David’s career in aviation and training is extensive and packed with highlights.
Here he describes his career and the refinement of The Jacobson Flare:
“My early career followed a typical course through general aviation (GA) as a flight instructor. In 1970 I joined Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA), flying as First Officer on F27, DC-9 and B727 aircraft, before achieving Initial Command on the F27, in 1982. In 1978, however, an event occurred that is worth the telling:
‘The worst landing that I ever performed was the one I never actually made’.
Fortunately, no damage was done – the only thing that really took a hit was my ego. The simple fact is that many years ago, I touched down in a passenger jet before I thought I needed to commence the landing flare manoeuvre.
I was the (reasonably experienced) First Officer (co-pilot) of a B727-100, one of the most forgiving airplanes to land. Yet, in perfect conditions on a cold, calm, moonlight night with unrestricted visibility, no rush and a completely stabilised approach, a visual illusion of our height above the runway caused me to not even commence the flare before the jet planted itself firmly on the runway surface. Firmly enough that it didn’t even skip or bounce.
Like me, both the Captain and Flight Engineer were also lulled into inaction … not even a sharp intake of breath from either, just before we ‘arrived’. There was much embarrassment all round, especially when (after clearing the runway), our Purser enquired, “Which one of you aces is responsible for the 6-rows of rubber jungle back here?” Of course, she was referring to a collection of dropped oxygen mask panels.
Out of sheer embarrassment, I made sure I didn’t pass through the terminal before all our passengers had claimed their bags and departed; and it cost me a few rounds of drinks in reparation for my colleagues!
The problem becomes apparent
That experience sure made me think about how we continue to land airplanes by guesswork and trial-and-error techniques that hark back 100 years to the end of WW1.
1983 found me instructing again, on weekends, with the RAAF Point Cook Flying Club, Victoria. It was an opportunity to put something back, and to re-discover my love of elementary flying training in a special and historic environment. By 1986 I was a DC9 Training Captain, finding that my landing technique on the DC9-31 was much the same as on a variety of light airplanes at Point Cook, although obviously commencing at different flare heights. One day, while waiting for the rain to lift, a couple of RAAF instructors, a private pilot, student pilot and I were gathered around a white-board with steaming mugs of coffee, discussing landings. The 1965 flare-fix inspiration from ‘The Dam Busters’ was re-kindled that day.
For the next 2 years, I gave myself a harder time than anyone has done since. I couldn’t believe that no one else seemed to have thought of it. Many industry experts were very encouraging, and insisted I should publish my findings. Apart from the ‘The Dam Busters’, I had also been a young fan of the story of the American ‘frontiersman’, Davy Crockett and I recalled the old Disney movie suggesting that Crockett’s motto had been, ‘Be sure you’re right and then go ahead.’ So, I wrote and presented the first paper, ‘Where to Flare?’ for the 1987 Australian Aviation Symposium, Canberra ACT.
Triangles have had three sides for a very long time and we’d only ever used two of them. Moreover, apart from trying to judge the height of an invisible ‘opposite’ side of the triangle which, of course, varies for every type of airplane, every error occurring on this vertical side compounds about 20 times down the runway. Landing accuracy and runway occupancy times suffer as a direct result.
In comparison, the adjacent side (on the runway centreline) is visible, and any errors occurring here are reduced to 1/20th in vertical terms. Flare point predictability, consistency, transportability (to other airplanes) and safety are only some of the benefits. It is tolerant of errors and actually self-compensates for runway slope, path angle and flap settings. Runway width is no longer a consideration, because the flare fix occurs longitudinally and the height illusions may therefore be discounted. It also diminishes ‘lack of recency’ issues. It defines a virtual eye path to touchdown.
The name came about because one cannot patent a training technique, or a formula. (A chef may copyright a cookbook, but he or she cannot patent a cake recipe.) So I called it ‘The Jacobson Flare’, and this name and the JF logo are now registered trademarks.
Over the years the most common statement made to me by other pilots is, ‘It’s quantified what we’ve all probably been trying to do.’ I agree.”