Today’s lesson was all about short field operations, namely taking off and landing. Which falls under the heading of Advanced Take-off and Landing Techniques. In a nut shell, short field is exactly as it sounds; taking off and/or landing using as little runway as possible. There are plenty of reasons to do this – short runway, obstructions at end of runway, less than ideal runway surfaces, etc.
This means back in the circuit! I haven’t done circuits for a while so it was interesting to see how much I remembered. We started the day with Robert doing the first circuit to show me how it’s done. A short field take off followed by a short field landing. It’s been quite a few months since I have seen Robert fly, basically from the point in which I could successfully land the plane, Robert stopped flying for me. You really take for granted how talented the person sitting in the right hand seat is. Robert really is an excellent pilot! The things that consume my concentration during a circuit come so naturally to him and are made to look so simple. I won’t inflate his ego too much, but, if after all of this I’m half the pilot that Robert is, I’ll be incredibly happy.
So back to lesson. To conduct a short field take off, you line up on the runway, throttle to full while holding the brakes on. Then release the brakes and head off down the runway while applying a small amount of back pressure on the yoke. More than usual, but not enough to do a wheelie. At 55 knots take off and hold a fairly steep climb until you are clear of any obstacles e.g. trees, etc. and then return to a normal climb.
A short field landing is the opposite, trying to land on as little runway as possible. To do this, you fly a low flat approach with full flap to create a slow draggy profile. By slow, I mean 52 – 55 knots as opposed to the usual 65 – 70 knots that we land with. At this speed you don’t have a lot of energy to work with should you find yourself too high over the threshold, so it is important to end up very low over the numbers so that when you pull the power, you don’t have far to fall. After touching down, you immediately ‘feel’ for the brakes which means applying a small amount of equal pressure on the toe brakes and applying more and more pressure as the plane slows. You’re wanting to slow the plane as quickly as possible without locking up.
In the interest of lesson efficiency, we conducted circuits doing what is called a stop and go instead of a touch and go. A touch and go is where you land, retract flaps and adjust trim all on the roll before taking off again. A stop and go is where you come to a complete stop after landing and then take off again on the remaining runway. This allows us to conduct a short field take off after every landing.
I felt like I went well! The correct attitude in take-off took a bit of getting used to and the landings feel somewhat unsafe, but after a few circuits I got the hang of it. On the last couple of circuits we had to return to touch and goes due to a flying school doing joy rides to the TV Towers and back. Because of our slow approach, we were starting to hold them up!
I’ll probably need a little revision on these before the test.
Next lesson is uber exciting! I’m not going to give it away, but it’s the next big milestone in my training!