SHORT FINAL By DEBORAH McFARLAND
Like many aviators, I spend some of my free time cruising various aviation forums, and from past experience, I have learned to take what I read with a grain of salt.
Recently, however, it has been kind of difficult to ignore some of the nonsense that makes its way to these sites.
Through the wonderful portal of knowledge that is the Internet, I have been assured that I am dangerous because I utilize the slip. How so, I asked the CFI who forewarned of impending disaster. The slip is a cross-controlled situation, he said. Its use will lead to a stall and spin.
Another poster eagerly agreed and informed me that the slip is an “uncontrolled” maneuver and will ultimately lead to my demise. There were many possible replies that rattled around in my brain to these troublesome remarks, but instead of laying these poor gentlemen low with my caustic tongue, I was curious as to how they would suggest I lose altitude while controlling my airspeed.
Use your flaps, they said. There ya go! Who knew the answer could be so simple?
There’s just one problem: I don’t have flaps.
Then there is the debate about the crab/side slip crosswind approach to landing that always brings out a loon or two. I really don’t have a dog in this race. I don’t care what approach another pilot makes in his or her Cherokee, just as long as the field is still useable for me afterwards. However, one pilot insisted that experience taught him that the crab, which he used exclusively, was the best technique. Really?
This gentleman’s flying experience probably doesn’t include much time in a small taildragger. Lester never, ever approaches the ground in a crab. In the crosswind, one wing is low and one wheel touches the ground (what wheel that is, main versus tailwheel, is another debate altogether). My experience has taught me that “crab” is a four-letter word.
Every forum has the know-it-all/doomsayer whose job it is to the suck the fun and life out of every flying thread. Don’t practice stalls without a qualified instructor, they say. Don’t practice spins, steep turns, full-stall landings or landings with 40° of flaps or you’ll die for sure. Heaven forbid if your pull those lovely 40° flaps to their full measure and SLIP! Doom will surely follow — or just a very nice short field landing over a 50 ft. obstacle.
I don’t advocate being stupid, and I don’t condone poor judgment, but reading the doomsayers makes me realize that there are a lot of airplane owners and pilots who do not have an in-depth knowledge of the machine they are flying. They stay in this perfect little envelope where all the world is safe. The problem with this attitude is that there is no land or sky called Perfect.
In the land of Perfect, they are waging a war on the land of NORDO, and the most feared villain is the poor misunderstood Piper Cub. Every time a poster complains of not hearing an airplane communicate in the pattern, it’s always yellow, and if it’s yellow it must be a Cub. In the land of Perfect, this logic makes perfectly good sense.
In the United States of America, it is perfectly legal to fly an aircraft with no radio, but I can assure those in the land of Perfect, that not all NORDO airplanes are Cubs and not all Cubs are yellow.
Through participation in these discussions, I have come to realize that this is one of the worst fears of the modern pilot — not the stall, not the landing, not mechanical failure, but the non-electrical Piper Cub.
One poster went so far to suggest that those “pilots from a different era” should go away. Well now, that’s interesting. I don’t fly NORDO, but non-radio equipped airplanes don’t bother me. In fact, I think we should fly as if all airplanes are NORDO. That means using see and avoid practices and flying standard patterns at the proper traffic pattern attitude. Radios are not infallible. They fail. Electrical systems fail. Pilots forget to change frequency or check notams. Brains fail. My latest NORDO experience was not yellow. It was shiny, long and sleek and doing about 150 knots on a short final. I don’t think all Citation pilots should go away because one didn’t know the frequency of the airport where he was landing.
No, they should be forced to practice slips with 40° of flaps in a crab while NORDO in the land of Perfect. That’ll show ‘em!
Deb McFarland is the proud owner of Lester, a 1948 Luscombe 8E, and part of the “Front Porch Gang” at Pickens County Airport in Georgia. She can be reached at ShortFinal@generalaviationnews.com.