This picture is here to attract people and because Pilatus Porters on high final look badass. Heading straight down to earth and put down right on the numbers. But can you do that in a Piper Tomahawk? That’s the link to this article. Let’s find out.
On thursday I had two flight lessons. (Two flight lessons, you heard right. That’s about 200% more than Swiss standards. haha.) On the first lesson we flew big circuits. We flew outbound around the airport and inbound again. I had plenty of time to get used to the cockpit and get into a flow on my checks. We did this three times and made it to a full stop. On the last landing I heard from the right side: “Now this was a floatplane pilot’s landing…” Peter said it is quiet noticeable on my roundouts. This wasn’t the last time my floatplane rating helped out but more about that later.
After a short break I started to fill out a test about the airspeeds of the airplane. My instructor went up with another guy and thereafter it was time for a second ride. It was already getting dark on the initial climbout. We asked the tower about night time and heard it’s 1824. We noted that time and started to practice high and low circuits. The goal was to get a feel for the decision whether you have to go around or not if you’re much to high or to low. We pretended not seeing the field until mid base. There, at 2700 feet (field at 1411) we were obviously much to high. I believed there was no chance to get it down. I started the procedure we discussed before. I was at 80 knots and extended the flaps to the max of 34 degrees. At the same time I pushed the yoke down to get to the upper end of the white line (Vfe) now we were going down really really fast. I felt like a Pilatus Porter, or in other words I felt awesome. After a bit I took the nose back to a normal attitude and looked at the field. I determined we’re still to high and put the nose down again and the airspeed went up to Vfe and remained there. After a few seconds I pulled up again and took another look at the runway. This time we were still slightly high but within a normal range. I established a stabilized approach and landed normally. The next circuit was low. We flew at 1700 feet (300 agl) and I felt like in Canada where I often used the phrase “500 and below” on the radio. As it was getting dark it became difficult to see. On final I still had zero flaps. As soon as I got onto the glide path I set the flaps full down and aimed at the numbers. Before I started to flare, Peter said: “Landing Light failed”, and turned it off. I was happy to hear this because I was well prepared. I replied: “Glassy water landing?” and did my thing. Already Isaac told me on the night flights towards my PPL that there was an old floatplane technique to use in this case. In Canada I learned it on glassy water. (Remember this? 28h – Night Flight over Seattle and this? 26h SES – Whistler and Chatterbox Falls ) At night without lights or above glassy water you can’t judge your height. The trick is to add power as soon as you loose height perception. Sink rate should read about 150 feet per minute. Now you wait until you touch the surface. And precisely like a Swiss watch we touched down at 1824 seconds before night time (to keep it sounding dramatic!).
Okay, what did we learn today? You can drop a Tomahawk on a runway like a Pilatus! Well it just felt like that.