Today’s Flight Plan
Now for today’s flight plan, we have two great segments for you that are quite unrelated, but still quite fun to talk about. You’re sure to learn a thing or two to help you on your way.
First, our flight training segment, we’ll touch on “What makes a solid, IFR Aviator”. This is an in depth topic that will touch on a lot of attributes, attitudes, and aptitudes that you as an IFR pilot should build.
Then, for you virtual aviators out there (and prospective jet pilots) we’ll talk about “How to Nail Virtual Jet Landings- Every Time”. We’ll talk about the myths, challenges, and acronym that will help you out a lot, and also the differences between landing varying aircraft.
What Makes a Solid, IFR Aviator?
Pilots and Aviators often approach IMC with too much caution when first obtaining their instrument ticket. Why get an instrument ticket if you aren’t going to use it in real conditions?
Although many pilots are simply obtaining an instrument ticket on the way to a career, and primary getting their instrument rating for advancement, we believe that we should approach this IFR pilotship from a different perspective.
Why not work to achieve confidence in IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) rather than just another checkmark?
What will happen when these necessary skills are called into action during real world flight, and although you have the rating, you don’t have the confidence to perform the tasks?
Here we’ll discuss some of the topics, but certainly not all, that you should be familiar with in becoming a “Solid, IFR Pilot”.
Let’s now discuss some of the subjects that you should focus on, while undoubtedly missing some important subjects. Sorry, just not enough time to cover it all in this one podcast.
Knowing your weather and what to expect does come with experience, but there is an incredible amount of work you can do ahead of time.
Get prepared, get briefed, know the scenarios before you, and then monitor those changes while enroute.
Do you know how to read an icing map?
Can you gain an overall picture of icing conditions, and determine if it is safe for you to fly?
Icing is rare, but still dangerous.
Know what your aircraft can handle.
Go through the NASA course.
What are the clouds telling you?
Can you tell the difference between certain types of clouds?
Why does it matter?
Types of fog?
How it phases.
What are the trends and unique attributes about your particular area?
What about the areas you’re flying into?
Rely on multiple sources of weather briefing
Airport Ground Conditions
Consider what happens when you’re not in the air
Is it worth flying IFR at night?
The IFR system is a very complex set of procedures, traffic and timing considerations. Know how you fit in all of this, and how to fly efficiently in a system meant for high accuracy.
- How does the IFR System Work?
- What is the most efficient way to fly in IFR?
– What are you trying to accomplish? Experience? Expediency?
- Do I need to be IFR the entire time?
– When it’s inconvenient or slow to do IFR.
- When should I do IFR?
– Should it even be in IFR conditions?
Your relationship with ATC is very unique. As a result, you as a pilot need to know what you can request, what you can do, and what you can’t do.
This is a two way street. Controllers can help you, and you can help them. There are times where they are bound by protocol and can’t do what you want, and you need to know what to do then as well.
– Always know that you can ask a controller if you have a question, request, or anything in between.
- Know Your Place
– There are lots of planes in the skies! Where do you fit in?
- Work with Controllers
– Know their challenges, help them out if possible.
A perfectly executed procedure is one of the most beautiful parts of being an IFR pilot. All the complexities that come with flying an exact flight profile, and ending up on target, will be sure to build your confidence.
How can you best set yourself up for success? Let’s talk about it.
- Know your aircraft
– What are the IFR capabilities of your aircraft?
– How do you best setup your aircraft for success?
- Highly scrutinized routines
– Build successful and predictable routines
– Know that a routine can get you in a fixed habit of doing something that may be bad.
– Make second nature your approaches
- Power and Configuration Envelopes
– Set it and forget it power/speed combinations
– How to transition for cruise, intermediate approach, approach and landing in your particular aircraft.
- Varying Situations
– Try new and different places
– Keep sharp on different types of approaches
Condition yourself and your mind to fly in actual conditions, and use that ticket. Don’t just become a guy that squeaks by on his check-ride. Rock the checkride because you know it, and cherish the beauty and comes from floating amongst the clouds.
- Fly in actual conditions
– Go and fly in what you would every day as a commercial pilot
– Actual experience
– No hood
- Get comfortable with actual IFR
– So you know what it looks like
– How it feels
– All the decisions at once (weather along with all other duties) Don’t get this with a hood.
- Plan on using your IFR ticket
– If you get a ticket, plan on using it.
Much of IFR comes down to safety. You will be faced with decisions that are potentially dangerous. But don’t let that hold you back from experiencing IFR.
Get educated, know what is front of you, and know what situations you’re putting yourself into. It’ll become obvious when there is too much risk and it’s simply time to say ‘no’.
- Human Factors and You
- Go/No-Go Decision
– Be brave enough to not go
– Learn to say “no”
- Personal Minima
– What limits do you have beyond government requirements?
- Passenger Pressure
– You are the boss. Be a leader. Be in control.
- When in Doubt
– Don’t guess. Take the guess work out of everything you do in IFR. If you don’t know, learn. If you need help, ask.
- When to divert
– When you’re already in the air, and you need a place to go
Parting the Clouds
Eventually, it’ll all come together and things will click along. It takes a lot of work, and patience, but you can arrive at a place where your mind, actions, and passionate spirit all join in harmony to become a sharp and efficient IFR aviator.
- That “Ah-Ha” Moment
- Light Shining Through
- Concourses of Angels
- When you truly “get it”
- When things “click”
Being an IFR pilot is absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever done. Some of the most beautiful experiences as a pilot have come from floating amongst the clouds, accomplishing difficult tasks, and arriving safely at my destination.
There is just nothing like single engine, single pilot, IFR.
How to Nail Virtual Jet Landings- Every Time
Landing a jet precisely is a lot of fun! But it’s a rare and often unseen skill among flight simmers. Have you ever heard or learned of the ACTUAL procedure used by real airline pilots to land?
Although we’re primarily talking about a visual approach here, these tips are still very much a part of all approach to landings.
After this segment, and with a lot of practice (which we’ll talk about) you will be landing your virtual jets like never before.
Dispelling Certain Myths
- Great pilots make perfect landings
- Cross wind vs regular landing- all landings are crosswind (usually)
- Jets land themselves
- It’s easy
- Jets land like GA aircraft. (not a controlled stall)
- “As long as people walk away, it’s a safe landing”
“AFFTR” is an easy way to remember how to setup your landing correctly. This acronym will ensure you setup a perfect landing, step-by-step. Get one of these wrong, and it could cascade down into a lot of other mistakes.
Getting setup on the approach correctly, and having a decent flight profile, is half the battle. Once you’re setup and stable, the rest is much easier.
- Aircraft Configuration
– Are you configuring your aircraft at time?
– Decisions on flap and gear extension
- Flight Envelope
– Are you too fast, too slow, too high, too low?
– Vertical speed for near perfect glideslope= Half airspeed, add a zero (example: 150 knots would be 75+0, 750 FPM.) Ballpark should be good enough.
- Big adjustments first, small adjustments later
– Get stabilized as soon as possible. Big changes won’t be possible later.
- Going visual
– At about 150 feet, at latest, you should be fully visual. Almost no power adjustments will make a difference at this stage, and your flight profile won’t change much at all.
- Stabilized and on target
– If you aren’t stabilized and on target, it’s time to go around.
- Decision Point
– Anything look off? If so, it’s time to GO around.
