Learning Plateus and How to Overcome them

Paul Hamilton is one of the first persons to become a DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner) for sport pilots. As a full-time author and sport pilot expert, he writes books and produces DVD's for Aviation Supplies and Academics (ASA). Now Paul has graciously agreed to answer your questions here. Thanks Paul! For more information about Paul, please visit www.Paul-Hamilton.com and www.Sport-Pilot-Training.com.

Moderators: drseti, Paul Hamilton

bill_dom
Posts: 14
Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2011 11:49 am
Location: Miami

Learning Plateus and How to Overcome them

Postby bill_dom » Fri Apr 22, 2011 10:14 am

Have any of you got stuck in a learning plateau? How did you overcame it?

As of my last flight, I have accumulated 38 hours (engine running time, I estimate some 34 of actual flight time). I'm doing well in everything, ground reference maneuvers, all types of take offs, normal landings, power on/off stalls, everything except for short/soft field landings. It seems like I'm stuck in the mother of all learning plateaus, or so it seems.

I now have some 7 to 8 hours of pattern practice doing mostly short field landings and a few soft fields, but still I don't dominate this. Progress have been very sloooow and is very frustrating. I always do the approach well and stable and on airspeed, I never had problem with approaches. My problem is with the flare, too early, too late, too much or not enough, always resulting on some sort of funny landings. I do get some acceptable or perfect ones like half of the time but not consistently.

I fly only once a week and that is part of the problem, I'm planning on taking a few days off from work and practice for 3 or 4 consecutive days to see if there any improvement. Another problem is fatigue, I fly in a very busy airspace and pattern work is demanding when there are 3 or more students doing touch and goes plus the regular traffic coming in and out. I have solved the fatigue problem by having my instructor fly the pattern and give the plane to me on final. This allow me to do more landings with less fatigue in a single session. But still, progress is slow.

I have done this practice with 3 instructors and I get different reasons from them as to what I'm doing wrong. One says that touch downs are too hard when I make the selected spot, another says that they are not that hard but side loading is the problem and I need to improve directional control (the plane does not want to roll over but you can feel a little of side corrections after touch down). The third says that I'm almost there with the short landing and that I just have to make sure I have it on the spot because I miss it some times. So I'm also having a little problem determining what I need to improve. I'm sure that most of my short/soft landings are not perfect, but I'm confused as to how acceptable they are, after all, no one have been injured and the plane always fly again without needing repairs. Also, In a real short field, the majority of these landings would have allowed the plane to stop before the end of the runway. So this is all about meeting the PTS that I have read, it does mention something about smooth touch down but that could be a little relative.

I'm considering hiring the examiner that is going to give my check-ride and have him evaluate my short/soft field landing.

This have become very frustrating, I used to enjoy my flight lessons a lot but know, it is about me vs. the short field landings.


Any comments?

zdc

Postby zdc » Fri Apr 22, 2011 10:45 am

Is there another less busy airport nearby to practice touch n go's? Your instructor could give you an endorsement to fly solo to that airport to practice. I think less time between practice will help. Your brain will eventually start to process visual clues, that you won't be aware of, as to when to flare. If you have the approach speed nailed, you're halfway there.

bill_dom
Posts: 14
Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2011 11:49 am
Location: Miami

Postby bill_dom » Fri Apr 22, 2011 10:56 am

zdc wrote:Is there another less busy airport nearby to practice touch n go's? Your instructor could give you an endorsement to fly solo to that airport to practice. I think less time between practice will help. Your brain will eventually start to process visual clues, that you won't be aware of, as to when to flare. If you have the approach speed nailed, you're halfway there.


The plane is based in KTMB but this airport is so busy that touch and goes are often denied by ATC. So I always go to X51 but this one can also be very busy at times. The other alternative is KTNT which is where I go when X51 is too busy. The problem is that KTNT is twice as far away and the extra time to get there and back cut in the landing practice.

I have though on doing it solo but because patter practice is so demanding and because there's always traffic I like to have an extra set of eyes and ears for checking for traffic. The plane also have TCAS which help. There also my concern that landings are easier for me when the plane is lighter. My landings are always better when I'm alone in the plane. But I wont be alone during the check-ride, I will have the extra weight of the DPE.

jnmeade
Posts: 536
Joined: Tue Nov 30, 2010 8:58 am
Location: Iowa

Postby jnmeade » Fri Apr 22, 2011 11:36 am

Read pps 8-17 to 8-20 in the Airplane Flying Handbook for a good review of how to fly these landings. And, it will be exactly what is referenced in the PTS for your examiner to use.

