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Dragging it in . . .

bob turner

Registered User
I am getting opinionated in my old age - I am sure you have heard me prattle on about folks who climb at speeds well above Vy with flaps extended.

This week it is a variation - several of my students are "dragging it in," resulting in an occasional touchdown 20 feet short. The extension is smooth and stressed for Falcon 10s, and the tower just sort of looks the other way. It is really on me - I am PIC - but I let them do it, and then comment that they really should touchdown the other side of the threshold.

i maintain that the best approach is one that is angled so the flare occurs just prior to touchdown - as opposed to getting five feet off the deck a thousand feet early and using power. In short, I think that "dragging it in" is poor technique in any situation, and really makes things tough when all you can see is the giant cowling when the nose is up.

But before I drop the hammer and say "no more dragging it in" I would enjoy your opinions. I am not dealing with newbies - these folks are experienced tailwheel pilots.
 
piss poor piloting if you can't make the runway in the event of an engine out. Dragging it in is for very select instances where terrain and conditions allow for it, but 99% of the time, one can set up a constant decent rate and still hit the mark with a SAFE approach.

The drag it in thing is getting to be the wannabes dream after watching youtube vids of internet sensations flying stupid light purpose built planes that people seem to be idolizing these days.

Teach them how to fly a proper approach and still hit the numbers.
 
Show them the video of the an-2 coming up short on the runway and ripping the gear off.
I also would say that dragging in has it's uses,one of which is learning the back side of your planes curve. Also useful to learn good throttle control. Never really landed anywhere that I've had to drag real hard just to make it in nor have I ever shortened my landing by aggressive drag. Of course all good off airport landings should be on the back of the curve just no benefit to being on the ragged edge.
 
Bob, I totally agree with you. In a recent discussion on a similar topic, I made the comment that this argument sounded like from someone who’s never experienced an engine failure.

During a flight review, I insist the pilot fly a stabilized approach of 3 degrees or greater. To me, watching the pilot who makes a smooth three degree descent AND touches down on speed, and on the spot, is the sign of a pilot who wears the airplane. Not someone who has to use buckets of power to drag the thing in and plop it down, hanging on the prop for a half mile prior to touch.

The pilot who flies an angled approach, gradually decelerating, to arrive at the touch behind the power curve to slow, but only there for seconds, not minutes…..that’s the pilot I’d like to fly with.

Hold their feet to the fire.

MTV
 
I teach "behind the power curve" approaches. They are slightly steeper than power off. I see no advantage, especially in rough terrain, to being behind the power curve for a quarter mile right above the terrain.

If you bring it in on the steeper angle and it quits, you can go back to a more efficient glide speed and maybe still reach the intended touchdown point.

Thanks for the input!
 
I'm not a hot shot, but I am old. My instructor in the 70s would have chewed me out for dragged-in approaches. It stuck with me. I did learn behind the power curve maneuvers, but the goal, as MTV said, was to hit the spot with minimum energy and minimum messing with the throttle.

It helped that one of the runways I learned on had a rock ledge on the end. You never wanted to be short.
 
We sometimes drag it in, but then not on, to inspect the intended landing area off airport. That can be practiced if wanted. I like MTV's 3* established for the remainder. Find the power and elevator control that creates that and repeat. Make the LZ get bigger but not move ahead or under the cowl.

Gary
 
Maybe you guys can organize a STOL demo where landings are done power off. Nobody would come.

I can’t remember watching any airplane arrive without use of some power. Probably not you guys’ subjective definition of dragging it in but clearly not power off, so I’ll bet every one of you makes some level of compromise. Power controls my touchdown spot 100% of the time.
 
Maybe you guys can organize a STOL demo where landings are done power off. Nobody would come......

Excellent. PO STOL test. Off at designated downwind then hit the LZ. Why not improve PO skills? Someday it may be us.

Gary
 
I think the notion of a stabilized approach is what all off-airport operations are based on...I agree there are differences based on aircraft and engines. Anyone with a variable pitch hydraulic propellor, definitely is using some power...Bob...I think one helpful tool in convincing your advanced students to re-consider their behavior, is to configure exactly as they see fit for a landing 3,000 feet AGL. Let them set up, trim up, power up...and execute their approach however they like...and without a word, YANK the power on them, so they get to experience just how dramatic the recovery actually needs to be. 5 feet won't cut it....neither will 50...and if they're flying a variable pitch prop...it's a couple hundred feet lost to get the energy to land without breaking something, with the nose shoved WAY more over than most pilots conceptualize. My O-520 and 90" prop virtually assures I'm gonna hit...DAMN HARD. ( hence my 35" bush wheels and 3-4 psi most of the time).