- Based on 100% visual cues
- This all happens at the same time.
- Smoothly role back power at 50-20 feet (find the sweet spot)
– Listen for altitude callouts
– Don’t be afraid to pull back power as aggressively as you need to- you’re about to touchdown!
- Idle by the time you are about to touchdown (or a few seconds sooner)
– This transition from starting the thrust rollback to idle thrust should only take several seconds at most.
- Pitch smoothly so you settle in without floating (the hardest part)
– Simultaneous action with the throttle
- Don’t be afraid to plant your wheels.
- Floating is not desired.
- Small, quick and deliberate adjustments must be made during the flare process. That combination and timing determine the quality of touchdown.
- Unfortunately, passengers do determine a pilots ability based on how smooth it is.
- Smoothly bring the nose down after landing (fly it down)
- Ensure all systems are working properly (auto brakes, slats, reverse thrust)
- Maintain alignment
- Exit Safely
Remember the AFFTR acronym. Work on the escalation of precision, and become excellent at the small stuff.
Practice Makes Perfect
- Save a flight file for each aircraft you love.
– Varying situations. Most importantly, straight in and already stabilized.
– Try base to final and downwind as well.
- Restart the flight over, and over, and over again.
– Use the keyboard shortcut.
- Have competitions with friends.
– This can spark a more intense drive to do things right.
VLJs, vs Smaller Jets, vs Wide Bodies
- Jet procedures vary
– VLJ, vs 737, vs 777, vs 747.
– Progressive, but different
- Cockpit height
– VLJ vs 747
- Aiming Point
- Landing/Handling Characteristics
Landing the aircraft on your own can be an absolute blast, and a very rewarding experience. This isn’t something that is easy, and each little step takes much practice and a lot of repetition.
Now go learn how to land that jet!
“What Makes a Solid, IFR Aviator?” Useful Links
- NASA Icing Course
- “Say Again, Please?” Book on Communications
- “Weather Flying” Book on Weather
- “Teaching Confidence in the Clouds” Book
“How to Nail Virtual Jet Landings- Every Time” Useful Links
Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.
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Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for take-off. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer.
Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer, I love everything about flying, from kissing cloud tops to perfecting procedures and from the GE engines to the sound of a simple four-banger. Just call me Mr. Crazy Cloudtops. Yes, I’m a real pilot but I also have a love and appreciation for flight simulation. Both complement each other and have largely shaped me into the pilot and aviator I am today. I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today.
I really hope you’re enjoying Aviator Cast so far. Our first episode was just released. Even though this is episode three, episode one just barely came out. We’re getting some great feedback so far and this type of feedback really energizes me as the producer of the show to keep going and going and going and keep producing this content and motivates me just to keep tracking at it. I had a great review from Ron. Ron left a comment on our blog at aviatorcast.com, if you go over there you can find that. For any episode we have shown also, you can go there and comment on the show and say how you felt about it, so on and so forth.
We had several comments on the first episode of Aviator Cast and one particular comment that really stood out to me and just got me so excited was something that Ron said. Ron said, “Great AviatorCast. Very inspirational and just the push I needed to head out to the airport and sign up for lessons. At 47, I finally have the opportunity and financial means to pursue this passion. I might not have the time that I’d like to dedicate to two or more lessons a week, but your Aviator90 and Aviator Pro Training products have given me a good foundation and the confidence to make it through lessons as efficiently as possible. Looking forward to many more episodes. You’re the best. Thanks for all you do for the aviation community.”
Thank you, Ron. That is such an awesome review and I’m so excited that you’ve decided to start your lessons. Even at 47 years old, it is not too late to go out and get your pilot’s license and start this process. It will be such a great joy to you and I know that you’ll do well and I can tell that you’re very passionate about it, and the fact that you’re here, gaining more knowledge with things like Aviator Cast and the other things that Angle of Attack does, just means that you’re going to be that much further ahead in your training. Congratulations on that big step Ron and big props to you, maybe literally to your right? But big props to you for starting your training.
If you would like to leave a review, it really helps us out not only from I guess an energizing standpoint, helping me and the company keep pushing this podcast forward, but also, it helps others know that this is something worth listening too. You can do that straight on our blog. That’s one good place to get in-touch with us directly where we can actually reply to you. However, a more public place and something that actually means a lot for the podcast in getting the name of Aviator Cast out there is actually on iTunes. If you search iTunes and you go to reviews and ratings, then you can actually review and rate the show and that will pop up and we’ll get five stars for example and it will show people that this is a great podcast, worth downloading, worth listening to, worth getting in to. If you could do that, if you don’t do anything else, and you actually do enjoy this podcast, that would be much appreciated by me and by the team.
First and foremost above anything else is thank you for being here. Thank you for being a part of what we do. We really do enjoy interacting with you one-on-one and really hope that you continue to be a part of our community or we hope that you will stay and be a part of our community. Welcome, thank you, and I’m just really excited for this particular episode. We just love our trainees and we love the aviators here in Angle of Attack.
Today’s flight plan, we have two great segments for you that are quite unrelated but still quite fun to talk about. You’re sure to learn a thing or two to help you on the way and they are very different subjects but I think you’ll really enjoy them. The first is our flight training segment. As always, we’ll touch on what makes solid IFR aviators. This is actually quite a large subject. I’m going to have to speed through some of the points that I have but I felt like this just flowed on to the page in my show notes and there is a lot to learn here in what makes a solid IFR aviator. We’ll definitely talk about that. The attributes, the attitudes, the aptitudes that you need to become a solid IFR pilot.
Then, for you virtual aviators out there, I know you’ll love this one, and also for you prospective jet pilots and even you aviator, general aviation guys that would want to know how to do this, we’ll talk about how to nail virtual jet landings every time. We’ll talk about the myths, the challenges, and I also came out with an acronym that will help you out a lot in this particular procedure, and also the differences between landing varying aircraft because obviously landing a smaller jet is going to be much different from landing some of the bigger heavies out there.
That is what we have in store for you today, that is today’s flight plan, so let’s get into the flight training segment.
And now, the flight training segment…
What makes a solid IFR aviator? Pilots and aviators often approach IMC or instrument meteorological conditions with too much caution when first obtaining their instrument ticket. Why get an instrument ticket if you aren’t going to use it in the actual conditions. Although many pilots are simply obtaining an instrument ticket on the way to a career for example and the primary reason in getting an instrument ticket is to advance and get to the next rating, we believe that we should approach this IFR pilotship if you will, from a different perspective. Why not work to achieve confidence in IMC or instrument meteorological conditions, clouds for example, rather than just another checkmark on your way to that career? What will happen when these necessary skills are called into action during a real world flight, and although you have that rating, you don’t have the confidence to perform the task. Here we’ll discuss some of the topics but certainly not all and these are just things that you should be familiar with in becoming that solid IFR aviator.
Let’s now discuss some of the subjects that you should focus on while undoubtedly missing some important subjects. Sorry about that. This is just a lot of stuff to cover in one episode. I think some of these sections we could focus for just one whole episode and maybe we’ll do that sometime in the future. We could definitely talk about these subjects quite a bit, just stand-alone on their own. We’re going to go through some different subjects here that have some titles. They’re a little bit catchy and so you might be able to remember them. I’ll tell you what those are now.
