Good Landings Start At The Downwind Turn

Everything’s connected. Your landings are a direct result of how well you fly your circuit pattern. Recently I have been reviewing procedures for various aircraft and I have completed a procedure for the Alon A2 Air coupe that was presented earlier on my website.

Alon A2 Aircoupe

It’s a small 2 seat classic aircraft with a long history over the decades. In this case I have outlined the circuit and approach plan for this airplane in an effort to create a Checkout Notes program.

Alon A2 Circuit

Above is a quick sketch and I will include the write up for this below.

Flying in the Aircoupe Circuit is not overly complicated, the review of level flight, airspeeds and RPM’s at various airspeeds is important. The Image of the circuit looks a bit complicated but is straight forward if you work the plan. I will go into why a rigid circuit plan is important later. Takeoff is described previously. At 500 feet make a 90 degree turn direction with a 15-degree bank into the traffic pattern and level off for a 90 degree turn with a 30-degree bank downwind at circuit height. The circuit starts at this point 45 degrees off the end of the runway. Spacing width of the circuit is typically wingtip spacing. Keep the spacing accurate. And correct any altitudes and airspeeds for circuit say 2100 RPM and 70 KTS. Lookout for other aircraft and then at mid runway do a quick Pre-Landing Check then include a radio call. Adjust your altitude and speed abeam the end of the runway. Speed change considered just before the base turn for approach speeds, but in this case, you may like the 70 KTS that the Aircoupe fly’s at. Getting to 45 degrees from the departure end of the runway make a 90-degree direction turn onto Base, 30 Degree bank and at the same time reduce power to 1600 to 1700 rpm. (you may have to experiment for rpm that gets you 500 feet per minute descent) Then descend to final turn on base. You should get to 500 feet on final at about 1.8 miles out from the approach end of the runway. LOOK at the runway AT THE Number, It’s your TARGET. Turn final at 500 feet or so and fly a straight final descent to the Target. This approach should be around best glide speed say 68KTS or perhaps a bit slower. Even 65KTS is a bit fast but this may depend on the A2 itself. If there is too little RPM for the airspeed you will sink on the approach track and be low. If the RPM is too much, then, at the approach speed you are Trimmed for, you will rise on the final approach going too high. If your airspeed is not set for the approach and trimmed, you will have a hard time coordinating the descent rate on final. However, Track Straight to the target along the final approach track and make the descent into the landing. Don’t let the speed drain off between 25 feet and the Ground. (target)(runway number) At a few feet above the runway raise the nose to level, reduce the rpm to low, and make the landing. Touchdown and remain straight. Stop and exit the Runway.

The above text is an example of the general procedure for a working circuit in small aircraft or light aircraft. The understanding for this procedure is simple. Fly reasonable circuits and get reasonable Approaches and Landings. Students have trouble landing and learning landings because they don’t fly a reasonable circuit plan. Their distance is too far out, or too close in. The circuit is too long or too short. The circuit speeds are too slow, or too fast. The base is too close or too far out. The final is too steep or too shallow. Regardless, this inconsistency makes for each approach and landing different each time. It’s hard enough learning to account and adjust for one circuit, approach and landing. Each time the circuit, approach and landing changes, the harder it is for someone to adjust to learning just a normal landing. This adds time, more flying time to the time it takes someone to accomplish normal landings. For the pre-solo student, a circuit, approach and landing that is inconsistent increases their flying time it takes to get to solo.

So how does one fix the increasing flying time it takes to work reasonable landings? Practice a more defined circuit plan. Work out the same downwind turn, track the same wingtip spacing on the downwind. Turn at the same place on base and work the same descent on base to final so that one turns final at the same location and distance out from the runway. In this way, the Approach will be more consistent to the last time and the next time. Mistakes that are discovered can be identified and success in the approach and landing will occur sooner. Landings will improve due to a more consistent approach height and speed, allowing for a more consistent roundout, hold off and touch down at safer speeds.

This consistent circuit procedure will pay dividends in the end and you will have more fun and be less frustrated in the traffic pattern. But one has to be committed to making procedural work in the aircraft work for them. It’ takes practice. Work with your instructor to discuss how better traffic pattern procedures can benefit you and get you to your performance goals sooner than expected.