I agree with others on it being a bad habit. The other thing is...a quarter mile final?? In a Super Cub...?? Yikes.

I think a way better piece of practice for them is to learn to hit their spot. As an instructor, I'd move the spot a lot...again, with a SuperCub no-one needs to hit the numbers...might as well specify a runway light number, taxiway or mark on the ground and GO HIT IT!!

The only time I ever drag in, is over water to a gravel bar, or bank... since they all feel a bit shorter than they looked a minute ago and you do have to get down near the water to really see what's what...

Not sure what kind of training you are providing, but I think you can offer them a lot of perspective as to why dragging it on every time, is a bad practice. Like Stewart however...my throttle drives me to where the flying ends. With no power, flaps full and the slats active, I can literally come down near 40 degrees with the nose near level, trimmed up nice as you please. It's a bit creepy...power changes everything.

I'll go back to sailplanes...on speed, slightly above approach angle with gear and flaps deployed and Spoilers 1/3rd deployed fees like tons of options... but Low on Final at L/D max...waiting for the threshold, before you pop the gear...SUCKS!!

It's all about perspective.


Steve.
 
And if the power-off landing contest isn’t boring enough? Wait for the power-off takeoff contest!

Seriously, engine sputter during takeoff is a bigger concern to me than during landing. I like Jim Dulin’s teaching to get wheels up as soon as possible and accelerate to Vy speed in ground effect prior to climbing out. It’s what I’ve always done on challenging days (self-taught) so reading it was rewarding.
 
I agree with above comments at "regular" airports. Off airport do what works for you. My hangar sits where I can watch approaches. Amazing how many I see dive to the numbers at 2X VSO or greater.......then float down the 6000' runway. :banghead:
 
In my experience, most people don't "plan" to drag it in, it just ends up that way due to bad planning. I see it a lot when there is a hilltop strip with low terrain around, people find themselves low on final. I also think stabilized approaches are not emphasized. I find a lot of people high on final as well, then they have to slip or whatever, again, bad planning.

The most dangerous part about dragging it in is that a majority of folks forget to push forward on the yoke/stick when the add power to correct the lowness, and you end up getting real slow.

Spot landing contests of days gone by were all power off. They still do them among the big flight schools. I agree that if you learn to hit the spot nearly every time, the aforementioned issues will be less prevalent. https://safecon.nifa.aero/events/landings/

sj
 
Might not be a popular opinion and every landing has different requirements buuut,
I think people drag real hard because it's easy. Might be more throttle management but it's zero everything else.
You can just drag and chop power over your spot instead of timing a descent and arriving where you intended.
Similarly I see only wheel landings off airport and never a three point. I think a good pilot should have all types of landings in his tool box and use them where they fit best.To hit your mark on all three takes good timing and practice but a wheel landing is just chop and pop. I know there's situations where visibility and baby wheel safety are a factor but I don't think that's why most people do it.
I use them all though,slip,drag,wheel,3,power,if the plane can do it I put it in my tool box.
 
I think many of us spend a lot of money on mods that add drag. Flying a wing with long flaps and slats is a delight, and power is what makes them work. If you want to fly power off I presume you’ll do it mostly without flaps on the front side of the power curve, and then add flaps to prevent from overshooting your area. I understand that it’s good to know what the airplane will do at idle, but beyond that it’s not very useful.
 
Not to be inherently argumentative...buuut...I think 3 point landings should be a thing of the past. You simply cannot make an argument that they are better in any way. so for me...the highest percentage of success is wheel landings. EVERY time. Other than a mistake, I cannot remember a three point landing in the last 20 years of flying. Tail low wheel landings are an absolute...get seriously proficient at those and as I stated in another post, DO IT EVERY TIME.

When I show up anywhere, the one thing I don't have to worry about is whether I will wheel land or three point. One less variable...definitely higher probability of successful outcome...


Steve
 
Maybe you guys can organize a STOL demo where landings are done power off. Nobody would come.

I can’t remember watching any airplane arrive without use of some power. Probably not you guys’ subjective definition of dragging it in but clearly not power off, so I’ll bet every one of you makes some level of compromise. Power controls my touchdown spot 100% of the time.

When I think of dragging it in, I am more thinking of a Super STOL type landing where you are looking through the floor boards to see the runway etc. I was not advocating for a power off landing as I always use power as well.