We’re going to talk about weather wisdom. We will also talk about system savvy, communication clarity, predictable procedures, conditioning, sailing safely, and parting the clouds. That will conclude the solid IFR aviator subject, and obviously there’s a lot to cover there. Each one of those subjects has a lot to cover, so let’s get right in.
The first that I mentioned is weather wisdom. Knowing your weather and what to expect does come with experience but there is an incredible amount of work you can do ahead of time. The biggest thing is to get prepared, get briefed, and know the scenarios before you and then monitor those changes while you’re en route because undoubtedly, things will be different from what your reports were before you go but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you just go out and fly in whatever weather. You need to know what you’re going into, but it will be slightly different from what was reported. We’re trying to minimize a risk and trying to be as familiar as possible with the situation but we aren’t going to be able to have a full and perfect picture of what’s going on unless you’re in an area where it’s just absolutely zero wind, perfect weather which I have found to be extremely rare.
Some of the things that we need to be concerned about when talking weather and IFR, icing is definitely one of them. Do you know how to read an icing map, and seeing the different levels of those icing maps and the prediction and estimating that around your time of departure. Do you have the skills to gain an overall picture of the icing conditions and determine if it will actually be safe to fly? Now, icing is obviously very rare – it is actually a rare instance. It takes perfect, perfect conditions for icing to form but that doesn’t obviously mean it doesn’t happen because it does happen and it is something that us pilots, especially IFR pilots, we have to be aware of. Although it is rare, it still is quite dangerous.
When you go into these conditions, if you do plan on going into these conditions, obviously, you can’t fly into known icing conditions unless your aircraft is set up for that. You also need to know what your aircraft is capable of. There are also instances where you – I guess you determine the risk right? So obviously if there’s an area where there is a light probability of icing and you feel like you can get through that cloud there quickly or whatever it is then that’s something that you have to weigh and ask yourself, “Is this something that I can do?”
You just need to know – first of all you need to know how to read all of these icing maps. You need to know how to get an overall picture of this situation. You need to be educated on this subject and I can give you something in the show notes that will teach you how to do that and give you a really great look at icing from a scientific perspective. Then you obviously need to know what the aircraft can handle as well. Apart from all that, you need to be communicative with air traffic control, about the icing conditions, and you need to find out during the process what’s going on because obviously you don’t want yourself in a situation where you are building a lot of ice that can become very dangerous.
There is this NASA course that they put together and they put online. It’s multimedia. It’s great. It teaches you a lot about icing from their perspective because they study this stuff constantly. They’re up there, always learning more about icing conditions. I will put the link to that NASA course in the show notes and you guys can check that out. That is one of the biggest sources I learned from and kind of dispelled a lot of the myths I felt about or thought I knew about icing was through that NASA course. It dispels a lot of those myths but it also show you some extreme conditions with icing because there are conditions where icing is just absolutely incredible and it can take your aircraft down within a matter of minutes. Anyway, I’ll link to that as well. So that’s icing.
Another thing you need to know and we’ll just touch on this briefly because this is just kind of basic. You need to know what the clouds are telling you. As an IFR pilot, you need to be able to look and say, “It’s a little darker. That’s cumuliform.” You need to know – standing lenticular, you need to know what those types of clouds are tell you and really what all types of clouds are telling you. You may want to study up a little bit on the differences between certain types of clouds and you need to find out why to you, as an IFR pilot, that matters. Is that a type of cloud you can go through, is that a type of cloud you should avoid, is it worth requesting going around it from air traffic control. You need to know those things to just gain an overall picture of the situation and obviously clouds and icing are very closely related because icing happens in moisture essentially, so whether that’s in a cloud or a fog or actual rainfall, snow, things like that.
We’re done with clouds, but closely related to clouds is types of fog. You need to know that different types of fog. How that fog phases in and out and how you can plan ahead as an IFR pilot for those types of situations because there are types of fog that will linger a very long time. There are types of fog that burn off as the day goes on. Although those situations aren’t always exactly how it is, so even though it’s a type of fog that essentially generally burns off, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually going to do that but as a pilot, you can know that that might be possibility, okay? That’s fog, just very, very general.
Another that you should now about and perhaps study and this one’s a little bit harder, is what are the trends and unique attributes for the particular area you’re in. Knowing the area you are flying into. Are you flying into the rockies, are you flying into the plains, are you flying into a coastal town? What type of area you flying into? What are the challenges of that particular airport or area? Each flight route is very unique and it’s going to take you across different areas that have different challenges to them. You need to know what those challenges are and the reason why this one is a little difficult is this stuff isn’t necessarily published that well. You might find it in an airport facility directory or you might find it on airnav.com for a specific airport.
But if you’re really concerned about a particular airport, you may want to ask other pilots that have flown into that airport, what the conditions are like, idiosyncrasies about that particular airport, and you can even call the FBO for that particular airport and ask to speak with a local pilot there if there is something you are actually really concerned about. I wouldn’t bug people with that too much but I would think that they are very open to actually talking about their local area because as we talked about before, you should plan on using your instrument ticket, flying in actual conditions, and so you want to get everything on your side and have as much information as possible. Having those area changes in mind or specific attributes about that area would be very important for you to know. So that’s area changes.
Another thing that you should do and you should make a habit of is having a multisource brief. You should not only be getting things from the flight service station but you should be also relying on a lot of the online sources these days that are out there and then there are a lot of great services that are available now live while you are in the cockpit especially if you have something like an iPad where you can get actual current, excellent weather for example. A lot of different things you can get that will give you a broad scope and in a lot of situations and most situations, cross verification of the information you’re seeing.
Getting an overall picture of the weather that you are going to be going into and flying through because that’s the point of all these right? This is one of the biggest things as an IFR pilot you’re going to be looking out for and the largest thing that differentiates IFR flying from any other type of flying is that you are actively flying into weather and flying through it and around it and you’re in the weather. That’s one the biggest things you need to be aware of as a solid IFR aviator if you will.
A couple more here for the weather wisdom is airport ground conditions and this is very closely related to knowing information about that particular area. You should just know what type of area you’re flying into, what type of approaches are available, what it’s going to be like once you hit on the ground, what facilities are available, things like that, and also, what the taxi way and runway conditions are like because it could’ve snowed the morning before and melted a little bit and cooled down so now it’s icy. You have a lot of these different considerations to keep in mind with the actual airport conditions. That’s important to keep in mind as well and that is actually something that you could call an FBO about if you’re concerned and see what the conditions are like on the ground as far as even just taxing around and breaking action on the runway and what things are like, so that’s something else you could do.
Last but not certainly not least and I just threw this one here because it feels pretty well here. It could also fit in our human factors area which we’ll talk about later, is night time. You need to ask yourself as a single engine IFR if flying at night time in instrument conditions alone is the smartest thing to do. Now obviously if you’re in the clouds and you can’t see anything, that definitely kind of negates the purpose of night and day, right? There’s no difference if you’re in the clouds. But once you’re out of the clouds, you’re not going to be in the clouds all the time, it’s super rare. We are just going to be in thick, thick IFR all the time. Once you’re out of the clouds, it does make a big difference to you from a safety perspective and just stacks the cards in your favour if you are not flying at night time, and you are able to do a lot more visual things that you can do during day time.
