Bringing Your “A” Game
- Phil Taylor
When was the last time you let perfectly good runway slip by as you searched for that sweet touchdown? Did it occur to you that if you are still flying, then you are not stopping?
Consider the certification parameters. The test pilot, in order to produce the data in the Landing Distance Chart, did it this way:
1. Thrust was set to establish a 3° approach with the airspeed stabilized at VREF prior to reaching 50 ft above the runway surface.
2. Both thrust levers were moved to the idle position as the airplane passed 50 ft above the runway surface.
3. At touchdown, maximum braking was immediately initiated.
4. Maximum braking was maintained to a full stop.
That description is the way you brief your “Normal Landing” too, right? If you are not willing to fly the aircraft like the test pilot who generated the data for landing, then using that data as a reference for the performance you expect to achieve is a bit far fetched.
Why is the certification profile so aggressive? One reason is that it allows for very little “technique” to accomplish. It is pretty much a by-the-numbers procedure. As far as the manufacturer is concerned, the shorter the landing distance, the better—that sells airplanes.
After Southwest Airlines ran off the end of the runway at Midway in 2005, the FAA followed with Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) 06-12. The take-away from this SAFO is this: “Always add 15% to whatever landing data you come up with, because you are not in the habit of operating the aircraft like the test pilot who generated the data.”
The ATP PTS has been changed recently to define the touchdown zone. Basically, it begins 750 feet from the approach end of the runway and extends 750 feet from there to 1,500 feet from the approach end. Not putting the wheels down in that area is considered a failed event for any landing. In addition, the pilot must demonstrate a “charted plus 25%” stop effort.
Sure, on a 10,000 foot runway, “What is the big deal? We touched so smooth, the passengers barely knew we were down.” Let’s call that the “B” game. If all you ever practice is your “B” game, you may get a little mud on your loafers when you step out of the jet on a day that you needed your “A” game.
What sort of conditions have you encountered that require the “A” game? The answer varies. How often do you practice your “A” game, and is it always there when you need it?
Today, most initial and recurrent turbine training is done in the simulator, not in the jet. The training syllabus does not emphasize maximum effort stops, and flight simulators cannot replicate the deceleration forces that would be felt. Simulators also don’t replicate well what use of the anti-skid system feels like. We often see in accident reports the crew citing the anti-skid system not functioning properly, when in reality it functioned just as designed. It is the lack of experience and training with what the anti-skid system feels like during a maximum effort stop.
We don’t emphasize energy awareness on the landing roll out. A technique like having the PM calling out the touchdown point and runway distance remaining and airspeed during rollout would be one way of raising awareness. But, what about those runways that don’t have distance remaining markers?
How about using standard markings on the approach end for a touchdown reference and on the departure end for speed versus remaining distance on an instrument runway as a guide?