It’s a very natural thing … for anyone … to want to show your mates, your buddies, supervisors, or even examiners, just how well you can land your airplane. After all, you’ve now got the hang of it … on this airplane type. You’ve practised, you’ve mis-landed a couple of times, maybe; you’ve flared a bit too early and landed a bit long, but hey, that’s better than flaring late and ending up with a firm, short touchdown.
Now, you can display your skills … but can you display them consistently well? At any airfield? In challenging conditions? We’ve probably all thought (if not stated): “I’ll show you how it’s done”, only to find that the result was less brilliant than we had hoped for.
The un-acknowledged, but honest, truth is that NONE of us were ever actually taught HOW to land a plane. Sure, we were briefed on WHAT we were supposed to do; and it was demonstrated to us what we were expected to reproduce. But we were never actually taught HOW. Now, that is not really surprising, because the conventional skills needed to learn to land a plane may be compared with those of a child learning to hit a nail with a hammer. The more you hit, the better you get; but the best of carpenters still bend a nail, occasionally. The same applies to sporting stars playing any ball game; the best of them can still manage to mis-hit or mis-kick the ball … when it matters most. And the best of pilots can mis-land.
Has anyone ever seen a decent book or video on HOW to hit a nail with a hammer? No? This is because a sequence of physical motor skills is difficult to put into simple words and things like pressure, speed and other nuances are subtle and virtually un-quantifiable, without scientific instruments at hand.
And so, we resort to lovely words like judgment, perception, feel and experience, none of which can be taught; and we tell ourselves that if we practise, over and over, then the repetition will provide the results we are seeking. This has been handed down, without question, for over 100 years, while everything else in aviation has moved on.
We’ve even kidded ourselves that this airplane type or that one needs a special technique, so we were tutored to ‘forget everything you’ve been told and do this’ … such as the dopey part-flare and then roll-forward-and-reduce-thrust-back-to-idle party trick I’ve witnessed, often, on the beautiful B727, B737 and DC-9, only because certain pilots did not understand the correct flare height to flare those airplanes. When the roll-forward part was executed, with thrust still around 70% N1 (fan RPM), the airplanes took off down the runway, in ground effect, like scalded cats, often requiring heavy braking effort after a deep touchdown.
The problem is we didn’t then have a universal, quantifiable and consistent approach and landing flare technique.
Since 1987, we’ve had such a technique – the Jacobson Flare – and now we have an intelligent and incisive explanation on HOW to land a plane. Now, you can really impress other pilots because you can explain, factually and simply, HOW you do it. You’ll also be able to show them.
Captain David M Jacobson FRAeS MAP
Simple, Unassailable Aerodynamic Logic