It’s just really a personal choice I suppose, is if you’re willing to fly at night or if that’s something you want to stack in your favour and try to fly during the day instead, because there are dangers that come with night-time flying that don’t come with daytime flying.
Alright, so that’s it for weather wisdom. Now, system savvy. The IFR system is a very complex system obviously. A complex that are procedures, traffic and timing considerations. You need to know how you fit in all of these and how to fly efficiently in a system meant for high accuracy and honestly in a lot of cases, it’s meant for airlines. It’s meant for getting people reliably from point A to point B in pretty much any type of weather.
You need to familiarize yourself with certain things and you need to ask yourself some of these questions that I’m about to ask. How does the IFR system work? How does it all flow together? How do the controllers fit in with the pilots and the pilots with the controllers and controllers with the ground crew, all of these things. How does that all work together? By knowing that, you can more efficiently operate in IFR.
The next question is, what is the most efficient way to fly an IFR? That’s one question that you need to always be asking yourself, is what is the most efficient way I can do this? If you can find some short of shortcut in your route, and I’m not saying taking a dangerous shortcut or something that was unplanned or just unpredictable, but rather maybe cutting a little corner from this VOR to that VOR instead of having another VOR in between or a way point and saving yourself a few minutes. And so you arrive a little bit earlier, you save a little bit of fuel. These are always things you need to be stacking in your favour. What’s the most efficient way? Again that’s the question you need to always be asking yourself.
Another question or rather a set of questions is what are you trying to accomplish? Are you out there to experience the IFR just to gain experience in IFR or are you trying to do it efficiently, or quickly rather. Efficiently and quickly are closely related. I would say you are always looking to do it not necessarily quickly but with expediency. You are looking to do things the most efficient way you possibly can. That’s where you gain the most experience and that’s where you start to really understand how the IFR system works although there is some book knowledge that goes with that as well.
Another question you need to ask yourself is do I need to be doing IFR the entire time? That’s more of I guess a personal question, what you are willing to put up with as far as clearances because sometimes air traffic control can hold you on the ground. It takes way too long. You can depart VFR and get in the air and pick up IFR in the in the air and be just fine. You need to ask yourself, “Do I want to do this the entire time? Do I need to practice my radio communication so it would actually be advantageous for me to start of my IFR in the ground and wait twenty minutes or whatever it is,” or do you want to get in the air and get to your destination. That goes back to that experience in expediency question, is what are you trying to accomplish there?
Those are things that you should experience. You should experience how to actually pick an IFR in the air. That are just obviously different situations that you want to try and you want to do. Another couple questions that are closely related is when is it inconvenient or too slow to do IFR? Should you really be doing IFR in VFR conditions if your goal and mission for the day is to get somewhere at a certain time? Although we shouldn’t use that somewhere at a certain time as an absolute, we always have the decision to say no even if there are consequences. You don’t necessarily need to be doing IFR if it’s very restrictive for the area you’re in if your goal is to be somewhere. You don’t want to stack that against yourself as far as getting somewhere. Although IFR can actually be expedient, in a lot of cases it can be faster than VFR, you just need to ask yourself, “Should I be doing IFR or shouldn’t I be doing IFR?”
The last one is the conditions. Should you be doing IFR in VFR conditions? Again, I’ve always really enjoyed myself. I’ve always enjoyed just doing IFR all the time. I find it’s easier to work in the system that way when it’s just a habit of doing IFR even if I’m departing VFR first and then picking up IFR, I just feel it better to work in a system all the time. But that’s a personal preference. It really depends on I guess the flight mission that you are operating in. That’s system savvy. Just some questions and thoughts and ideas to help you understand your mission in the IFR system and what your purpose is and how you would like to utilize that time in the IFR system.
Next comes communication clarity. Your relationship with air traffic control is very unique and as a result, you as a pilot need to know what you can request, what you can do and what you can’t do. You need to know a lot of different scenarios and how to best utilize air traffic control and how to assist them as well. Obviously this is a two-way street. Controllers can help you and you can actually help them too. There are times when they are bound by protocol and can’t do what you want. Obviously you don’t always get what you want and you need to know what to do in those situations as well.
My biggest first thing with communication clarity here is just ask. Ask a controller if you have a question or a request or anything in between or if you need them to clarify something. It never ever hurts to ask. I can only envision one situation where it would hurt to ask if you can tell that everyone else is doing one particular thing and it’s a super busy area and they’re cramming traffic in and landing them in sequence and it’s just really tight and there’s really no badgering. You’ll understand those situations. You’ll understand that you can’t request another runway without there being a lot of consequences. It’s kind of common sense but there are a lot of situations where you can ask the controller, even clarifying questions or whatever you need, whenever you are in doubt of the instruction given or you would like to do something maybe a little different and you would like to request something from them, it never, ever hurts to ask a controller. I think that’s probably the golden rule of communication clarity.
Next is, know your place. There are a lot of planes in the skies obviously and you need to know where you fit. You need to know where you fit in priority, and you’re going to experience that a lot especially as a general aviation pilot and you will experience it at different levels as you grow up if you will through multi-engine incorporate and up in the jets or airlines if you’re getting there. You’ll recognize that the priority handling of air traffic control is different as you go up through the ranks. Again, you just need to know your place and how all that works.
Next is work with the controllers. This is one of my biggest things and something that I really appreciate when I hear on the radio and one thing that I really try to do myself is I really try to help controllers. I want to know their challenges in that particular area. I want to know if I’m being a hassle. If I’m being a hassle and I’m on their scope and they’re having to stop traffic in an international airport for this little airplane that’s coming in to some satellite field and it’s VFR conditions and I can go under bravo, then I’m going to cancel my IFR and continue VFR with that same controller. These are just situations and things that we can help controllers out by making their job easier and so they can focus on the things that really matter.
Now, if you needed that IFR, if you’re in IFR conditions, obviously you don’t want to cancel just to make things easier on the controller. You need to do what you need to do as a pilot and really that’s the overreaching thing of communication, is you are in control of your aircraft and you are responsible at the end of the day. That’s the way that any aviation law states it. That means that even if you have to, you will ignore or break an air traffic control instruction in order for the safety of yourself and your passengers.
Be careful with that one because you will have to answer for it if you do it incorrectly. That’s kind of branching off into a different subject but really helping out the controllers as much as you can I think goes a long way and they will be more able to help you as a result, and it’s kind of this unsaid rule in aviation that you try to help out the controllers and then they can help out you and it’s kind of just pay it forward or karma type thing that keeps going back and forth between the controllers and the pilots. Obviously, we don’t want to be a nuisance to each other. We’re there to fly safe. We’re there to get to our destination and that’s a goal that everyone has, and so there’s that give and take. That finishes communication clarity.
Next is predictable procedures and this one is a little bit longer. I’ll try to breeze through it. A perfectly executed procedure is one of the most beautiful parts of being an IFR pilot. All the complexities that come with flying in exact profile and ending up on target at the runway will be sure to build your confidence as an IFR aviator, and confidence is one of the things we really want to get to when we’re talking about IMC and being an IFR pilot.
How can you best set yourself up for success? I have a few things here that we can just touch on. I think we’ll just touch on these so we leave enough time for the other segment. But first and foremost, just know your aircraft. Know what it’s capable of. How does it operate in IFR. What kind of IFR capabilities does it have that has a lot to do with avionics but also the performance of the aircraft has a lot to do with the capabilities. What kind of departures you can do and arrivals, things like that. It does matter. You need to know how to best set up your aircraft for success. That goes to cockpit resource management, actually using the tools around you in order to assist you in doing great approaches and great procedures, departure procedures, arrival procedures, there’s a lot of procedures. You need to know how to best set up your particular aircraft, that unique aircraft for success.
