The Land of Perfect

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.

Comments

  1. Hi Deb, Nice one. I’m now down here in New Zealand and the idiots are here in full swing as well as everywhere else. I’ve a 46 Luscombe 8E with an 0200, plus a 46 8A with a C90 and another 46 8A ragwing with a C85. Also just finished up a TCraft BC-12. Thundering A65 makes it fly well and the number of ‘macho morons’ down here who have tried to taxi her and cant, makes me laugh. Most cant figure out how to start an A65 and heel brakes are right out of the question. Russ Ward

  2. Dennis Luckett says:

    This is just one of all the articles that Deb has written with the real aviator in mind. Right on Deb……… some of these guys need to stop playing with their GPS and other toys and look out of the window. I own a Taylorcraft and I do SLIP to a landing when needed. Keep up the good work and I really miss it when your article is not in the GA news.

  3. Nice piece, Deb. I guess I should have been dead a long time ago. The easiest way to put a 150 on the numbers was nose down in a good slip. But that was 40 years ago…….I guess the laws of aerodynamics have changed since then!

    Cheers!
    Stan
    Building a Zenith 750 for low and slow.

  4. Your GAN article entitled “The Land of Perfect” was, actually, well, perfect! I agree with everything you said. I also mostly lurk on several Yahoo groups and share your opinion about the veracity of the information presented. At first, I felt like I had to be the Lone Ranger, responding with a correction to every bit of misinformation, but hey, there is too much of it, so I gave up.

    In the spirit of full disclosure, let me hasten to add that I am a “pilot from a different era”–started flying in 1967 and am still doing it. Over about 3000 hours, I’ve flown everything from ultralights to small slow homebuilts to high performance homebuilts to restored antique/classics to single-engine spam-cans to high performance singles. I once flew coast to coast NORDO in a 200-mph homebuilt BD-8 (no, not a BD-4 or BD-5). I taught myself aerobatics in a Steen Skybolt I built after having read Duane Cole’s book “Roll Around a Point,” scaring myself silly in the process. I’ve performed thousands of slips, spins, and other “dangerous” maneuvers.

    Hopefully, a lot of “pilots from this era” will read your article and heed the valid points you make!

  5. right on!!! thank you!

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