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RV Landing Techniques

Brian Lloyd, Cameron Park, CA (
[Brian is a CFI, an engineer for Lucent, and a frequent contributor to the RV List.]

This is an interesting discussion but it mystifies me that it is even going on.  I have found my RV-4 to be one of the most docile landing aircraft I have ever flown regardless of the amount of flaps extended.  I guess I must have missed something somewhere.

An aircraft that is flying power off is going to bleed energy at a given rate out of ground effect and at a lower rate in ground effect.  It will bleed energy at different rates depending on the AoA and the configuration, i.e.  gear, flap, and speed-brake position.  If you are flying straight and level this manifests itself as deceleration.  If you are holding a constant airspeed it manifests itself as a given sink rate.  The engine lets you add in energy to adjust the rate at which the energy disappears.

All you are trying to do when landing is to have sufficient energy to adjust the aircraft path to make it parallel to the runway before there is no extra energy left and the aircraft stalls.  If you want to come in power off, you just need to ensure that you have extra energy in the form of airspeed (kinetic energy) so that you can round-out before you run out of energy.  If you arrive with too little energy, you will not complete the round-out before you run out of energy.  If you arrive with too much energy, you will complete the round-out with extra energy which must bleed off in ground effect.  Since energy bleed-off occurs more slowly in ground effect, you end up “floating”.

If you want to come in with less energy than you need for a power-off approach you can use the engine to add energy at a rate that offsets the extra loss.  This may be done at any point.  One approach would be to reduce airspeed (low energy to start with) and add power continuously to offset the increased energy loss.  This is the “drag it in hanging on the prop” approach.  You can also add in just enough energy at just the right moment to allow the airplane to round-out before it stalls.  This is the “shot of power so I don’t slam into the runway” approach.  (If done right this one is really cool!)

Then there is my favorite, the “hang it on the prop oh sh__ I am too slow give it a big shot of power oops I just ballooned now I need another shot of power to prevent the crash oh damn now I am floating three quarters of the way down the runway will I get it stopped in time oh hell I had just better go around again” approach.  Remember, energy management is your friend.

This message is an example of YANFITHGTSE (yet another new flight instructor teaching his grandmother to suck eggs).

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