Next is highly scrutinized routines, and the reason I put scrutinized or highly scrutinized in there rather than just routines, is because we don’t want to get into routines that are fixed when there may be a problem with that particular routine, okay? What I’m saying is you don’t want to get into a bad routine and so you want to always be evaluating that routine that you’re getting yourself into. Again, highly scrutinized routines but routines are very important. Routines and how you go through the ABCDEFG of how to set up your approach, how to do everything you need to do during a procedure is incredibly important. Setting up a good routine, a healthy routine is very essential. By doing all these, it makes a lot of what you do during your procedure second nature and almost like a checklist in your mind. Checklist usage is obviously super important. With all these, with anything IFR but we’re not really talking about it in this particular episode.
Another big thing that was huge for me in really coming to a place where I was confident in IFR was power and configuration envelopes with the particular aircraft I was using and this could go back to knowing your aircraft. There are a lot of power and speed combinations and flap combinations so on and so forth. Different configurations of the aircraft where you can essentially set power to a certain place and your aircraft will slow to a certain speed and do certain things where you essentially set it and forget it.
The Bonanza that I once flew was very, very good at this. You set it to a certain power setting, it slow down to approach speed, you would put down the landing gear at the final approach fix or the intercept and essentially you wouldn’t even have to touch trim or anything else, it would just descend right on a three-degree glide slope, barely anything else you have to do. Those sort of things help you out a lot. Otherwise, you may get behind the aircraft. But helping the aircraft will help you in getting everything stable and being able to set those certain configurations and knowing that you will get a certain airspeed, a certain descent, things like that. Then you can make fine adjustments for your particular situations. Those help out a whole lot.
Also knowing how to do that in your transition from cruise, the intermediate approach, approach landing and obviously different – this is the big place for power configurations and different aircraft configurations because when you’re talking about departures, you’re essentially high-powered just getting out of there if you will. That’s important to know as well.
Last for this predictable procedures area or subject if you will, is varying situations. Try flying into new places, try flying different approaches that you aren’t familiar with. Just broaden your scope of the system and procedures that you could do and see what you are capable of. The big idea here is to just keep sharp on all the different types of procedures that you are wanting to do, and by doing all the things that I mentioned, you’ll definitely be super solid in your procedures. You want everything to be nice and predictable, and you want to slow things down for yourself. You don’t want to be behind the aircraft, and so a lot of these things I mentioned and obviously some more things that I failed to put in here will assist you in doing just that in having predictable procedures.
Now we’re into condition conditioning. That’s a little confusing. What do I mean by condition conditioning? The big thing here is to condition yourself and your mind to fly in actual conditions and use that ticket. Don’t just become the guy that squeaks by on his check ride. We want you to rock that check ride because you know your stuff, and then cherish the beauty that comes with floating amongst the clouds. That’s really what an instrument ticket is all about. You really want to be actually flying in these conditions. This is some of the most beautiful and rewarding type of flying that you can possibly do. Although there’s a lot to consider when taking on actual instrument condition flight, it is definitely rewarding. Condition conditioning means you are conditioning yourself to fly in instrument conditions okay? So I hope that makes sense.
The big thing here and first and foremost is to fly in the actual conditions. Go and fly in what you would do every day if you have someone saying, “I need you to fly here today.” I’m not saying do that regardless of what’s in front of you, but don’t hold yourself back from going to a place or flying into weather. Get yourself educated on all you need to know to feel comfortable with getting into that situation. That goes down to a lot of things, even your ability and confidence in handling the aircraft when you can’t see outside the airplane. We just need that confidence to do these things before we actually go in. But again, it’s kind of a conundrum because the experience comes from actually going to those conditions. One of the best things I feel to do this is find an instructor that is willing to fly in actual conditions with you, and so you get a feel for what these things are like, and so you guys can experience it, that it becomes an integral part of your training, to know what it’s like to be in the clouds, not with just a hood over your eyes but actually in the clouds.
The big idea here is to get comfortable and confident. I’ve said that so many times. Finding an instructor that will do that or actually being on those conditions, you’ll know what it looks like, you’ll know how it feels, it’s very different from having a hood on because it’s real. It’s not this fake thing where the instructors says, “Okay, we’re getting out of control a little bit, pull up your hood, look outside.” It’s not like that. You don’t have that choice. I feel like our minds and our bodies react different when it’s for real.
A lot of what goes on with that as well is decisions are completely different in these situations. We act more sharply and the real thing has no replacement and I really do feel that way. Once you’ve done all these things, once you’ve flown in actual conditions a lot with your instructor, once you’re comfortable with IFR, we’ll talk about what that feels like later, but plan on actually using your IFR ticket. Stay proficient. Proficiency goes beyond what your governing agency requires you to do. I don’t think proficiency for their requirements is enough. I think you should be flying IFR a lot more. I know financial concerns come into play there, but if you’re going to get your ticket, just use it. It’s a great, great experience to fly in the clouds. Again, I keep using the B-word, the beautiful word, but there’s just nothing that replaces IFR flight.
Now we’re going to get to sailing safely. We don’t have a lot of time here to finish up these subjects but we may run a little over on this particular podcast. I like to keep it over or rather just around an hour, but we’ll see how we do here. The next subject is sailing safely. Much of IFR comes down to safety and we’ve talked about that a lot. You’ll be faced with decisions that are potentially dangerous, but don’t let that hold you back from experiencing IFR. There is a bit of danger in everything we do I suppose and you want to mitigate those risks by having a knowledge of all these things and the experience. Safety is key. It’s connected to everything we do as pilots.
Again, get educated, know what is in front of you, and know what situations you are putting yourself into. It will become obvious when there’s too much risk and it’s simply time to say no or stop. You need to be able to walk away from the airplane at the airport and do the hard thing at times. Some things you need to know. We’ll just kind of breeze through these.
Although I’m big on human factors, I feel like it’s going to be a common thread through a lot of what we do with Aviator Cast and so I feel like we’ll touch on that a lot later and I can breeze through it now but, human factors is a big deal with safety. You need to know what your physical limitations are. You need to know what your mental limitations are. All of these things are interconnected. We as humans interact very differently when we’re in the air with our bodies. Our bodies do some things like altitude issues and spatial disorientation issues, and also our decision-making processes and things of that nature that we need to be aware of. We’ll be touching a lot on human factors. I’m a huge believer in approaching aviation at a core level from a human factors perspective.
Also, you need to know how to make a go, no-go decision. You need to be brave enough to not go. I know that sounds silly but the bravery is often now in actually going into a stupid situation. It’s in staying in the ground and just saying, “You know, this is too much. I’m gonna wait it out. I’ll sleep in the lobby at the FBO, whatever it is.” You need to be brave enough to not go. Along with that, you need to learn to say no and we’ll talk about that in a few more seconds with passengers but you need to learn to say no, and I’m just going to leave it at that.
