Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Landing checklist

A recent thread on rec.aviation.soaring talked about landing checklists: what they include, mnemonics, etc. Some people said checklists are useless because they cover "basic airmanship" and one should not need to be reminded to do these steps. Others seemed to question the value of performing them during the pattern, thinking they should all be done beforehand. Here's a variation on what I posted:

I use the mnemonic FUSTALL:
  • F - Flaps
  • U - Undercarriage
  • S - Speeds
  • T - Trim Set
  • A - Airbrakes / Spoilers
  • L - Lookout
  • L - Land

For those that thought these points are too obvious, here's an explanation of what I think when going through some of these steps:

  • Flaps - Decide, based on altitude at pattern entry, whether I think I will need flaps to help add drag and bring me down. If I'm low, don't use them. If I'm high, decide on half or full flaps. Then set them and leave them (unless I get drastically low later.)
  • Undercarriage - Don't just move the handle, LOOK at it to see if the wheel is down or up.
  • Speed - It's a reminder to select a pattern and landing speed based on conditions as you enter the pattern. THAT's a reminder to check the wind sock or other cues to wind direction and speed. And a reminder to look at the whole pattern to see if you need to adjust your speed to blend in with otheraircraft.
  • Trim - Maybe I use trim less than others, but if I'm going in and out of thermals for short periods, hunting, etc., I don't trim all that often. This is a reminder to set the trim after selecting the pattern speed.
  • Lookout - not just in the air around your aircraft, but at the landing fieldand runway so you can plan whether to land left, right, short, long...
  • Land - yes, it's obvious, but it triggers me to think about alignment with/distance from the runway, how long my downwind will likely be, speed in base and final turns, look at my starting altitude and think about spoilers and perhaps slipping, remember wind gradient. In other words, focus my mind on all those things that make landing different from cruising and thermaling.
Maybe after thousands of hours, one doesn't need these reminders. For those of us new to the game (I'm coming up on one year since getting my PPG), theyare important reminders to build good habits.

For those who earlier questioned WHEN to do the checklist, before or during the pattern, here's my usual sequence:
  • FUST - during the 45-degree leg. Speed and Trim are as I'm nearing the end of the 45, getting ready to turn downwind, 'cuz that's about the time I can finally make out the wind sock.
  • ALL - Airbrakes on downwind. Lookout on downwind, 'cuz then I'm adjacent to the runway. This way there's plenty of time to do all the steps - no rush. It sets me up for a relaxed downwind leg.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your blog, I check it every so often. I am at a similar point in my flying career, a year licensed this April and just now getting checked out in a Grob 103.
I agree with your comments on the landing checklist, it is important especially for a low time pilot. I've even added water ballast to the list for the day I might fly with it. :-)
Flying out of Florida