I was visualizing the guys that are on the deck 1/2 mile from the runway nose way high and dragging it in with lots of power slowing up the flow of traffic and generally making themselves look like an a$$. One can fly a semi normal approach, slightly behind the power curve and stable and still hit the target at minimal speed, but save the high alpha lots of power in, until you are ready to flare and really slow it up once the runway is assured in the event of a power loss.

Guys try to mimic what they see on youtube and what they are seeing 99% of the time is a super light plane with minimal fuel getting way behind the curve. Do that with a full load going into hunting camp and I hope you have the chopper on speed dial and your affairs in order so the widow doesn't have to deal with the nightmare.

That being said, yes, there are people like you who have a purpose built back country super hauler that CAN do these things and live to tell about it, but that doesn't apply to 95% of the guys out there trying to mimic their youtube idol.
 
As I said earlier, this topic is subjective. To me anyone in a stock Supercub that pulls flaps on is utilizing drag knowing it’ll be managed with power. Maybe to a lessor degree than a Mackey SQ but the concept is the same.
 
In my old age, my teaching and flying is limited to Cubs and Stearmans. One of the problems with “drag it in” in the Stearman is that visibility in the flare is sort of limited. A proper approach, either power on or power off, enables the rear seat pilot to actually see the touchdown point until flare is initiated.

That is not true true in a “drag it in” approach. Lining up on a narrow runway then becomes a guessing game, and way too often an early touchdown results. In our case, we hit pavement on an early touchdown. For most of our fellow forumites, an early touchdown would be catastrophic.
 
Maybe you guys can organize a STOL demo where landings are done power off. Nobody would come.

I can’t remember watching any airplane arrive without use of some power. Probably not you guys’ subjective definition of dragging it in but clearly not power off, so I’ll bet every one of you makes some level of compromise. Power controls my touchdown spot 100% of the time.

I certainly wasn't describing total power off approaches, nor was anyone else. I generally keep a bit of power above idle through the approach……just not near cruise power at ten feet off the ground a quarter mile from touchdown.

As to STOL contests, I’ve never viewed flying as a spectator sport, but whatever winds watches. But, STOL contest operations don’t seem to represent real world ops, in many ways, which is also fine….as long as you recognize the differences..

Im glad the whole “STOL Scene” has gained popularity. I think it’s a positive for aviation. It’s just not how I’d fly airplanes.

MTV
 
I like Jim Dulin’s teaching to get wheels up as soon as possible and accelerate to Vy speed in ground effect prior to climbing out.

I agree with accelerating to Vy before climbing out but it's really bad advice to get wheels up ASAP.

yanking it off the ground and staying in ground effect can still eat your lunch on a gusty day.

better to keep the mains pinned until well above flying speed or until the end of the strip (whichever comes first) on those gusty days
 
This mornings pontification is not so much for regulars but for some new pilots trying to figure stuff out. Some might ask why it is so easy to get into the habit of dragging it in? Well you might be surprised that I have thoughts on that!! As others have said way to many STOL events with people dragging a pretty much everything in for 1/4 mile. But it is not just that. Traditional training is power off on downwind and hit your spot. After a while they figure out that using some power really makes it easy to get there. But when you start adding power now you can overshoot so get down early and hold it off with power, that sounds so simple and you feel safe just a few feet off the ground. Now you realize that if you want to slow down with that power on you have to get the nose pretty high and you loose site of your touchdown spot, so it is kind of a guess on when to chop the power. You will think is just a fluke and you will figure it out when you miss the line because you see all the STOL guys doing it. so it must be good. Just keep trying and get it right. It becomes a circle of a bad habit following bad habit.
So how do we break the cycle? First realize you have a problem!! Second is figure out what you are trying to do. Is it a simple smooth landing to impress grandma/simple get to and from burger run/Backcountry long grass strip/Extreme big rocks and long props/Be a STOL champ/STOL drag champ? A lot of the skills cross over but each has a somewhat different technique. I think the most important part of any of it is knowing how and why planes stall/spin and how too correct for the situation if needed. Not just be able to talk about it but have the muscle memory to do it without thinking. This all starts at 4-5 grand not 10 feet off the runway. Once you feel safe in slowing down a plane you can now hopefully stop hearing that "speed is your friend " voice on every approach. Now stay up high and learn to use power on Trim/Flaps/nose up slips to descend. I will point out that a full flap nose up slip once on final can be stabilized all the way down (you may have to convert from a left to right if going off the center line). No only is it extremely safe in a cub but you can now be slow and see the flair and touchdown point. The big flaps on a 180 will get the job done just fine and you still have some view over the nose. The key is the flair that is where we give up the rest of the airspeed hopefully not much left but if you had to dive through tree top turbulence or had another reason to come in hot (STOL drag) you need to back that flair point up a bit so you can do some pilot stuff and slow it down. No matter what if you want to be real slow at touchdown 1-2 mph over stall speed you will have the tailwheel of most tail draggers a foot or so below the mains. That means you won't see most anything useful over the nose (but you were trained to look at the end of the runway ). You have to get used to looking out the side window and stay on center keeping the distance between the side of the runway and the plane constant. You should also have picked out a reference point to the side for touchdown spot (light/bush/rock/ect. This will give you that classic tail spring straightening tail first landing!! It gets the job done, with a little practice you can let off stick/yoke pressure right before it hits and roll into a smooth true 3 point or better yet tail low landing. Sometimes you want that transition to tail high for vis and weight on the mains to kill lift in gusty conditions /dodge logs on riverbank/help breaking. Once you are on the ground you need another skill set of tailwheel ground handling including correct Aileron, Rudder, and Brake use (yes you have to use brakes for a lot of this stuff!!!).
Now that you realize you have a problem you will soon figure out that all you need to do is just land faster, nose down with power and you will hit your spot without any problem no need to mess with all that extra training!!! But now you have another issue of wheels on the ground control at high speed so that is not a fix for the first problem it will just push disaster further down the runway.
Just some morning pontification very plane is different so what works well in some does not so much in others, test and get comfortable with guidance and at altitude, until you understand what your skill and you planes capability is. If you have not had spin training get it!!!
DENNY
 