Also, you need your own personal minimum when it comes to IFR. There are obviously limitations that come with what the government has, the FAA, the JAA for example. What are your limitations? Obviously you can’t break those rules but what are your limitations beyond what is required by law? Is that something that you need to take a step further and say, “This is the rule, three statute miles but my rule is actually five statue miles. Those are things that you can investigate as you get more comfortable or even when you’re just starting your IFR training, or really even just taking your IFR ticket to a different level. I recognize that a lot of you already have an IFR ticket but maybe a many of you want to take it to a new level and actually use that ticket.
I already talked about learning to say no and that is very related to passenger pressure. Now, you are the boss, you are the leader of the aircraft. You are in control. You are in control when you’re not even flying. You get to say if you go or not. Sometimes you need to be an a-hole and just say no. If that’s what you really want to do and that’s what you need to do, you need to say no and you need to stand your ground, okay? If you’re flying any sort of passengers regularly, you’re going to find that eventually that you need to say no at some point. That kind of does it for passenger pressure, leaving that.
Another point in here is when you’re in doubt, you just shoot and go. Don’t guess. Take the guess work out of everything you do in IFR by either learning from experience with an instructor or gaining that confidence and then learning little by little. Obviously we learn a lot and then we get in a situation where we learn a little more but we’re learning at a safe level. We’re not putting ourselves in a dangerous situation in other words in order to learn more. We’re actually learning more safely. I think a lot of that comes with experience. But you can take the guess work out of what you do. If you don’t know what you need to know, obviously learn it. If you need help, ask. Those are sort of things that you just need to know.
Another big question and kind of to polish off this sailing safely section is when to divert. When you’re already in the air and you need to find a place to go and you need to stop your flight, when is it time? When do you say it’s time to stop this flight? Obviously, you want to be looking ahead of time and you want to be very aware of what’s ahead of you and what’s around you and what’s going on and that has to do with your aircraft, your mental state, the weather. It has to do with a lot of things. You need to know and be aware that you can actually divert in flight and that that is always a possibility, okay?
I guess the climax of what we’re getting to as an IFR pilot is eventually we wanted to all come together and just click. We wanted to just be this thing that just happens because you’ve engrained it in yourself and you’re working well through the system. You’re communicating well. The procedures are just clicking right along, okay? Now it does take a lot of work. It takes patience. You can definitely arrive at a place where your mind, actions, and that passionate aviator spirit all join in harmony to become a sharp and efficient IFR aviator, so definitely it’s possible. It’s this “a-ha” moment. It’s almost like the clouds part and the light shines through and concourses of angels are around and you just know at that moment when you do something right and you’ve completed this wonderful actual instrument condition flight and you’ve just landed, you know that it’s working and you know that you’ve arrived if you will and that you really do have these skills and attributes and knowledge in order to do all these safely. It’s one of the best achievements you’ll ever, ever feel. It’s on par with getting your first license or your first solo.
Being an IFR pilot is absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever done as a pilot. Some of the most beautiful experiences as a pilot have come from floating amongst the clouds, accomplishing difficult tasks and arriving safely at my destination. I just love, love, love IFR. There is just nothing like single engine, single pilot IFR. That is how to be a solid IFR pilot.
And now, the flight simulation segment…
And now, how to nail virtual jet landings every time. Landing a jet precisely is a lot of fun but it’s a rare and often unseen skill among flight simmers. Have you ever heard or learn of the actual procedure used by real airline pilots to land? My guess is no, it’s not really knowledge that’s shared. It’s kind of actually one of these experiences where I think airline pilots learn it just by experience and necessarily procedure like this but this was explained to me and has really, really helped me out with landing virtual jets and this is what real pilots use all the time and how they do the final part of their landing. We’ll talk about that.
Although we’re primarily talking about a visual approach here, that’s what we want to get out. Again, I’m kind of branching out from our hand flying segment in last episode. These tips are still very much a part of all the approaches in landings that you’ll do. After this segment and with a lot of practice which we’ll talk about as well, you will be landing your virtual jets like never before. Getting right into it, I would like to dispel some myths that comes with landing in jet.
One thing I heard at one time that really annoyed me was great pilots always make perfect landings. If you’re judging a pilot by how smooth his pilots are, you’re focusing on point 00.1% of what matters in that pilot’s toolbox if you will. It doesn’t have to be an absolutely smooth landing all the time. In fact, sometimes you actually have to plant the wheels down, that’s what you have to do so we’ll talk about that a little bit. That’s one myth. Get that out of your head. You don’t have to do this perfectly smooth squeaky landing. That’s not what it’s about and it’s not what you’re supposed to do. If that happens, great, but you don’t need to be measuring the feet per minute upon touchdown. It’s just not useful, not the pain, and we’ll talk more about why that’s the case or you’ll why that’s not the case as we go on and talk here.
Crosswind versus regular landings. Essentially all landings are a crosswind landing. All landings are very different. There’s always air moving around, blowing the aircraft to and fro almost always and so you’re always having to deal with some sort of challenge with controlling the aircraft. You’re never going to be able to just leave the control wheel there stationary and just keep lined up and just flying perfectly. It’s just not realistic.
Another myth is that jets land themselves and they’re easy to land. Completely untrue. This is not an easy procedure. This is actually a very difficult procedure because it happens so fast especially once you get to the flare stage. Yes, jets do land themselves with autoland but pilots land them too. That’s been happening all this time and they still do it. Although it is pretty rare, pilots still do land the jet themselves completely by hand, and it definitely isn’t easy.
Another myth is that jets land like GA aircraft or general aviation aircraft and you should be essentially landing in what is often referred to as a controlled stall. That’s not how jets land. You don’t want to hear the chirp of the stall warning horn before you hit the ground. It’s a completely different procedure than that. You’re essentially driving the aircraft to the landing and you’re not looking or seeking that stall like you would with a Cessna for example. Although that is just one technique, I understand there a lot of different landing techniques than just the controlled stall.
Another myth and another thing I hear thing I hear people say and this saying in aviation really alwa thing I hear people say and this saying in aviation really always bugs me is that if people walk away, it’s a great landing. That’s not true. You want to be able to use your aircraft again. It’s not a great landing if people can walk away, so get that out of your head. We broke this down into an acronym that I just so happen to come up with. I tied this stuff out and it was an actual acronym, so it actually kind of worked really well.
The procedure is called AFFTR, and that’s with two FFs. It’s spelled A-F-F-T-R, so it still kind of spells “after.” I think it works really well. This is an easy way to remember how to set up your landing correctly. This acronym will ensure you set up a perfect landing if you do it perfectly and it does that step by step. If you get one of these steps wrong along the way, it could easily cascade down to the other large mistakes and eventually you’ll need to go around or you’ll screw up your landing, so just keep that in mind that each one of these procedures or steps is very essential for the success of the next step.
Alright, so we have the AFFTR acronym. The first which is “A” is approach. Getting set up on the approach correctly and having a decent profile is half the battle. You really want to get this approach right. Once you’re set up and stable, the rest gets a lot easier and can just really just be much, much better. With approach, you want to be aware of your aircraft configuration. Are you configuring your aircraft at the right time? You need to know when to make your decisions on when to extend the flaps and the gear. Obviously the flaps come before the gear, that’s kind of how it works. You can see that through some of our training products. You need to know how to configure your aircraft through that phase, that approach phase, and how to get yourself slowed down and in your landing configuration if you will.
