ever figure it out, I’ll present a paper at the next meeting of the Flight Instructor’s Club at the Groundloop Saloon.

I’ll keep you posted…