Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:48 am
I've done a litte tail-wheel flying and IMHO the first thing to get right in a good landing is the airspeed (as it is, incidentally in nose-wheel aeroplanes too). Many (most?) pilots err on the side of approaching too fast, such is their fear of stalling on the approach or of wind-shear. Or maybe they were just badly taught. But, as has been pointed out, Va is 1.3 x the stall speed in the approach configuration, so that worry is over-blown (provided of course that the pilot can control his airspeed within 5 kts or so). The 'add another 5kts for the wife and kids' is ill-founded nonsense that contributes to over-cooked approaches, balloons, bounces and busted nose-wheels. Fly at the correct IAS and you'll have the first box ticked.
The second thing to get right, oddly, is where to look. Look at the far end of the runway as you enter the flare. I tell my students to imagine a flagpole at the far end of the runway and to fix their eyes on the flag. It this stage it's all about judging the height above the ground and, vitally, the aeroplane's pitch attitude. The attitude should be progressively changed to either the 3-point attitude or the wheeler attitude, depending what is desired. Another great tip (not mine) is that at this stage you're trying NOT to land. Bear in mind, there is only one correct attitude for 3-pointing. It's either correct or it isn't, and if it isn't you will bounce - as we all do from time to time.
That leads to the issue of how to correct minor diversions as you adjust the pitch attitude from the approach attitude to the landing attitude whilst maintaining a steady height (2-3 ft). This is the crux of the problem of bouncing and ballooning. But, if we go back to point 1, if the IAS is correct as you come into the flare then the tendency to bounce or balloon is markedly reduced. And if you are looking at the right spot then it is so much easier to assess both the height and the pitch attitude moment-by-moment.
The problem in this short transition period is that there is a tendency to try to fly the aeroplane onto the ground. That is evidenced by pilots seeking to control a bounce or balloon by pushing the stick forward to counteract an unwelcome pitch-up. Such action very often ends in tears, since it is highly likely that the control input will lag the pitch change that it sought to cure, and a sequence of PIOs will result, sometimes with catastrophic consequences.
However, here I depart from the 'let go of the stick' advice which, with all due respect to its source, is somewhat unusual and not, I suggest, very helpful advice. You don't need to let go of the stick (and in my opinion should NOT do so) but you DO need to resist any temptation to counteract a bounce or balloon by pushing the nose down. That is not to say that the stick should remain rock-solid. What may be required is a relaxation of back-pressure, coupled to a touch of power to arrest any over-fast rate of descent. And, if in doubt, of course Go Around.
The other tip I would give is about nailing into your mind's eye the correct attitude at touchdown (and remember, this applies just as much to a nose-wheel aeroplane which, by its design, is more forgiving). So in a tail-dragger, sit in the aeroplane on the ground in your chosen seat position. You are in the 3-point attitude. That is precisely the attitude you need to be at the millisecond prior to touchdown. If not, you will bounce. Then, put the tail on a trestle at the wheeler landing attitude (beware of the balance point) and get back into the aeroplane. Now remember the attitude for the wheeler landing. It will obviously be a few degrees lower than the former, but no less critical. You need to remember both.
Finally, the R-word: Relax. Relax and fly relaxed and suddenly it all gets easier!
Last edited by David Wood on Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:52 am, edited 2 times in total.