You also need to know your flight envelope. Are you too fast? Are you too slow? Are you too high? Are you to low? Those are a lot of things you need to constantly be asking yourself and adjusting is your flight envelope. Another thing and I kind of have a little I guess math homework here for you with this one, but another big thing is glide scope. You want to be essentially on a good descent angle, much like an ILS to your landing. You can do that very, very easily and we can do that by knowing what vertical speed we should have.
Now, a ballpark figure works just fine and I’m going to teach you how to do that here. Once you use this ballpark figure, you’ll be able to do that three-degree glide slope just right. What you do is you have your airspeed and add a zero. For example if your airspeed was 150 knots on approach, that was your VRF, then you would basically be at 75, right? That’s in half, and then you add a zero. Really, these are the numbers you are looking at. You’re looking at 750, so 75 plus a zero. Essentially what this is doing is just giving you 750 feet per minute in order to do that descent. You want to be negative 750 feet per minute. That’s going to get you on about a three-degree glide slope at 150 knots. Again, half your airspeed, add a zero. Very, very simple. Again, ballpark works. That’s just something you look at yourself as your VRF and ask yourself what does my descent rate need to be for this particular airspeed and just do that quick equation.
Approach, again, big adjustments for small adjustments later. You want to get stabilized as soon as possible because later on down the road or down the approach, big changes won’t be possible. It just becomes much more difficult when you get close to the airport and your aircraft gets in that slower configuration with everything out, it just becomes less maneuvarable.
The next part of the acronym, an “F.” We have two FFs here. The first F is final approach. At final approach, this is where the procedure gets very specific for a jet. This other approach stuff that I mentioned, that’s pretty basic for any aircraft that you use but now that we’re into this final approach phase and down into the flare and rollout, this becomes quite specific to a jet. Pay attention. These steps are super, super important and you really shouldn’t deviate from them. I haven’t put a lot in here of what not to do but I’ll try to mention some of those.
Again, we’re on the first F of the AFFTR acronym and that is final approach. The first thing you need to do on final approach or at a specific point is you need to go visual. That means that you are looking outside the aircraft and not using your instrumentation. At about 150 feet at latest, you should be fully visual for the runway. Obviously, we’re talking about a visual approach here. I know that you could argue, “What about an ILS?” Let’s not talk about an ILS right now. Let’s talk about fully visual. At 150 feet at latest, you should be fully visual. At this point, you almost need no power adjustments and you won’t need a lot of adjustments to align because we set up the approach correctly and your flight profile won’t change much at all. You need to be fully visual outside the airplane. You’re not looking anything inside the airplane. You’re not paying attention to your feet per minute or anything. This is where you are controlling the aircraft based on visual references outside the airplane and how all that is looking going back to the core skills you gained as a VFR pilot.
Also at this point, you should be stabilized and on target. If you aren’t stabilized and on target, it’s time to go around. If you’re not ready to land at this point at 150 feet, it’s time to get out of there and try again. You can make this decision at any point to get out of there. If anything looks off even before 150 feet or 100 feet or 50 feet or even if you’re on the ground already and things just aren’t going well, you can always go out of there. Obviously, there is some point during the rollout where you can’t just go around but if you’ve touched on the wheels and the slats haven’t come up and you’re not reverse thrust then you can still go around, but we’re talking about final approach here. You always have that decision to make to go around if things just looked off. That’s the first F.
The next F is flare. The flare is in basic terms, when you’re transitioning from that descent angle that you have that you calculated right, you’re transitioning from that to a very smooth touchdown or as smooth as you can possibly get in most situations, obviously not in all situations. You’re not always going to want to plant your wheels down smooth as butter but that is essentially what you’re doing is you’re transitioning from the descent angle to an angle or a descent rate or a touchdown where the situation. Because if you just get that one descent rate, you just drive the thing right in the ground, you’d really bend up the aircraft and cause millions of dollars in virtual damage if you will. That’s what the flare is. But, this flare process is the most specific part you need to pay attention too and this will really, really help you out. I think you guys are going to love this, because it gives you some specific guidelines finally on how to land a jet properly.
Again, just like the final approach, the flare is based 100% on visual cues. You should not be looking in the airplane. You should not be looking in the airplane at this point. You should be looking outside the airplane using your peripheral vision and that’s very difficult to do in a simulator but you should be getting the visual cues from outside the airplane.
With that said, now, everything that I’m about to tell you, all of these next few steps, they all happen simultaneously. It’s kind of like this three-step process or four-step process where you’re doing several things all at once to smoothly land the airplane.
Here’s what you need to do. Smoothly roll back power at about 50 to 20 feet. When you hear that altitude callout – I found that 30 feet is where I’ve really tried to work it into. You want to smoothly roll back your power between 50 and 20 feet, 50 is a little high, 20 is a little low, and so it’s somewhere in between. You can get used to it, but that’s when you want to start rolling back your power. You listen for those altitude callouts and you start to roll back that power. Don’t be afraid to roll back your power aggressively if you need to because you’re about to touchdown. You really don’t want to be carrying extra power as you roll out this flare. This is a very sensitive part of this procedure and again like I told it’s all simultaneous. We’re going to go in rolling back your power to essentially which is the next step. You want to be idle by the time you’re about to touchdown. When you roll out that flare, you want to be idle on the power.
It’s a transition from that descent rate and then you start to roll out between 50 and 20 feet and then you’re pulling up as you’re flaring or pulling back on the stick. You’re pulling out that power simultaneously. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive with it as well but don’t be too aggressive. You’ve just got to find that sweet spot. This transition from where you’re at between 50 and 20 feet, usually again for me I find that it’s about 30 feet. After it’s transitioned and the thrust roll back, it only takes a few seconds and you’ve got two different skills to hone in here at this particular point. We’re not to the touchdown point yet. You’ve got the how fast and how aggressively you’re rolling back the power and at what altitude you are actually starting your flare. You’re flaring and pulling that power simultaneously. I hope I’ve said that enough. I’m just trying to repeat it for you guys so you understand and so you’re not missing anything there. It only takes several seconds. It’s very quick and even just a millisecond on each end matters. Pulling back too early or starting your power reduction too late, all of these stuff matters in a big way during this entire transition.
The idea with the pitch and again this is all simultaneously is you want to do so smoothly. If you pull back too hard on the yolk when you’re doing this flare then you have the potential of floating the aircraft and especially if you’re carrying too much power at that point, it becomes a big problem if you flared and suddenly you’re 20 feet above the runway and you’re flared and kind of level and you still have some power and you’re going to be floating a long way down the runway. That’s why I say that milliseconds to this and you’ll have to practice this over and over and over again. You just need to watch out for those particular details, is really the timing. The timing is huge, so you need to watch out for that.
Again, the pitch, this whole process, the pitch and the rollback and the thrust is a simultaneous thing that happens. Now that we’ve done that, our aircraft should essentially be in a situation where we’re settling into the runway. This in and of itself when we’ve already made a good effort to get pitch just right and we made a good effort to roll back the power, now we’re set up to touchdown correctly. This is why earlier I said that you don’t need to smoothly land the aircraft. It’s not like landing a GA airplane because with a fun little Cessna, we can squeak landings all day and it’s fun to not even feel the touchdown. But with a jet, you do not want to float. You have a lot of runway or sometimes too little runway, you have rather a heavy aircraft to deal with as you are on this runway, and chewing up a bunch of runway by floating too far is just very dangerous.
