Landing is Hard

by Berck

Landing is hard. At least, landing both safely and comfortably. It’s relatively easy to muscle a Cessna 172 on the ground in most any attitude and get it stopped, particularly on a 5000 foot runway, which is about 3500 more than I would need if I were any good.

D. rang up this afternoon and said, “We’ve got ceilings around 3,000 feet, let’s go do some pattern work.” It was pretty marginal VFR, but just fine for flying the pattern. If it deteriorates while you’re flying circles around the airport, it’s hard for much to go bad. I had to file a VFR flight plan by school rules since there was no dispatcher. It was pretty easy, I just hadn’t done it before. After taking off, we did somewhere between 8-10 touch and go’s, although we realized we’d both lost count when it came time to fill out my log book.

It was good. My imperfect patten flying resulted in all kinds of different approaches: slow, fast, low, high, and D. didn’t touch the controls after the first one, which means I wasn’t doing too badly. I think it was the second or third landing that was the worst. I came in fast and flared high, and D. just sat back and watched me drop the plane like a brick from at least 5 feet over the runway, about midfield. I made all the radio calls, and I’m sure the controller got some good amusement watching me land poorly. At one point there was another airman student with a really, really thick Middle eastern accent. The controller answered one of the guy’s calls, slightly mocking his accent. I gained 200 feet on the downwind because I was laughing so hard. I think his instructor decided to take him out of the pattern after the controller said, “Nine One Echo, you really need to make your turns closer to the airport, you’re way off the pattern.” I looked, and he seemed to be at LEAST 3 miles downwind past where he ought to have turned base. He didn’t re-enter the pattern.

One landing, although far from perfect, was at least acceptable. D. started being rather loud, which is out of character for him, “Yeah, that was it, just like that!!!” I did another three landings today, and none of them were quite that good. But I’ve got a pretty solid feel for what they ought to be like now. Another 100-200 of them, and I might have it down.

I keep forgetting to hold the nose off the ground. I’m so excited to have gotten the mains on the ground, I just keep letting the nose drop. And I’m having a hard time maintaining runway heading after takeoff with a crosswind. But I’ll get better, I just need lots more practice.

Which seems impossible to get. The weather’s been crap. It’s either too windy, too cloudy, too foggy or too thunderstormy.

Ground school is about to wrap past the point where I started, so hopefully I’ll get to stop going soon. This is good, because the interesting half seemed to be the half I already sat through.

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