Practice Makes Perfect

It has been well described in other articles about the various types of stalls. Many pilots hope never to experience a stall. Pilot training is the first, and many times the last, experience that we have with stalls. Pilots do not want to enter stalls, fear stalls and certainly donít practice stalls. Should they?

Iím a firm believer in practice: practice stalls, practice tight turns, practice slips, and practice in the wind. Practicing will benefit the pilot in a couple ways: first it will develop skills and second it will build confidence in the pilots ability to perform in certain conditions.

Many pilots will only fly in nice, calm weather; we all enjoy a beautiful early morning flight without a breath of air. But what happens when our perfect flying conditions deteriorate, many times so quickly that we donít have time to get down. Then we are forced to land in environment we may not be familiar. Heavy winds, cross winds, unfamiliar landing strips, that may be shorter then our home strip, all add to the anxiety that confront us in an unfamiliar environment.

If we practice flying in windy conditions, the anxiety that would normally come with a windy condition will be lessened. The skill of flying in wind will be enhanced and we will be aware of what our plane is capable of in the wind. Likewise for crosswind landings, or landing on short unfamiliar strips. If there is a time when you must land, due to bad weather or an engine out, in an area that you have never landed before, experience in slipping and engine out landings are a definite asset.

Every time I go flying I like to practice at least one skill a few times, that could mean a few circuits where I slip into the landing, or going up to a safe altitude and practicing a variety of stalls, power on, power off and turning. If I am at a field that gives me an opportunity to safely practice a cross wind landing I will also practice a few of these.

On a typical day, being a low time pilot I always start out with a few minutes of practice. I will routinely do 3 or 4 circuits, in which Iíll slip in or just normal landings, you can never practice landings enough. I never had anyone show me how to slip so Iíve learned through trial and error. I start a slip by simultaneously adding left rudder and right stick. It feels very awkward at first and you definitely have to get used to it. Iíll slip in from 500 feet down to 200 feet the first few times just to get the hang of it, as you become more proficient at it slips can be done right to the point of when you are about to land. This takes a lot of experience, do not try it until you have had lots of practice at progressively lower altitudes.

After a few circuits Iíll go flying, during flying Iíll play with stalls. Power on, power off, steep stalls, the Challenger has a very benign stall, however every plane has slightly different stall characteristics. Never assume every Challenger has the same stall characteristics.

Also try practicing tight turns, start off slow and gradually over time you will feel comfortable turning tighter and tighter. Notice how much altitude you will lose with a power off tight turn, if it wants to stall, how tight can you turn, these maneuvers may come in handy one day if you have to decide on making a tight turn back to the field if you have an engine out on take off or to land straight ahead. Remember, always look to land straight ahead first, only turn back if you have enough altitude ...... rule of thumb ........ 300 feet AGL.

Donít be caught in the air unprepared, practice a variety of different skills, skills that you would not normally use. One day when you are caught in a condition that needs the skills that you have practiced, you will be grateful for the time spent practicing.

Author:   Alvin Melton