Take a break from landing and go practice some aggressive slow flight so you are very comfortable with the plane at and near the area of reverse command (behind the power curve).

Know and compensate for the wind in all phases of the pattern. Try to minimize the variables you address so you are not changing pitch, power, airspeed, flaps, etc. all the time. One thing at a time. Make your changes early and in the right amount. Trust your eye.

The spot should not move up or down in the windshield. If it moves up, you need to add power. If it moves down, you need to reduce power or slip. Don't change your airspeed or pitch if they are right.

If you are landing with side loading, practice long slips to landing so that you get the idea the your hands keep the plane on the centerline and your feet (acting independently) keep the nose straight ahead. In a crosswind, land on the upwind wheel. After you get this nailed you can use the crab approach.

Try to use the same reference point for the flare. Usually, transfer your gaze to down the runway, not right in front of you. This helps the flare be consistent.

You are going to have a steeper approach on a short-field landing. The soft field may not be much different than a normal approach, but you want to touch down gently so the mains don't dig in and keep enough power on to hold the nose up so it doesn't gouge, then keep moving.

Read the AFH and the POH. Know the wind. Control the speed. Minimize the variables. Trust your eye and act early and with the right amount. Seek consistency.
Flight Design CTSW E-LSA
ATP CFI-I/ME/G LSRM-A

ka7eej
Posts: 191
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2007 12:54 pm
Location: Taylor, Az
Contact:

Postby ka7eej » Sat Apr 23, 2011 8:21 am

What airplane are you flying? Is it SLSA?? Sounds like just what I did until I found out.............answer then we will talk..

Brian
Owner of N3081X (Cover Girl) A Beautiful Allegro 2000 as seen on the cover and inside of several magazines!!

bill_dom
Posts: 14
Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2011 11:49 am
Location: Miami

Postby bill_dom » Sat Apr 23, 2011 5:04 pm

ka7eej wrote:What airplane are you flying? Is it SLSA?? Sounds like just what I did until I found out.............answer then we will talk..

Brian


I'm flying the Flight Design CTLS. Today I have another flying session, this time I changed to my original instructor, the one with I learned to land. I did better and in his opinion, my flares and touch downs, although not perfect, are acceptable as per PTS for short fields, as long as I do it on the spot. He also stated several times that my approaches are perfect and stable.

Today I discover what is my problem, it is estimating altitude once I'm close to the runway. In one instance, I thought that I flared a little high and was expecting another drop to the runway, in that same moment the wheels kissed the runway for a greaser. In another instance, I thought that the tire was inches from the runway and then the plane drops a couple of feet for a not so soft landing.

The CTLS have an incredible visibility and make you believe you are closer to the ground than you really are if you are looking down at the runway with your peripheral vision.

I tried jnmeade suggestion to gaze down more instead on forward. It works, It helps estimate how close I'm to the ground, only tried once today, force of habit kept me for trying it more but I'm set on doing it more next time.

User avatar
Paul Hamilton
Posts: 359
Joined: Mon May 21, 2007 2:42 pm
Location: Reno/Tahoe Nevada

Postby Paul Hamilton » Sat May 28, 2011 8:56 am

Bill,
Yes landings are the hardest part. Yes use the advice above, get away from the high stress airport so you can focus on landings.

I have found 2 specific ways to get around this common problem.

First, do low approaches with the wheels just above the runway. This helps you get the "picture" of what you need to do to land, your height, your speed, your picture. With my students a read off the altitude, "wheels 10 feet high, 5 feet high, 2 feet high, give a light touch of the wheel on the runway. This develops the picture of where you need to be for landing. Once you get low approaches down you simply reduce the throttle and round out to SLOW and you have landed.

Second, get rid of the word flare. This should be eliminated completely from all LSA books, teaching, instructors vocabulary, etc.... Yes maybe the old airplanes need to be flared but not the LSA… If you eliminate the word flare and use the word "round out" this will help. I have found that the word "Flare" disrupts the nice smooth round out that allows a good landing. If for your landings, you think of a nice consistent round out once you are at your proper height you learned from the low approaches, this is how I get people to learn to land and it works.
Note this is just one opinion. Most instructors are set in their ways of teaching but this is my advice for this common problem.
Paul is a Sport Pilot CFI/DPE and the expert for ASA who writes the books and produces the DVD's for all pilots flying light sport aircraft.
See www.SportAviationCenter.com www.Sport-Pilot-Training.com and www.BeASportPilot.com to Paul's websites


Return to “Ask The Examiner”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests