The FAA has a helpful publication that wouldn’t hurt us to check out now and then, whatever our level of experience and skill: the Airplane Flying Handbook. *** Sure, it may seem like plain vanilla… but where would hot fudge sundaes and banana splits be without good old dependable vanilla? *** We pilots need to maintain our good airmanship foundation, no matter how big a hotshot we sometimes imagine ourselves to be. Reviewing the essentials helps us recall those nuances we forget, or shortcut… and which, in a pinch, we may desperately need in our quiver of flying skills. *** Once we start down that “I-got-this-wired” slippery slope, the risk of incidents and accidents increases. Who needs that kind of education?Case in point: FAA’s Handbook section on porpoising. *** I sometimes revisit a landing tendency that I’ve been working to correct: I will make a bigger-than-necessary pitch correction after bouncing a landing. *** If I balloon up at a higher angle of attack then I want, I’ll push the nose over… too far. Instructors invariably tell me, “Whoa, just let it settle or go around, don’t go chasing it.” *** I picked up that habit from hang glider and ultralight flying, where ultra-slow landing speeds and draggy airframes sometimes let you get away with — and even require — dramatic last-second pitch-ups to keep you from making hard landings. *** The problem with such pitchy exuberance in an LSA or traditional GA airplane is the cleaner airframe’s tendency to let you get it into “porpoising” flight, by chasing an ever-growing up/down nose angle… until a hard impact becomes unavoidable. *** Porpoising is a classic scenario for collapsed landing gear. A local SportCruiser was recently destroyed when the pilot lost control after porpoising near the runway. *** Rather than reprise in my own words how to avoid mimicking the happy undulations of our sea-going mammalian friends, I’ll refer you to this excellent section (it’s a PDF: go to page 8-31). *** I know I picked up a few pointers I’d forgotten and I learned a couple things I’d never learned in the first place. After all, no one CFI can cover it all, no matter how skilled. *** A pilot’s license is our ticket to continue lifelong learning and self-teaching through study and practice is an important component of it. *** Speaking of the SportCruiser, I started to porpoise one the first time I flew it. The SLSA has a sensitive pitch response, especially compared to its roll pressures. *** I expected I would be easing the nose off the runway just fine on my first takeoff but we suddenly zoomed up to a 20-30 degree angle. Instead of easing the stick forward, I pushed it just a bit too smartly forward. We were instantly looking back down at the runway. *** My instructor said, “Whoa cowboy, easy does it!” as he eased the stick back to establish a proper climb angle. I became a pitchmeister with my pinkies in that airplane from then. *** The FAA Handbook’s bottom line: if you get seriously out of sync in pitch inputs, just power up and go around. *** We sometimes forget we usually have a choice. Doing a go-around is always a good mindset to keep in your mental skill set: it’s too easy to slip into the “I-gotta-land-now!” syndrome. *** Give that Handbook a look: I bet you’ll find something in there that will make you a better pilot.
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