Landing...Just for the Heck of it
By Bob Mackey, Vice President, Falcon Insurance Agency, Inc.
A few years ago, on a typical Wisconsin winter day, a Beech Bonanza was headed from Chicago to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The wind that day was blowing directly out of the west around 25 kts. It wasn't really gusting so much, rather it was just a steady hard wind that seemed determined to hang in there all day long.
Flying on an IFR flight plan at 8000 ft., the pilot started to experience a slight roughness in the engine. While directly over Oshkosh, the pilot decided to cancel the flight plan and land at Wittman Regional (OSH). So, after canceling the IFR flight plan and contacting the tower, the pilot began a shallow circle over the airport; however, with the prevailing westerly wind it wasn't long until the pilot was over the east side of the airport. As the descent continued the engine ran a little rougher yet not showing any signs of quitting. The pilot started to realize he was getting to the point where he needed to get over the runway in case the engine quit entirely, but it was a little too late. He landed one mile southwest of the airport. No injuries, but the aircraft clipped a road sign and several mail boxes before ending up in the front yard of a surprised homeowner.
Obviously, the pilot should have figured the wind direction and stayed to the west of the airport, or managed to stay above the airport by compensating for the wind. Even more so, the pilot, regardless of his experience, was terribly rusty when it came to a power-off approach. How about you? Could you make the runway at your airport if you started at 7,000 ft.? For that matter, if you were at pattern altitude and you reduced power to idle when you are abeam the point of your intended landing could you make it without having to add power?
Plan out an hour-long local flight using the following techniques to find out.
Clear a practice area to make sure you have no other traffic and make five turns around a point at 1,000 ft. If you successfully compensate for the wind and maintain your altitude and spacing, move on to the next task. If not, move away from your point and approach for another attempt.
Once you've mastered turns around a point, go back to the airport and make an idle power landing. You should coordinate your planned approach with the control tower or plan to conduct this task when the airport is less busy if your airport is uncontrolled. Be sure to clear the engine by adding and reducing power every 30 to 60 seconds. If you have to add power to make the runway you've failed the task and should try again.
After the landing, or touch-and-go, stay in the pattern and pick a point approximately 300-500 ft. from the approach end of the runway. When you're abeam that point on downwind, reduce engine power to idle and plan your approach so you land close to the point without being short. Again you should clear your engine a couple of times to make sure you have power if you are going to be short. If you have to add power to make the runway or make it past the point on the runway you've failed this task and should try again.
It's easy to always make a power-on approach. In fact with many aircraft it is recommended for engine cooling and other reasons. But, can you make a power off (idle power) landing or are you flying a 747 pattern with no chance of reaching the runway should your engine quit?
The best insurance in the world is being a good pilot, planning, and practice. In addition you need to be insured with people you can trust and will take care of your aircraft insurance needs. Every day EAA Members save money on their aircraft insurance because at Falcon Insurance Agency we are making sure they are getting the right aircraft insurance for the flying they are doing at the best price. For more information call 866-647-4EAA (4322) or visit us online at www.eaainsurance.org for an online quote request.
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