I am very luck in having a huge supportive group at Birchwood. Even with my quiet, shy and humble demeanor it seems everyone knows my planes. I seldom make any landing no matter what time of day that is not graded by 1-7 pilots on the runway that are happy to text or call if they see me picking up bad habits. They are not worried about hurting my feelings when pointing out improper procedure or lack of skill. So I guess my advice to Bob and others is if you see someone doing stupid stuff call them on it!! Bob tell they have to pay double or buy a case of beer for screw up drag it in landing. We had a two year backlog of wrecks waiting to get fixed back in July and hunting season was just starting.

DENNY
 
WOW, coffee has kicked in!! Now that we have pointed out you need to look out the side of the plane to stay straight and pick touchdown point. You may also need to pick a few perpendicular to the touchdown point a bit away from the runway. Once you pull the nose up in a steep approach on the flair to brush off that excess speed you will loose site of the line and both sides of the runway. We have started asking for reference cones to be placed wide at the touchdown line on STOL events so when you flair you will still have a reference point as you get close to the line the inner cones will come into view but you should be cutting power/releasing yoke pressure by that time. This works on takeoff also. I was just on a heavy hunt to the brooks with my 35 in Bushwheels. I knew I was in for a long flight home 670 miles so when I left the sandbar I slid my seat back for more legroom (Big wide strips for the rest of the trip) I could not see crap and it took a bit to get the tail up with the load I had some landmarks 30-40 feet off to the side I could reference so I knew how much room I had left.
DENNY
 
Denny, I usually wait until after I’m at cruising altitude before I slide my seat back. Sounds like you get your gangster lean on early;-)
 
In my commercial ride we combined the steep spiral and engine out spot landing in a 22 knot direct xwind

Maybe pulling power abeam numbers and asking student put it on touchdown marks would be a interesting exercize


Sent from my iPhone using SuperCub.Org
 
Denny, I usually wait until after I’m at cruising altitude before I slide my seat back. Sounds like you get your gangster lean on early;-)
Can't get mine to side once I am in the seat (might just need lube now that I think about it:banghead:) so I just live with whatever I need for the next landing. Seat up forward is great for sort landing but sucks after 9 hours of flying. DENNY
 
Not to be inherently argumentative...buuut...I think 3 point landings should be a thing of the past. You simply cannot make an argument that they are better in any way. so for me...the highest percentage of success is wheel landings. EVERY time. Other than a mistake, I cannot remember a three point landing in the last 20 years of flying. Tail low wheel landings are an absolute...get seriously proficient at those and as I stated in another post, DO IT EVERY TIME.

When I show up anywhere, the one thing I don't have to worry about is whether I will wheel land or three point. One less variable...definitely higher probability of successful outcome...


Steve

You don’t EVER want to wheel land a Howard DGA-15! Best way to wreck it.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 
Thanks for pointing that out...you don't want to try wheel landing my MD-500E either...(I thought we were talking about Super Cub's...forgive me...)


S.
 
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