Better Landings

Aircraft: C172 N52654

Flight Time: 1.0 hours

Total Hours: 36.7

Thinking about what I still need to improve before my checkride, I decided to put in another hour of takeoff and landing practice and work on my short and soft field technique. I’d been visualizing the landing process in my mind over the past few days and going over what I’d need to do in order to bring them into tight tolerance, and I felt good about giving them a try again.

The day didn’t start out well, though, as I slammed the flight school owner’s finger in the hangar doors as we were pulling out the plane. I quickly put that behind me and got down to business, took off with a soft field technique and did a lap around the pattern.

I did a normal landing for my first one, and although it wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad either. Right as I was doing my roundout, I made sure to glance about 45° off to my left to get a quick perspective of where I was in relation to the ground. My second was better and so I did a few short and soft fields, all of which went quite well. My soft fields were surprisingly… well, soft, and in fact, I didn’t have any bouncers or floaters in any of my landings.

I had talked with my instructor beforehand and remembered that during my bad landing session two weeks ago, I had been abruptly pulling all of my remaining power out right as I got over the runway, instead of waiting until right before touchdown. This caused the plane to drop and pitch slightly nose down, and also caused reduced elevator effectiveness due to the downwash from the propellor slipstream being suddenly lessened. Normal control inputs that I’d been using during my final approach were now not enough to bring me through a smooth roundout and flare and I would end up hitting the runway hard, or else pulling back too hard to compensate and floating back up over the runway.

Today I concentrated on better management of the throttle through final, flare and touchdown, and worked on small, smooth applications or reductions of power as needed. It helped considerably and at the end of the hour, I felt much more confident of my landing skills. I still had a bit of trouble keeping it on the centerline throughout the landing and rollout, but started to get a better handle on that later on.

I did have confusing moment, and got chewed out by the tower for it. I was on the downwind and following a Piper twin who was turning base ahead of me. The tower called and told me to follow the traffic on final, and I replied that I saw the traffic turning final right at that moment. I continued onto my base leg and right before I turned final, the tower called and asked if I saw the Cessna on final. Right then, a white Cessna zoomed by in front and below me on his way down on long final.

That’s when I got confused, because I was apparently supposed to follow the Cessna, not the twin. The tower guy may very well have told me to look for the Cessna, but since the twin was on final at the time, I was looking at him. Even if he did, he didn’t say that I was number 3, which might have helped. I did a go around, but then did not make the crosswind turn quickly enough and the tower barked at me for not following my instructions. When I came around on final again, I was still too close to the twin, who was also doing touch and go’s and I had to do another go around.

The next time around, I made extra sure to follow and read back my instructions as I did two more touch and go’s. It was definitely a good learning experience and it illustrates the need to stay on your toes, even if you make mistakes.

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