My point here is don’t be afraid to plant your wheels down. There is nothing wrong with that. At this point, you have idle power. You should essentially be flying the airplane into that touchdown. If you’re floating too much, you got to fly it down. You’re still flying the airplane. You’re not just stalling. You actually got to fly the airplane down. Again, floating is not desired here at all. That is what you are trying to avoid. You’re trying to get to that touchdown or you can then get all your stuff out, meaning your slats, and you can start your reverse thrust. You can put that nose wheel down. All of those things to get the airplane stopped.
The touchdown, this entire process, takes small quick and deliberate adjustment to make sure that the flare process all happens correctly. Really, there is no difference between the actual flare and the touchdown. All these all happens within just a few seconds. These are all like little tiny skills you need to work on. The combination of timing and quality of what you’ve done during that process will determine how great the touchdown is. It starts with the approach really, to the final approach, to the flare and then that will determine your touchdown.
Although I’ve said that it’s not about touching down smoothly, unfortunately passengers do determine a pilots ability to land smoothly. That’s how they judge a pilot is by how smooth he lands. They don’t really care that he went across continents to get them where they are, and that in and of itself is an amazing thing but that’s how pilots are judged. You do want to touchdown if you can, if the conditions call for it, smoothly if you can. If you can. There are situations where you don’t touchdown smoothly. Some of those situations would be if you’re in a crosswind landing situation. It is very difficult and you really can’t do that smoothly. It’s just the aircraft is really doing a lot of work where if you have a strong crosswind to where you have to get into the place and often that is quite a hard and aggressive maneuver that you just have to do with the airplane. It isn’t very comfortable for passengers.
Another would be if you’re planning into standing snow or water on the runway, you don’t want to be just landing yourself on to a smooth hydroplaning situation. That’s I guess the touchdown. That’s the “T” in the AFFTR acronym.
Now we’re on to the “R.” This is the last part, the rollout. You want to smoothly bring the nose down after landing and again you’re still flying the airplane, you want to fly that nose down, you’re still working with the yolk, so you want to fly that nose wheel on to the runway. During the rollout, you also want to make sure that all of your systems are working properly, things like autobreak, slats and reverse thrust. All of those things start to matter a whole lot at this point because now we need to get the airplane stopped, and then maintaining alignment just like any other landing is very important for the rollout and you need to also think about exiting safely. You don’t want to exit too fast. Exiting too late can be potentially annoying for people behind you that are trying to land if things are crowded. You want to get off the runway when you can. You don’t have to get off too aggressively, but just keep in mind that you need to exit safely and exit in a timely manner.
Remember that acronym, AFFTR, that is approach, final approach, flare, touchdown and rollout. Work on what I call the escalation of precision. The further you’re getting down that approach path all the way to touchdown, the more and more and more precise you need to be with your control movements to make it happen. But I know that if you do those things, then you can do really, really well with it.
The big key here is that practice makes perfect. This is the big, big thing here. As pilots, we spend very, very little time actually in the flare process because it only takes a few seconds to do this entire procedure. Even over the broad career with tens of thousands of hours as a pilot, you’re only going to have several minutes to several hours of practice in that actual situation where you’re flaring the aircraft.
Practice is a big, big thing. One thing that I really, really recommend and this is how I learned to do this initially, is save a flight file for each aircraft you love. What you want to be doing is you want be setting up varying situations. Most importantly, at least from a beginner’s standpoint is you want to be doing straight-in and already stabilized setup for the approach. All you have to do is worry about maneuvering the airplane down the touchdown. Well, through rollout I supposed too, but that’s all you want to do, is worry about doing that over and over again. But you can also try base to final or downwind and then what you want to do is you want to be restarting this flight over and over and over again, practicing for hours and just getting it right. Just over and over and over again. Eventually, you’ll just nail it. You’ll really start to get this down when you’re practicing this procedure over and over and over again.
You can mix it up like I said with different situations. You can also mix up the weather and wind and things like that. Mostly just wind. I wouldn’t add too much weather. I wouldn’t add rain or anything but mainly add weather or rather wind. And so you can feel the differences of how that looks. Now, you won’t want to add too much wind because then we’re talking about a completely different procedure when you’re getting into a difficult crosswind landing.
Another way to get proficient and stay sharp is to have competitions with friends. I found that very fun when I first started and it just adds kind of an intensity to this whole process to make you nail that target, hit the landing really well when you’re taking turns, seeing who can do a better landing. That’s essentially what it all is. Practice is a huge thing. If you know that after a procedure, then you can come in and you can practice all these.
Now, there is actually an add-on out there that is really great for this process, because one of the time-consuming things about this is actually getting your airplane set up for this situation. It’s called FS Instant Approach Pro and I’ll put a link to that in the show notes and you guys can go and pick that up if you’d like. Essentially what it does is it sets up your airplane on final approach, all set up, ready to go at a particular distance and you’re set up at that runway. I think you can even choose any runway you want in the world and it will just set you up. It also set you up on base. It will set you up on a downwind if you want that. A lot of varying situations and this will just mean that you can focus on this procedure, this AFFTER procedure that we have talked about and you won’t have to focus on anything else.
Last but not least, I just want to mention this quickly. I have a few more notes that I’m actually going to share. You need to know the difference between very light jets, small corporate jets, smaller narrow body jets like 737s, that type, that range, and then wide bodies. Obviously, all of these aircraft, they land differently and have different characteristics and the cockpit sets higher above the ground than others or the cockpit is further ahead of the wheels than others. You need to be aware of the target for those aircraft are different. The visual cues are different. Just be aware of that. Just be aware of the airplane you’re in, and if you’re having trouble landing that particular aircraft, ask yourself, “Is it due to the visual differences of what I’m seeing in this particular aircraft and just the aircraft itself.”
If the wheels are a hundred feet behind you, then obviously you’re going to be landing ahead of your target point. There will be some differences in your approach in your landing procedure. But as far as how this after procedure works, it’s all the same. These differences with airplanes mainly come with your target and how it looks when you’re flaring. The actual distance that you’re flaring at doesn’t necessarily change but it’s really what it looks like when you’re going through that procedure, when you’re in that mandatory visual phase.
Landing the airplane or the aircraft on your own can be an absolute blast and I know you guys would love to do that and you’d love to know how to do great landings because it is one of those things that is sought out greatly by anyone. Everyone wants to know how to land great and obviously it’s a very rewarding experience when you do that correctly. Landing a jet again isn’t something that is easy but each little step you do here with practice and repetition will mean that you do really, really well with this and eventually you’ll just get it and it will make sense and you’ll continue to do it really well.
So that does it for this episode of Aviator Cast. I want to give credit to Atrasolis for providing us with the great music for this podcast. You can download his aviation-themed album for free by liking Atrosolis on Facebook and there should be a link to that in the show notes so go ahead and check that out. Huge, huge thanks also goes out to the great crew at Angle of Attack. They worked very hard to keep things going behind the scenes so we can do great things like Aviator Cast and Aviator 90 and a lot of the things you see here at Angle of Attack that come out in the public. A lot of stuff happens in private that keeps all of that going. Big thanks to those guys. Definitely, I am only really the voice of Angle of Attack. They are really the workhorse of everything that happens behind the scenes.
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