How to fly a Long Final approach ? None of my instructors taught me to do this and I received my License yesterday. In a normal circuit, in Baseleg I start to descend and it automagically everything sets in the right path, right altitude, right attitude, right speed. In a Long final, when and where should I be at the circuit height, start descending, ?
If I descend too early, I have to use power to get back, If I didnt descend at the right time, I will be too high.
Teaching descent planning in general is something that is easily missed for a variety of reasons. It probably stems from the fact that a large proportion of student cross country flights are planned at 3000' or below due to weather, airspace and sector length constraints.
If you were to plan a 2 hour plus flight in gin clear weather with no airspace constraints, what altitude would you plan to fly at? There is no right answer to this. You might be flying into a headwind and want to minimise the flight time and a lower level might reduce the headwind. You might want to sightsee along the way. You might wish to fly higher to increase your TAS and reduce fuel burn.
Let's assume that you choose to fly at 7000'. How far out from your destination would you begin your descent? I might suggest that a better question is you many minutes before your ETA would you start your descent given that, for passenger comfort, engine health, and easy maths, a ROD of 500 fpm works quite well. Keep a mental "howgozit" going (altitude/height v time) and be prepared to make adjustments if it's not going to work out.
If you were to be landing on runway 36 at anywheresville, and you are flying to anywheresville from the south, commencing a 500 fpm ROD 14 minutes away will put you fairly close to the right position on long final.
If you were to be landing on runway 18 though, you might start your descent from 7000' with 12 minutes to run; you are aiming to position yourself to be at 1000' when abeam the runway on a downwind leg.
Approaching anywheresville from the west, at 7000' when runway 36 is in use, LH circuit and a standard overhead join at 2000'? When might you start your descent? If during your descent whilst passing say 3500', you are offered a left base join, what are your options?